Featured Image for the blog: 6 Tips for a Customer-Focused Skills-Based Routing Strategy

When you reach out to customer service for help with your newly-purchased computer, you expect that the agent you connect with will know how to fix your problem. But what if the agent you reach only knows how to fix tablets and smartphones? You’re likely in for a crummy experience. Skills-based routing solves for this.

Skills-based routing assigns incoming interactions to the agent with the most suitable skill set. Meaning, customers are routed to the agent that has the most knowledge and subject matter expertise to solve their issue. And as far as call-assignment strategies go, this type of routing ranks high in popularity and is one of the most recommended approaches. Studies show skills-based routing improves customer service, reduces call times, and increases agent productivity.

To realize all the benefits of skills-based routing, use it with careful intention in your contact center. With a strategy and the right tools in place, you can turn your customers’ roadblocks and pain points into opportunities for a better experience.

Build a strategy for skills-based routing success using these six tips.

1. Use customer data to inform your rules.

Connect your systems, like your contact center platform and your CRM, so they share customer information. When you couple customer data with defined routing rules, your ACD and omni-channel IVR can intuitively connect incoming interactions with the most appropriate agent based on personalized information about your customer and their interaction history. Then, you won’t have to spend time digging through interactions and transcripts trying to identify customer patterns. Automation, with pre-determined rules you set, does it for you.

2. Track and manage your routing rules regularly.

Check in and review the effectiveness of your routing often. Skills-based routing should make life easier for both agents and customers. If it’s causing long wait times or your resolution metrics are slipping, make changes. Differentiate between required skills-based routing and preferred skills-based routing. Try using a system with a call-back queue for your customers to avoid long waits. Make sure your most valuable accounts are getting stellar service. Set up overflow rules and tag in more routing options to take the weight off your overburdened agents. Especially if you’re a contact center that experiences seasonal spikes in volume.

3. Use skills-based routing to identify training opportunities for your agents.

Use your agents’ idle time to coach more frequently and make for a team of more flexible, multi-skilled agents. If an influx of calls leads a specialized team of agents swamped and another with little to do, use that moment as a training opportunity. Coach your team of agents who aren’t bogged down. Use that time to pop micro-learning lessons into their queue, instead. That way the next time your specialized team gets swamped, they’ll have new teammates to tag in and help handle the interactions. The more cross-trained agents you have, the better and more efficient your skills-based routing will be.

4. Balance call distribution.

Let’s assume you have two agents: James is fluent in French, while Bob speaks fluent German. What happens when you have 10 calls in a row from French customers? James gets overloaded. Your customers who speak French have ridiculously long wait times. And Bob spends the day watching cat videos on YouTube.

When you rank calls by skill alone, you run the risk of overworking specific groups of your agents. Especially if you lack the data needed to anticipate and train towards your customers’ needs.

Another hurdle is that your customers’ needs might swing from one end of the spectrum to the other without notice. Like if you hire more French-speaking agents to fix past problems, but then you suddenly have waves of German customers calling in for weeks.

Instead of scrambling to keep up with capacity, intuitive IVRs can route calls to the best agent. Even better, omni-channel IVRs (like ours) can route other channels like social, email, SMS, and chat to skilled agents, so your customers get the same experience no matter the channel. Plus, modern IVRs can trigger bots to intelligently answer questions and handle simple tasks, only routing to a human as needed to keep your interaction volume in check.

5. Avoid call routing confusion.

In an ideal world, your IVR matches a customer with an agent of the right skillset every time. But things get more muddled when a caller has several needs, or when an agent is a master of many skills. The rules and variables get more complex, and your IVR sends customers to the wrong agents. Or, the system stashes the customer interaction in an overloaded queue when there’s an available agent with the right skills to handle the issue.

If your rules aren’t defined and updated often, your skills-based routing system will do more harm than good. It will damage your team’s scorecard and occupancy rates. Calls will get assigned to the wrong people and your call resolution time will spike. And then, more customers will complain as they get bounced from team to team looking for answers.

Choose tools that let you meld your customer journey easily, without the need to tag in a third-party vendor. If your routing is making your customers’ journey too complex, you want the ability to re-align in a pinch. Visual tools with drag-and-drop paths give contact center managers the ability to change workflows for their agents, at any time.

6. Align your decision-making with your customer journey.

Skills-based call routing is a fantastic problem-solving system when you can predict your customers’ needs. But you can’t discover every one of your customers’ needs. And you certainly can’t forecast for even the most common needs without accessible customer data.

Without intelligence about your customers, you can’t pinpoint their pains. You won’t know if your customer needs help with one issue or several. Nor will you have the history on hand to show that they’re calling in about an old complaint, not a new one. And those scenarios impact which agents they get routed to, creating a cumbersome and unhelpful experience for your customers.

To help make routing more intelligent, some companies opt for self-directed menus where a customer answers a series of questions to help with routing. Others list several dedicated phone numbers to help customers establish intent. That way you collect more information about why the customer is calling before your IVR routes to a specific group of agents.

It’s all about balance.

Pair data with your routing rules to keep your workflows simple without sacrificing effectiveness. Once you’ve found the perfect balance, adjust often to ensure you’re always improving and meeting your SLAs. When skills-based routing is mapped out with intention, your agents should see a more fairly distributed workload, be more productive, boost their KPIs, and make for happier customers.

Want to up your personal productivity in the contact center, too? Jump over to our blog: How to Prioritize Your Time and Find Balance in Your Contact Center.

This post was originally published on March 1, 2018, and was updated on January 21, 2019.