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What is Intelligent Call Routing? Do You Need One?

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A couple decades ago, before call routing was the norm, you had to go through multiple calls and agents to reach the right department or person who could solve your problem. It was a painful customer experience and an expensive and inefficient organizational system. 

Call routing became the solution to help customers get in touch with the right person in any given organization to solve their problems faster. However, sometimes, the predetermined choices callers could choose from fell short. That’s where intelling call routing (ICR) comes in, adding a layer of data-driven logic to help organizations make better routing decisions. 

This entry will discuss intelligent call routing, what organizations can accomplish by integrating it into their tech stack, limitations, and future trends. 

What is Intelligent Call Routing (ICR)?

Intelligent call routing refers to directing incoming calls to the right agent or department by leveraging user data and natural language processing (NLP) technologies. In other words, it’s a technology that can capture your users’ information and requests, understand and categorize their needs, and forward that information and call to the most appropriate agent. 

It’s the next evolutionary step in traditional call routing, which uses prerecorded instructions and decision trees. ICRs use dynamic, more active technologies that account for multiple factors, such as the caller’s needs, available agents, operational emergencies, etc. 

Working of Intelligent Call Routing System

There are three major moments for any intelligent call routing system. In general terms, the ICR system must gather and make sense of the caller’s information and journey with the business (time, intent, location, etc.). Then, it should be able to connect that data with predefined potential routing options and agent skills to ensure that the right agent takes the call. Finally,  once the ICR has decided who the right agent is to handle that call, it should reroute it or place the caller on hold until that person is available. 

To understand the process in more detail, here are the five steps an ICR system takes to ensure calls are routed correctly. 

  1. Call Identification

The ICR system uses automatic number identification (ANI) and caller ID to recognize the owner of that particular number making the call. ANI captures the number and identifies who is calling, while the caller ID information adds a layer with more details on the caller to help agents gain more context.  

Dialed number identification services (DNIS) also contribute to this process by helping the ICR system identify the number and improving call routing quality. DNIS is particularly helpful in recognizing the number calling, the potential intent of the call, and the department that may be able to handle the call successfully. 

  1. Essential Data Collection

Beyond identifying the call and potential query, collecting the correct information is vital to helping users solve their problems. Companies leverage ICR systems by using prompts, intelligent virtual agents (IVA), or an integrated CRM and log the information into a record that helps agents solve issues and trace the relationship at a granular level.

For example, an IVA may ask you to provide further information about why you are calling. Using NLP, businesses can collect the correct information while refining the call routing process to the best available agent. 

  1. Input Analysis

Once the information has been collected, the ICR system determines and routes the call to the ideal agent. In the contact center industry, with multiple agents specializing in particular features or departments, ICRs reduce friction and facilitate a great customer experience. 

ICRs also consider particular abilities agents may have and their availability, workload, urgency, and importance to ensure every call is successful.

  1. Routing the Call to the Right Agent or Department. 

When the ICR has determined the intent behind the call, collected all required information, and analyzed it, the next natural step is to route the call to the correct department and agent. Among the potential routing options, there are qualifiers such as the skill of the person handling the call, the experience and finesse in case a VIP customer is calling, and the volume of calls vs. the complexity of calls.

  1. Post-call Activities

After the call has taken place, ICRs log all of the data about what happened during the interaction between the agent and the caller to ensure quality and traceability. This data-gathering system also benefits contact centers by providing information that can help managers improve performance. 

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Benefits of Intelligent Routing System

ICR systems can improve efficiency and profitability by helping businesses solve more problems faster. However, speed and routing queries are not all of this technology's benefits.

Increase in First Call Resolution (FCR)

One of the most prized metrics in call centers is the ability to solve problems during the first call. This was a lot harder to accomplish in the past because contact centers redirected calls to a pool of agents with multiple skills and specialties. With ICR, however, the process is more efficient because there is an entire infrastructure and combinatorial technologies to ensure the best possible agent is the one handling the call. 

As a result, the FCR rate can improve dramatically, reducing the workload for your workforce and increasing customer satisfaction. 

Improved Customer Satisfaction Rate

A satisfied customer is priceless. But, when it comes to the contact center industry, it is common for people to have a preconceived notion of calling as a dreadful experience. Your business can guarantee a much better service by having an intelligent routing system that genuinely connects the best agent in each call. Many of the issues in the past for contact centers revolve around agents not having enough training or information to handle more complex requests. With ICR systems, however, the most experienced employees can tackle difficult calls, while newer hires can focus on more common FAQs with lower stressors. 

In the end, reducing the pain of customers calling your service line improves your overall satisfaction rate while also improving your brand perception. 

Agent Efficiency and Productivity

As you can tell, ICR technologies massively help agents do their best work. This means handling the calls that better fit their unique abilities and discovering their growth opportunities to actively work on them. As a result, contact centers can experience a productivity spike while also improving internal work-life balance metrics. 

Reduced Wait Times

ICR also helps contact centers reduce the wait times for all callers. By having the right people handling the right calls and understanding the most common types of calls, companies can adapt appropriately to ensure wait times are minimal. Some call centers also have a call-back option in case the wait times are too long, allowing users to continue their day without having to be on the phone permanently. 

Call Prioritization Based on Custom Rules

By having a clear set of rules for your customer service, you can leverage ICRs to provide service that matches the intent of the call. For example, you could build a rule to identify urgent calls to go to the front of the queue and jump to the next available and qualified agent. Alternatively, you could prioritize calls based on the type of product the customer purchased, their prior journey (first call, second call, etc.), and any others that can help you provide a better service. 

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Drawbacks of Intelligent Call Routing

While ICR has many benefits for call centers, it also has a few drawbacks that you should consider before implementing it in your business. 

High Implementation Cost

Implementing an ICR can be pretty expensive, depending on the complexity of the business and service. In general, smaller companies need to be careful about implementing ICR given that even though the system can help, it may also strain their resources. However, enterprise-level companies with higher call volumes needing excellent customer service to more clients with diverse needs can think about implementing ICR more actively. 

Technologies are essential to augment human labor. If integrating ICR in your company offers a high-efficiency opportunity, it is generally the right move to continue with the process. However, if you don’t have the volume or can handle most issues without needing complex call routing, you may not need it. 

Mistakes Due to Data Inaccuracies

As with any automation system, accurate data hygiene is a top priority for ICR technologies. If the data and logic behind the ICR are not precise, it can lead to painful experiences for end users, redundancies, issues with agents and their workflows, and an effect on the business's bottom line. 

Before moving forward with ICR implementation, ensure that you have a robust operation system, transparent processes, and a solid understanding of users and the types of calls you receive. Only then can your organization develop clear instructions for the ICR technology to follow and help you streamline your customer service. 

Reliance on Technology Can Create Issues

Technological advancements are rarely 100% immune to failure. When adding ICR technologies, it is vital to remember that there may be a learning period required to fix bugs or potential glitches. Likewise, a human-based backup system and a genuine understanding of user behavior matter most for a contact center. Solving problems is a psychological and social activity. While machines can help us optimize processes, it is vital to not over-rely on ICR technology and assume it is virtually infallible. 

Do You Need an Intelligent Call Routing System?

An ICR system can help you improve operations, workloads, and profits. While the management team must evaluate this nuanced decision, contact centers that can reduce the number of unnecessary transfers, solve problems faster, and improve customer experience are generally more profitable businesses with fewer issues retaining talent. 

Moreover, having a system that both captures and organizes information for your call center can help you better understand customers, improve operations, and create a happier and more efficient work environment. Chances are, your contact center needs either an ICR or a more robust system like Mosaicx, which combines AI, machine learning, and natural language processing to better serve your customers. 

Future of Intelligent Call Routing, How It’s Evolving

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are already shaping the future of ICR, pushing this tech beyond primary call distribution to optimize for a deeper understanding of customer needs. Businesses that get better at understanding large volumes of customer problems and help people without much friction will become the major players in the industry. 

Integrating ICR technologies with omnichannel communication platforms transforms the service as we know it today. It will continue to do so in the future, prioritizing problem-solving capacities combining technology and human expertise to make every interaction matter.

Still unsure about conversational ICR, AI and optimizing your workforce processes? Talk to one of our solution specialists and see how the right combination of AI, advanced technology, and human expertise can help you take your CX to the next level and improve employee engagement.