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Call routing practices focused on customer journey

Demographic-based call routing has refocused old techniques to provide the best customer journey.

Customer service departments have historically been places where customers can reach out to an organization with...

questions about products and services. But, given the staffing, technology and other infrastructure costs required to operate a high-volume contact center, these areas of the business are often cost centers -- not revenue generators. Increasingly, companies are looking for ways to justify contact centers as a means to enhance customer experience and indirectly boost sales. Call routing software can enhance that customer experience and make operations far more efficient.

Contact centers have availed themselves of call routing software to boost customer experience and operational efficiencies. Automatic call distributors (ACDs) and specific call routing rules were implemented to efficiently manage the throughput of inbound calls. Organizations have gotten smarter in their use of ACDs and use them differently to reflect changing customer service priorities. With the recent focus on customer experience and specifically customer journeys, organizations are using information and technology in new ways to further enhance the call routing process.

The history of call routing

Since its initial introduction, call routing, which is supported by ACDs and is the technical backbone of call centers, has gone through a tremendous transition.

  • Initially, call routing software was used to distribute the workload equitably; calls were sent to agents who had been available for the longest amount of time.
  • Next, call routing helped direct calls to agent-specialists, enabling organizations to address more specific customer issues more effectively in a practice known as skills-based routing.
  • Recently, in an effort to enhance the customer experience, calls began to be routed to agents who have specific personal attributes to appeal to specific customers, known as demographic-based routing.

Initially, call routing software focused on internal equity and operational efficiency. Skills-based routing changed the rules to focus on agent specialization to benefit the customer and to minimize training of internal staff. Demographic-based routing has refocused call distribution to providing the best customer journey.

The definition of demographic-based routing

Demographic-based routing uses customer analytics to route callers to agents who have the specific skill sets needed to resolve the customer issue, and also have specific personal attributes to appeal to specific customers. The goal is to match a customer with an agent who has experience working on issues that concern that customer's various attributes.

For example, suppose a 65-year-old male from the Midwest is calling customer service with an issue regarding the use of a product. Initially, the call will be handled via skills-based routing by a product specialist who can explain how to use the product to the customer. Demographic-based routing comes into play when, within that group of specialists, the call would then be routed to agents who have the most success working with people from that age group, location or various other criteria -- in this case, with 65-year-old male Midwesterners.

The positives of demographic-based routing

The benefits of a demographic-based call routing service include the following:

  • Establishing smoother communication between agent and customer as a result of an improved "connection."
  • Satisfying a customer's needs and providing superior customer service.
  • Demographic-based call routing service is supported in today's ACD infrastructure using a variety of routing rules.

The challenges of demographic-based routing

Companies must answer some questions before implementing a demographic-based call routing strategy:

  • What agent attributes are important to a customer? Data from both the customer and agent perspectives must be available to analyze and determine the specific agent characteristics that customers want in a support interaction.
  • What is the customer threshold for enduring poor service before getting transferred to an agent that is better-equipped to help his case? It is critical to determine the impact of various tradeoffs, such as a customer waiting in queue to be routed to an agent with specific attributes. Sometimes routing to a more skilled agent is worth the wait. Sometimes addressing the issue immediately is more important.
  • How are agent attributes ranked in importance by customers? Tradeoffs of attributes must be determined.
  • Is this strategy improving customer satisfaction and how can it be measured? Companies must determine the quantitative and qualitative benefits, as well as costs to justify the implementation of a demographic-based call routing strategy.
  • How will a company measure customer service and integrate feedback from customers? So, for example, does the company want to send out surveys after support calls or provide other mechanisms by which to measure customer experience?

Next Steps

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This was last published in September 2015

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