What is intelligent call routing and how does it work?

By Mike BanbrookAugust 7, 2023

Traditional call routing systems that use DTMF menu options rely on your callers to make their best judgement around which is the right option for their specific enquiry. Of course, sometimes this will be a straightforward decision, like when you’re calling to make a payment and the IVR asks you to “press one to make a payment”, but for many customers who have all kinds of needs, this decision really isn’t easy.

Getting through to the wrong agent and being redirected to another call queue is probably one of the biggest causes of frustration among call centre customers and is a huge risk to your customer satisfaction rating. This is where intelligent call routing (ICR) technologies can offer some much-needed help and improvement to your call centre operation and overall customer experience.

What is intelligent call routing?

An IVR system that uses intelligent call routing removes the need for the customer to make the decision instead it just simply asks “how can we help”, and automatically identifies the nature of queries and then directs the call to the most suitable outcome. Intelligent call routing uses state-of-the-art technologies such as AI and machine learning algorithms to analyse the input provided by customers against the vast amounts of routing information and data it holds to match the call with the most appropriate resolution available. 

Adding another dimension to the process of call routing, it’s important to note that intelligent call routing technologies don’t just rely on the input provided by customers over the phone. Automated ICR routing decisions can take other factors into consideration to help improve the overall customer experience such as a customer’s call history, their account status, issue priority level, customer personality, and any other customer data already captured by business databases. 

Top benefits of intelligent call routing

Reduces waiting times. If calls are being distributed accurately across your team of agents, there’s every chance that your customers will spend less time waiting on the phone. With traditional menu systems, there can often be a backlog of calls waiting to connect with generalist agents because callers aren’t sure which specific options are most suited to their needs. At the same time, your customers aren’t at risk of being transferred to another call queue to start the waiting game all over again.

Eliminates time wastage and lowers costs. When calls aren’t connected with the most suitable agents, it can take both your customers’ time explaining and your agents time listening and asking questions to establish the nature of the query before transferring the call elsewhere. Essentially, ICR can reduce the overall time agents spend on the phone and lower operational costs.

Improves personalisation and customer satisfaction. With ICR matching callers to the right agent the first time, as well as providing agents with information about the call before they pick up, customers will experience a faster and more seamless resolution. What’s more, while ICR can ensure that specific queries are matched to agents with specialised knowledge, the ability to consider personal characteristics also means that callers will reach agents with the appropriate skills and experience to deal with the call satisfactorily.

The unique features of intelligent call routing and how they work

Data processing. ICR uses a range of caller input which is provided to your IVR and can include anything from the nature of a query to unique account or customer details. This data is used to automatically identify a caller’s reason for making the call (caller intent) before determining the best routing option. Needless to say, the more advanced your IVR system is when it comes to capturing caller input, the more precise your ICR will be, which is why many call centres are shifting from DTMF menus to IVR solutions that use AI-powered speech recognition technology.

Caller data and historical data are also important sources of information for the ICR function, but this refers to more static information compared to caller input. While caller data includes phone number identification, historical call data includes past purchases, support history and other captured personal information. Caller input, caller data, and historical data are processed by ICR simultaneously to decide the best outcome for the caller’s needs. Best practice is to use the spoken caller intent to decide what the caller requires and the additional data to reduce or remove the need for follow on questions.

Maximising the use of automated resolution processes. Call centres use features like voice banners and self-serve options to reduce the number of calls unnecessarily reaching live agents. ICR opens the opportunity to dramatically increase the number of targeted voice banners call centres use for common query types because they can establish the precise nature of a call. In other words, while DTMF systems are limited to generic banners related to restrictive menu options, a call centre empowered with ICR will be able to direct customers to all kinds of specific relevant information based on their intent such as product notices, delivery backlogs or the opening hours for a specific store.

Similarly, by understanding the true nature of a call, ICR solutions can successfully direct more calls to self-serve options (like paying an account balance) in circumstances where customers might not otherwise have the confidence to choose the option by their own volition.

Sharing data with live agents. Having captured and processed useful customer information automatically, ICRs can share this information with agents, so customers aren’t repeating themselves and agents can jump straight into resolving the call as soon as they pick up. By making information accessible to agents after routing calls such as customer verbatim (what they said in their own words), call type, and links to customer records, ICR can speed up resolutions and reduce AHT.

Call data analytics. By capturing and dealing with more data than traditional call routing systems, there’s a lot ICR can do to help call centre managers run operations much more efficiently. Reporting on key measurables such as call volumes, duration, common call types, call waiting times, and speed of resolutions could help managers adjust call flows by implementing and tweaking targeted banners, introducing new self-service options for common tasks, and addressing weaknesses in agent training. 

Enhancing ICR with AI-powered speech recognition technology

The quality of data that’s available to your ICR system has a huge part to play in how effective your intelligent call routing system will be in directing calls to the best outcome first time. Keeping track of KPIs and call flows will be an important part of refining the machine learning and data processing capabilities to deliver the best outcomes, while seamless integration with other business systems such as CRM applications will also be crucial to the performance of ICR. 

Your IVR can also enhance the decision-making capabilities of ICR by gathering deeper insights from your callers using AI speech recognition technology. An IVR that understands why your customers are calling from their natural conversational language can create a more powerful customer service experience, whether it be by asking further questions to increase data capture or by better recognising the many nuances of different caller intents and more accurately matching them with your live agent resources or automated solutions.

Watch this demo to find out how Oration’s cloud-based speech recognition technology could enhance the performance of your call centre in a matter of hours.

By asking a simple open question when answering a call, Oration opens unlimited routing options to ensure every caller reaches the most appropriate outcome the first time. While this has the potential to reduce the number of calls reaching agents and time spent on the phone, it makes life easier for callers who don’t need to match their queries to a restrictive menu structure.

ICR by Oration is highly data-driven, using the information provided by the caller on the phone as well as unique customer data provided by other systems, such as a CRM, to determine the next best action.

How AI-powered technology can help transform your contact centre

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