Intelligent Call Routing: What It Is + How To Leverage It

2024-03-04

Quick Answer

Intelligent call routing (ICR) is a system designed to efficiently direct incoming calls to the most appropriate transfer destination.

Customer service teams are increasingly looking to automation to improve efficiency in today's quickly changing business landscape. According to a Gartner estimate, the rate of automation in agent interactions will increase more than fivefold by 2026. 

As businesses navigate this changing environment, AI answering and intelligent call routing (ICR) emerge as game-changing technologies. When seamlessly integrated with live virtual receptionists, these technologies play a pivotal role in enhancing both business efficiency and the customer experience.

In this post, we'll go over what an intelligent call routing system is, how it works, and how to improve your intelligent call routing strategy. Let's get started!

What is intelligent call routing? 

Intelligent call routing is a system that efficiently directs incoming calls to the most appropriate transfer destination. This system prioritizes routing based on predefined rules set by system owners.

An intelligent call routing system uses caller input and data to identify them and determine the purpose of their call. It then automatically directs the call to the appropriate agent or department based on the predefined rules. 

If the primary target is unavailable, the system intelligently determines the best alternative based on call type and purpose, cascading through available agents until it finds the most appropriate one, in order.

How does intelligent call routing work? 

Intelligent call routing is a complex system designed to efficiently direct incoming calls to the most appropriate destination based on various factors. Here is an overview of how it works.

How intelligent call routing (ICR) works

1. Caller input 

Caller input is information given by the caller over the phone such with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. However, IVR is only capable of collecting simple information (think: “press 1 for English, press 2 for Spanish), whereas ICR systems often involve capturing more detailed lead information. 

This information is essential for the ICR system to accurately direct the caller to the right person. During interactions, callers share details such as account numbers, phone numbers, the reason for their call, case types, or the specific department they are trying to reach.

2. Caller data and analysis  

When a call comes in, an ICR system uses automatic number identification (ANI) to quickly identify the caller's phone number and where they're calling from. At the same time, the dialed number identification service (DNIS) determines the right department or agent for routing the call. The system can also access past customer data, like previous purchases and interactions, to better understand the context of the call and the caller's needs.

3. Predetermined criteria 

Intelligent call routing systems have set rules to decide where to direct calls. For instance, criteria may include the skills of available agents or the difficulty of a caller's question. These factors decide where the system should transfer the call. So, if someone has a complex question, the ICR system directs the call to a live agent with more experience handling such inquiries.

4. Routing strategy 

The ICR system analyzes caller input, data, and predetermined criteria to determine the optimal routing strategy and guide the caller to the right destination. A routing strategy could include:

  • Skill-based routing: This strategy quickly directs callers with agents with the appropriate skills to handle unique inquiries. For example, the system may route callers who have complex inquiries to more experienced agents.
  • Contextual routing: This strategy ensures personalized service by directing callers based on the context of their call. For instance, the ICR system could use caller data to route them to an agent they‚Äôve interacted with before, helping create a consistent experience.¬†
  • Priority routing: This prioritizes urgent calls, ensuring they are handled more promptly, ahead of others, for a quicker resolution.
Common routing strategies

For example, if someone is calling a law firm about having gotten into an accident and having suffered injuries, the system would gather lead information and direct them to an agent for further support in setting up a consultation. 

Is intelligent call routing right for you? 

Curious about the idea of an intelligent call routing system? Explore how an ICR system can address these typical challenges:

  • Wait times: Long wait times can frustrate callers, leading to a less-than-ideal customer experience. ICR addresses this issue by efficiently directing calls to available agents, minimizing wait times, and ensuring quicker assistance for callers.
  • First call resolution (FCR): The challenge with FCR is that callers may need to contact a business multiple times to resolve an issue. ICR minimizes this problem by connecting callers with the most suitable agents right from the start, increasing the likelihood of resolving their issues on the very first call.
  • Customer satisfaction: Long wait times, multiple transfers, and inconsistent service can negatively affect customer satisfaction. ICR addresses this issue by efficiently directing calls to the right agents, minimizing wait times, and ensuring callers connect with the best-suited agents to address their needs.¬†
  • Agent productivity: When agents don‚Äôt receive calls that align with their expertise, their productivity suffers. Just as inexperienced agents can feel stress and burnout when receiving highly technical calls, specialized agents can feel bored and unmotivated when only receiving generic queries. ICR addresses this issue by routing calls to agents based on their specialized skills, ensuring they handle inquiries within their area of expertise.¬†
  • Resolution rates: Poor resolution rates are frequently caused by mismatches between callers and agents, resulting in multiple transfers. ICR fixes this by connecting callers with agents who have the right skills.¬†

5 tips to improve your intelligent call routing strategy 

5 best practices to improve your intelligent call routing strategy

1. Utilize high-quality data

For an effective ICR strategy, prioritize the use of high-quality call data. Ensure the data you gather, including caller information and real-time agent availability, is accurate and up-to-date. Integrating your ICR system with reliable data sources enhances its ability to deploy precise routing strategies, improving customer satisfaction and streamlining call processes. Accurate data is the key to making informed routing decisions.

2. Assign resources based on skill 

By assigning agents based on their skills, you can ensure that each caller connects with an agent who has the expertise to address a caller’s inquiry effectively. By categorizing agents based on their skills and regularly updating this information, you minimize call transfers and wait times, providing a better experience for both agents and callers.

3. Integrate your call routing system 

Integrating your ICR system with tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software is essential. This ensures your ICR has access to comprehensive customer data, giving agents a complete view of each caller's history and preferences. This integration streamlines the routing process, improving efficiency and customer satisfaction.

4. Collect call data 

Collecting data on how calls are routed and how agents perform is critical for improving ICR systems. This data helps identify areas for improvement and adjust how calls are directed. It ensures that the system remains sensitive to changes in how calls occur and what customers require. Analyzing factors like how soon issues are fixed and how satisfied customers are with the service helps to improve the overall call routing system over time.

5. Evaluate your performance  

Regularly check how well your ICR system is doing by using key performance indicators. To measure how efficient it is, track things like how quickly agents resolve issues and customer satisfaction. These regular evaluations help spot trends, make smart decisions, and adjust your call routing strategy to fit the changing needs of your business. 

Optimize your inbound call strategy with Smith.ai

An intelligent call routing system helps streamline customer communication so your business can operate more efficiently while delivering superior customer experiences. 

Consider leveraging Smith.ai's skilled and experienced virtual receptionists to optimize your inbound call strategy. Our 24/7 live agents are highly skilled in phone answering, appointment scheduling, lead screening and intake. They can also adapt to your business and your current system or set-up as if they’re a part of your internal team.

Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to learn more about how Smith.ai can help your business.

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Written by Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's SVP of Growth. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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