If you are aware of the processes of call centres, or managing the help desk functionality of a large company, you would probably be knowing about call queuing and Automatic Call Distribution. If you have called your Bank or mobile connection help desk, you probably know that you need to wait for sometime before someone picks up the call. Skills based routing is all about reducing that waiting time for the customers, from a call-centre perspective.
Earlier, with ACD (Automatic Call Distribution), agents were aligned with call queues and anyone who dials in is put in to a particular queue and they need to wait till one of the agents is free. First-In First-out, a simple system. But this process may result in more waiting time for the callers, if their particular queue is long. And if they are an important customer, the satisfaction levels may become very low. So, to bring in a more dynamic system that can prioritize the callers and the agents according to their skill sets, Skills based routing was introduced.
What is Skills based Routing?
Skills based routing connects a particular type of call to a specific agent or group of agents with defined skills. The ‘particular type’ of call means a normal call, call from your gold customer or call from platinum customer. The ‘defined skills’ refer to whether the agent is experienced, has knowledge of solving a particular problem, whether the agent specializes in sales, customer service or other functionalities etc. Based on these two parameters, calls can be dynamically allocated to agents or agent groups – You may like to allocate a call from platinum customer to the most experienced agent who specializes in customer service, and want the call to be attended ahead of all the calls from normal customers. It is possible with Skills based Routing.
Factors in the In-coming calls that can enable Skills based Routing:
To decide which agent group (based on their skills) to route the in-coming calls, the following parameters are considered by call centre software:
¤ CLID – Caller Line Identification Details (Number, Area Code, Trunk details etc.)
¤ Information that can be obtained from the caller like account number, invoice number etc (Through DTMF key pressing)
¤ Information that can be obtained from the IVR – Interactive Voice Response menu, as selected by the caller
¤ Service levels already agreed upon for the caller
¤ Agent Status – Most Idle, most skilful etc.
¤ Number of callers in the skill set group
These are some of the factors considered to transfer the caller to an appropriate agent.
Call Routing Options:
When the Call Centre Software gets the information about the incoming call and the above parameters have been analysed, it could route the call to an agent group (If the agent group is not free, the call can be queued) or transfered to an IVR or play a pre-recorded message. Some vendors can also offer the client a call back after a specific time when the agents would become free (If they need to wait in the call group for a long time) or at some other time that the customer wants to be called back.
The calls can be queued in more than one agent group. So, essentially the agents can have multiple skill sets and which ever agent becomes free first, the call would be transferred to them. If the agent does not pick up the call, the call is transferred to the next agent with similar skill sets after a specified number of rings. These agents can be located at multiple physical locations (including remote worker from home) but still they can participate in the call groups as if all the agents were sitting at one location.
Each agent has a priority level attached to each skill set. The beginners can have a priority of 30 for a particular skill set and the experienced agents can have lower priorities for the same skill set. This helps to connect the most important customers to the most experienced agents. Calls also can be set with certain type of priority and queued based on the call type and number. So, if there is a platinum customer, they could be connected to the most experienced agent/ regular agent if the experienced agents are not free and the system ensures that the call is connected as soon as possible (with a higher priority and before the other customers).
The administrators can manage the whole process of defining the agent skill sets, grouping them based on the defined skill set, deciding the incoming call priority based on the various factors listed above (they could also fetch a CRM record based on the in-coming number and use the information in the record to decide the priority), assign the supervisors for each skill set, monitor the performance of the agents, supervisors and perform all the other management functionalities using a web based Graphical User Drag and Drop Interface with most of the Call Centre Software’s that support skills based routing.
Advantages and Dis-advantages:
While it is possible to define a skill set and assign multiple agents to a skill set and group the calls according to the skill set, the main advantage of skills based routing is the quality of service parameters that it can offer to the premium customers and normal customers (routing them directly to the most appropriate agents). Whether the time taken for all the customers to wait comes down or not, is something that needs to be cumulatively analysed based on specific cases. In some situations, it could be better if we just have 150 agents taking all the calls one after another as the call allocation is uniform and skills based routing might have some agents not being utilized at all times. But the efficiency factor depends on the kind of rules that administrators specify, and how the structure/flow of the calls are controlled.
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