Customer Communication

Route Your Way To Customer Success With Skill-Based Routing

June 16, 2023
9:30 am
various agents communicating with clients in different ways - small

When a customer contacts you, they want their problem solved quickly. Unfortunately, they very often come up against the customer service headache of constantly being put on hold and rerouted. Too many times they might find themselves explaining parts of their problem over and over, without the guarantee that the agent they’re speaking with has the skills to solve their problem at all. 

This uncomfortable system of routing can prevent customers from receiving the help they need or delaying a solution. So what can be done to help customers receive the help they need right away? Many businesses are turning to skill-based routing as a solution to provide optimal customer service. Read on to learn more about skill-based call routing, how it works, the benefits of using it, and some best practices for implementing it in your business. 

Table of Contents

  1. What is skill-based routing? 
  2. Skill-based routing vs. omnichannel routing
  3. How does skill-based routing work? 
  4. Benefits of a skill-based routing solution
  5. Best practices for implementation
  6. How do you know if skill-based routing is right for your business?  

What Is Skill-Based Routing? 

Skill-based routing is when customers’ calls or messages are sent to customer service agents based on the agent’s skill sets to help solve the problem. Essentially, the goal of skill-based routing is to determine what the customer's problem is and send their message immediately to the agent most qualified to solve that particular type of problem. 

Skill-based routing differs from other common routing approaches. Other common routing approaches might involve sending calls to the agent who’s been inactive the longest, rotating calls in a fixed order, or even randomly assigning calls. With skill-based routing, the determining factor is skill set. 

Skill-Based Routing vs. Omnichannel Routing

Omnichannel routing is used to manage multiple channels of communication. While traditional call centers still exist, there are also many other options for customer service, including SMS messaging. That’s where omnichannel routing comes in. Omnichannel routing sends a customer to the right agent no matter the channel the customer reached out on. 

Technically, omnichannel routing and skill-based routing are two different types of routing that provide great customer service but are working to solve different problems. Omnichannel routing is balancing different communication channels, like calls and SMS messaging, while skill-based routing is all about assigning customers to agents based on skills. 

Together, skill-based routing and omnichannel routing can provide a powerful customer service solution. When a customer reaches out for support—no matter the channel—the customer can help identify their problem (possibly through IVR or ACD) before being automatically redirected to the agent that can support them best. That way customers can communicate on the channel that works best for them while getting the best skills-based support possible. Skill-based routing and omnichannel customer service work together to provide your company with a robust customer support solution.  

How Does Skill-Based Routing Work?

Let’s dive further into exactly how skill-based routing can work. In general, skill-based routing begins by filtering agents by skills. Some of the common skills that you can consider filtering agents by include: 

  • Languages spoken
  • Conversational skills
  • Technical skills (like writing, proficiency with software, coding languages, etc.)
  • Product knowledge
  • Channel experience and proficiency
  • Data aptitudes
  • Compliance expertise
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Critical thinking abilities

The skills that are important for supporting your customers can be different from these, and whatever those are, they are the skills you should prioritize for skill-based routing. 

Once you have filtered each agent by skills, customers can now reach out and be directed to an agent that can better support them. Let’s say a customer messages your business via SMS, and they need support in Spanish. With skill-based routing, they can indicate that in their message, and they’ll be automatically routed to an available agent who is proficient in Spanish. 

Or if a customer calls over the phone and needs help with a product, their call would automatically be directed to an agent who’s listed with expertise on that particular product. Your company could even consider experience to be a skill and direct customers to the agents with the most experience, so they’re likely to be able to help answer common questions. With skill-based routing, it doesn’t matter if that agent just took a call; they will still be sent the next call because they’re best prepared to support that customer. 

Benefits of a Skill-Based Routing Solution

Skill-based routing can benefit customers by providing them with the most qualified and thorough support. It can also benefit the agents by letting them work with customers they can truly help. This chart outlines the main benefits of skill-based routing solutions for customers and agents and why those benefits matter. 

Agent Benefits

Increased agent productivity
  • With skill-based routing, agents get to focus only on the customers that they have the expertise to help support, which lets them stay more productive and avoid passing calls or messages to another agent.
  • Fewer rerouting tickets can help lead to higher productivity, increased first-call resolution, and decreased first-response time.
More efficient workflows
  • On the surface, it might seem simpler to just use random routing, but skill-based routing can help create efficient workflows. Workflows are the conditions that will send a customer to the right agent, and with skill-based routing, the workflow can send customers to the right agent easier and efficiently. While a customer might reach an expert at some point with rerouting tickets, skill-based routing cuts that journey down significantly. 
Better ROI
  • Investing in skill-based routing can cut costs by reducing the amount of time agents have to spend rerouting calls and don’t have to over-employ agents on your team. 

Customer Benefits

Improved customer satisfaction
  • Customers are reaching out to the company for support, and they want their challenges solved quickly and efficiently. Skill-based routing helps provide that. Customers are able to receive the support they need fast, which leads to improved customer satisfaction.
Decreased resolution time
  • Lower resolution times mean that customers receive a solution to their needs more quickly. Skill-based routing can help lower resolution times by sending customers immediately to the agents who are best able to help them. That might be an agent who’s an expert on the product and on SMS messaging who can work with them on the product, or it might be the agent who knows the company best and can provide them the support only an expert agent can. 
Less rerouting
  • Customers aren’t bounced from agent to agent with skill-based routing. It can be frustrating for customers to work with agents who don’t know how to help them and then have to pass them off to another agent—especially if it happens multiple times. 
  • With rerouting, customers also have to explain their situation and need multiple times, and each new agent they speak with doesn’t have the necessary context. With skill-based routing, the goal is to get that customer to the right agent immediately without causing repeat explanations. 

Best Practices for Implementation

If your company is ready to implement skill-based routing, here are some best practices to make implementation smoother. 

Use customer data to evaluate skills

To implement skill-based routing, you need to know what skills your agents have. The customer data you already have is an excellent place to begin. Using the data, identify what types of calls agents end up handling and how quickly they can resolve those problems. You can also look at your customers to see what they’re contacting you about most often. Maybe almost half of your customers want support in Spanish, or maybe most of your customers have billing questions. These insights can help you determine what skills are needed, as well as what skills your agents already have. 

Categorize skills

Once you have an understanding of the high-priority skills your company needs, you can begin categorizing the skills agents have and need. You might group some skills into a category of “communication skills” or “conflict de-escalation skills.” With your categories in mind, evaluate your agents on the level of proficiency with each skill. You will end up with a comprehensive view of your agents and the level of skills each one has for handling certain customer needs. You’ll now have a list of all of your top billing experts, so when customers reach out about billing questions, you can send them directly to the agents who can help. 

Match agents with skill needs 

When a customer reaches out, they need to be matched with an agent that has the skill needs necessary to help. Customers can reach out over so many channels, like call, text, and video, but once they reach out, the goal is to use an automatic workflow system to send them to the right agent. So if a customer needs help with billing in Spanish calls, the workflow system will match them with an agent who’s fluent in Spanish and an expert in billing. 

Analyzing ongoing data

As with most new processes, it’s important to gather data and analyze exactly what’s happening to continue to refine and improve the process. With the right workflow tool, you can ensure you’re gathering the data you need to analyze to improve the customer experience. 

How Do You Know if Skill-Based Routing is Right For Your Business?

A business with many agents, multiple communication channels, billing systems, or complex products can greatly benefit from implementing skill-based routing. It’s particularly beneficial for companies utilizing multiple communication channels because customers can continue to reach out in the way that works best for them, and agents who are experts with those channels can work with them. For example, if a customer is struggling with a product and reaches out via video, they can be sent to an agent who fully understands video and will be able to work over that channel to help support the customer. 

Skill-based routing isn’t just for your customers; it’s also for your team. Skill-based routing allows them to utilize their skills and work more efficiently, which leads to higher levels of satisfaction. After all, it’s not just frustrating for your customers when the agent can’t help them. That’s also a frustrating experience for the agent. So implementing skill-based routing is also beneficial for companies looking to improve their agents’ work experience. 

The key to implementing skill-based routing successfully is utilizing a tool that’s highly attuned to support your team. Acquire’s omnichannel workflow tool allows you to customize your routing channels to the skills of your company. It empowers your agents to focus on high-priority cases they’re specifically skilled to help while getting customers to agents quickly. 

In addition, Acquire requires no engineering necessary to implement it. It’s designed to align with your business rules, and we provide 24/7 support to help you set up skill-based routing. Learn more about the Acquire workflow solution to get started implementing skill-based routing today.