Foundational Routing: Applying Routing Best Practices

Modernizing your contact center routing requires some thought and planning. After you’ve gained an understanding of common routing patterns, it’s time to choose which one is best for your business and then refine it.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on routing, we looked at the three most common routing patterns available to address different business objectives.

Pattern: Skill-Based Routing Pattern: Borrow/Lend Rules Routing Pattern: Relationship Routing
Need: First-contact resolution or other key results Need: Protect small teams Need: Personal relationship
Definition: Route to the appropriately skilled agent and then gradually expand to acceptable, but still capable, agents. Definition: Do skill-based routing with target expansion but protect small teams so that they don’t get overrun. Definition: Route to the personal agent for the customer and offer alternatives when they aren’t available.


Now let’s explore the four steps to choosing and refining your routing method.

Step 1.  Understand Your Real Goals

Your goals drive everything. Answer the following questions to determine the priorities and goals that frame your routing.

  1. What are your success metrics?
    • These drive you to action — not just for reporting.
    • Most companies seek a balance across customer satisfaction, operational efficiency and employee fairness. This is a good thing.
  2. What do you prioritize on a bad day?
    • Sometimes this is a customer segment or work type that’s no longer protected or prioritized. Sometimes target objectives change.
  3. What are your constraints?
    • If your outsourcers are paid for service levels instead of results or handling metrics, then you must route to the outsourcer as a site — not as a virtual extension of your contact center. This is a big constraint on flexibility.
    • Consider “small skills” that represent work that’s critical or low volume.
    • Consider teams that must be isolated from each other such that the agents can’t be cross-trained. If the purpose is just for reporting, you can handle that without creating special groups of people.

Step 2. Define Skills and Proficiencies

As a reminder, a skill is a characteristic of an agent that doesn’t change unless the agent changes. Ways to define skills are:

  • Consider the classes for agents as they grow in the job. Identify any specialty training. A simple starting point is to define each training bucket as a skill.
  • Team structure. You’ve probably naturally divided your agents into work functions. These might indicate skills or which skills are preferred for a set of agents.
  • Examples include language, license, product, intent (e.g., sales, service, billing). Each category will have multiple specific skills under it. For example, the language category might have English, Spanish, French skills.

If you find yourself violating the rule of thumb of four to five skills per typical agent, ask yourself if you’re creating too many skills and try to simplify realistically. Note that reporting should be handled without adding skills.

If you already have the concept of skill levels, capture them now as proficiencies. If you intend to provide differentiated service for your customers based on the caliber of the agents, then highlight that in this step. Otherwise, hold off on proficiencies until Step 4.

This step is a starting point. As you work through your routing logic, you’ll come back to skill definitions as you realize where you need distinct skills and where you don’t.

Step 3. Define Preferred Skill Expressions for Different Work

Ultimately, it’s a gnarly, detailed job to go through every type of work and intent to determine the skill mapping. In this step, you’ll get a feel for skill expressions. Typical output is a table with the intent mapped to a skill expression using the skills from Step 2.

Start with your highest volume work and your most critical. You’ll often start to see the pattern of your skill expressions and your matching logic.

Step 4: Define Core Routing Models and Expansion Logic

My experience is that you’ll use one or more of the three common routing models that I’ve listed in this series. However, there are more models, so don’t stress if these three don’t fit your needs.

Use the insight from the previous steps to choose a model and then flesh it out. Start with your highest volume and your most critical work types.

Build Your Foundation for Innovation

Routing doesn’t have to be hard, but it does need to be thoughtful. It should have repeatable patterns that fit your business and give you a foundation for innovation. Start with your goals and constraints, understand your resources, and then choose the patterns that fit those together. Reporting needs to be coordinated with routing from the get-go so that you can prove or refine the business goals of your operations.

One final piece of advice, technology often is the easy part. If you’re unwinding your current logic, you’ll probably find complexity that you can let go of but someone will want to keep. If your current operations require a lot of manual work, you’ll need to educate people to trust automated rules. People change management will be part of any routing modernization process.

If you’re inspired to modernize routing in your contact center, read the brief, “Move beyond random interactions to thoughtfully designed customer journeys.”