Pandemic Highlights Need for Intelligent Routing

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Though it hasn’t captured the same attention as technologies like artificial intelligence, omnichannel engagement, or digital transformation, intelligent routing has grown in importance in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for seamless, personalized interactions between contact center agents and consumers, according to Brian Cantor, a director and principal analyst at CCW Digital.

In a CCW report on intelligent routing, Cantor urged contact centers to rethink their approaches to the technology.

Traditional contact center routing strategies and systems may be good, but often aren’t intelligent, he says. “Intelligent routing provides the organizations that use it significant advantage over good routing.”

Intelligent routing uses data to make smarter decisions at scale, explains Andy Traba, director of product and product marketing at NICE. Unlike basic routing systems, which might use a skills-based strategy but still connect customers to agents based on chance, intelligent routing uses data from multiple sources and artificial intelligence to connect customers with the right agents for the best experience.

Intelligent routing enhances the customer experience, Cantor says.

In a CCW survey, 59 percent of customers said the customer experience was more important to them than ever before.

And an essential element of a good customer experience is reducing the amount of time customers need to wait to be serviced, Cantor says. Eighty-one percent of customers prioritize speed and simplicity when evaluating CX, but many companies don’t pay enough attention to this pain point, he asserts

According to CCW Digital’s 2020 Customer Preference Survey, more than half (56 percent) of customers frequently experience long wait times, a problem that became worse during the early days of the pandemic as complexity rose and capacity shrunk.

“Intelligent routing is the perfect solution to long wait times,” Cantor says. “By directing customers to the most suitable agent, an advanced routing framework increases the probability of fast resolutions and low handle times. As a result, it increases agent availability and reduces the wait time for subsequent customers.”

Cantor adds that while there can still be delays with intelligent routing, it still improves the experience for those who have to wait because, once connected, the agent is more prepared to solve the specific issue. With traditional routing, delays are more likely even after connecting with a live agent because the first agent might need to transfer the call to someone better equipped to handle it. Such transfers not only annoy customers but also add to the cost of operating the contact center.

Efficiency gains also result in a better agent experience, according to Cantor.

With the majority of agents moving to remote environments this year, a widening gap in product knowledge, confidence, and motivation have emerged, further emphasizing the need for intelligent routing.

In addition to connecting the right customer with the right agent, intelligent routing also can connect customers to bots when that is a “better choice” than a human agent, he adds.

A new technology called predictive behavioral routing (PBR) is gaining adoption as companies look to further improve agent-customer connects and eliminate the pain points that create customer frustration and agent disengagement, according to Cantor. PBR “is infinitely scalable. It can adapt to changes in the agent pool, product scope, customer behaviors, audience demographics, contact center technology, and channel mix,” he says.

PBR, he explains, leverages artificial intelligence to create meaningful customer-agent matches. Using AI, PBR predicts the needs and expectations of particular customers and then makes real-time decisions about the next best steps to move them along in their journeys.

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