Call hunting, also called Line Hunting, or call routing, is a method to make a person-to-person call, rather than a person-to-phone number call. In simplest terms, the call goes to multiple phones until the person answers, or until the call is picked up by voicemail.
For Example: [Incoming Call] -> Office Desktop Phone -> Cell Phone -> Office Receptionist -> Voicemail
Call hunting is a way for callers to avoid busy signals. Although colloquially called “call forwarding,” this is not entirely accurate. Call forwarding is the process of having all calls forwarded to one number; call routing is the process of having calls routed to multiple phones in a particular order. In addition, in call forwarding, the person forwarding the calls must pay any long distance charges to forward the local inbound call to the outbound receiving phone; in call hunting, the calls are generally within a company's internal PBX.
This feature is best for those that receive large volumes of calls but are frequently away from the primary (pilot) line, are closely monitoring after-hours business calls, and/or have a team working closely on one project. Call hunting is typically provided for a small fee, with some providers including it as a standard of their service. Moreover, Call Hunting is a service that most business telephone providers recognize as an important tool for rapid response time in addressing customer service situations as promptly as they arise.
The most commonly thought of system of call routing is linear hunting. Also called find me/follow me, or simultaneous/sequential ringing, linear call routing is best suited for an individual. For most hosted PBX providers, a call can go to three numbers, either at once (simultaneous ring) or in a set order (sequential ringing). A typical example is: Desk phone/home phone/cell phone. Although it's certainly possible to have other schema, such as: Desk phone/front receptionist at main office/receptionist at secondary office.
Another method of call hunting is circular hunting, also called round-robin hunting. In this method, when there are multiple lines, if the first call goes to line one, the second will go to line two, regardless of whether line one is busy or not. The lines will be cycled through and go back to the other lines. In many cases, a fax line is the first to pick up, and if there is no fax signal, the call will be routed to phone lines. This way, a business can have a fax machine plugged in at all times and keep the same phone number.
In call centers, the bank of calls are considered a hunt group. The caller typically uses the auto-attendant to establish which group (department) he wants to talk to, and then the system hunts for the best extension to to take the call. Within the hunt group, calls can be arranged to be received in different ways. Again, calls can go in a linear fashion, but this is likely to result in the first few phones getting the most calls. Calls can also go in a circular fashion, which is more fair. Another method, called “most-idle hunting,” calculates the time that a phone is in use, and send the call to the phone that has the most idle time, in order to distribute the load fairly and evenly.
An alternative to call routing is automatic call distribution. An ACD is a more intelligent way of routing calls by balancing the loads. An intelligent ACD is capable of bypassing lines that are busy entirely to shorten the time callers spend waiting in the queue. The ACD is also capable of adding more lines, such as managers or other teams, in real time to help when demand is greatest.
Line hunting is one of the features that separates a hosted PBX solution from a plain telephone service. Line hunting can be set up easily, and, with some providers, with a graphic representation of where the calls will go.