Call routing is a VoIP feature that connects callers with qualified, available agents that have the training and skillsets needed to best assist the customer.

Businesses can use several different call routing strategies to cut down on hold times, prevent endless call transfers to multiple agents, and improve the overall customer experience.

Let’s take a look at what is call routing, how it works, how to deploy it, and best practices.


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What Is Call Routing?

Call routing is the process of placing live phone calls in a queue and distributing them to the appropriate departments or agents based on pre-established rules and criteria.

These rules can be based on both customer and agent behavior, and include common routing factors like the reason for the customer’s call or the amount of time an agent has gone without speaking to a caller.

Call routing is also referred to as an automatic call distribution (ACD) system.

Intelligent call routing allows the system administrator to instantly connect the caller to a specific phone line or extension without placing the caller on hold.


How Does Call Routing Work?

Call routing works by using data that customers provide when calling your business phone number, usually through interaction with your IVR system.

There are 3 phases to the call routing process. 

  1. The first phase, Caller Input, is when customers use their dial pad or voice to respond to pre-recorded questions or select call menu options. For example, the IVR system may instruct the caller to “Press 2 to speak to the billing department.” When the caller presses 2 or says their account number out loud, they’re participating in the Caller Input phase.
  2. The call routing system uses the input provided to enter into the next phase, Call Queuing. During this phase, your phone system will use automatic call distributors to place calls into the correct queues based on IVR responses.
  3. These calls wait in queues until they’re ready to enter the final call routing phase, Call Distribution. 

Here, calls are routed to agents based on pre-established calling rules and customer data stored in your CRM solution. This ensures that the caller will be connected to the ideal agent for their unique issue.


Different Types of Call Routing

Routing strategies are the preset call routing rules and criteria you can choose from to better distribute your calls.

The idea of routing strategies was developed as a more efficient solution than direct call routing, which uses separate business telephone numbers for departments, agents, or unique offers.

While direct call routing can be useful if used conservatively, having too many different business phone numbers confuses customers, leads to long wait times, and increases call center abandonment rate. It’s not an effective call management strategy, especially for medium to large-sized businesses.

Call Routing

The below call routing strategies get customers help faster, decrease holds, and often eliminate the need for customer callbacks.


Skills-Based Routing

Skills-based virtual phone system routing uses information the customer provides the IVR system with to connect them to agents with the specific skillset needed to best assist them.

For example, it connects a customer with a question about an unfamiliar account charge to the billing department as opposed to an HR representative who is unable to access a customer’s account history.

Skills-based routing is also utilized in a sales environment.

It sends a potential customer who clicked on an ad before calling to the representative with the greatest knowledge of that specific product (or the highest sales closure rate.)


Least Occupied Routing

Least occupied routing, sometimes called most idle routing, connects the inbound call to the agent that has taken the fewest number of calls or has the lowest talk time that day.

This is especially helpful for customer service and support departments, as it prevents individual representatives from getting overburdened with calls.


Round Robin Routing

Round robin routing evenly distributes inbound support or sales calls among agents.

Let’s say agents A, B, and C are all on deck to answer calls, with the first call going to agent A. Once agent A has taken a call, the next call will go to agent B, and then agent C. This prevents agent A from being “first in line” to receive every call.

System administrators create a business VoIP algorithm for managing incoming calls to the sales team, creating a more equitable sales department.


Predictive Behavioral Routing

Predictive behavioral routing (sometimes called intelligent routing) uses live and historical call center data to connect the caller to the agent who will be able to provide the best answer, as well as which agent the caller is the most likely to prefer.

This routing strategy uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to evaluate factors like the caller’s preferred communication channel, their purchase/customer service history, and the caller’s personality and behavioral profile.


Time-Based Routing

Time-based routing routes calls based on the agent’s time-zone or business hours.

It’s especially popular with global and geographically diverse call centers, as it ensures that your agents won’t receive customer calls at 2:00 AM their time or whenever they are not scheduled to work.


Sequential Routing

Also called fixed order routing, sequential routing is a list-based order that keeps a specific agent at the front of the line to receive customer calls throughout a specified time period.

For example, if agents A, B, and C are all taking calls, agent A will accept the first call, but will also be the first responder for second, third, fourth, etc. calls. Agents B and C will only take calls if agent A is busy or if agent A sends a call to them.


VIP Routing

VIP routing, or caller ID routing, prioritizes your most important clients, pushing them to the front of the line when they contact your call center.


The Benefits of Call Routing

Call routing rules offer numerous benefits to both callers and employees, including:

  • Reduced wait time
  • Decreased call abandonment rate
  • Fewer voicemails and missed calls
  • 24/7 communication
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Faster resolution
  • Improved employee workflow
  • Potential for increased sales revenue
  • Specific call availability times on a per-agent basis
  • Ability to transfer and forward calls when agents are busy
  • More balanced employee workload
  • Custom greetings and menu options
  • Better customer self-service
  • Prioritizing VIP clients


Call Routing Best Practices

Here are some tip on how to create an effective call routing strategy:

  • Keep pre-recorded IVR prompts brief
  • Ensure the routing system integrates with your CRM software
  • Provide callers with estimated wait times and queue position updates while on hold
  • Offer callers an automated callback option
  • Make it easy to connect to a live agent when needed
  • Create call groups (ring groups) to give customers a better chance of connecting with an agent on first contact
  • Create standalone business phone numbers for busy departments
  • Color-code or tag caller responses
  • Provide language-based routing options
  • Implement automated customer surveys
  • Consider additional routing options/IVR menu items during busy seasons (or hire additional agents)
  • Create (at least) weekly call center data reports
  • Record calls and review the recordings to monitor agent efficiency and understand recurring issues
  • Invest in software that lets agents keep and access detailed notes/files on past customer interactions to prevent customers from repeating themselves


Better Call Routing Strategies Improve The Customer Experience 

The call routing strategies outlined here ensure customers get quality assistance quickly and prevent agents from getting overwhelmed.

For best results, conduct thorough customer research by reviewing call center KPIs and additional customer feedback to inform which call routing strategies will work best for a specific department or customer issue.

Additionally, take advantage of other call center software features designed to improve your call handling process, like call forwarding, simultaneous ringing, real-time call notifications, and shared voicemail inboxes.

To learn more about additional call management features, check out our interactive table of the top call center software, which also provides pricing information, customer reviews, and comparisons with other popular platforms.


Call Routing FAQs

Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about call routing.

A phone call is routed based on preset calling rules that are followed based on the information the caller provides the auto-attendant with, the caller’s identification, the time of their call, or additional criteria the system admin has chosen.

Once this information is provided, the caller is sent to a call queue, where the VoIP system processes their information and then directs their call to the appropriate agent. 

Custom call routing (CCR) replaces your automated attendant with an advanced call routing tree that provides far more specific ways for customers to select the reason for their call and the help they need than a standard IVR menu. 

With CCR, customers are able to access multi-level IVR menus and submenus, hear lengthy pre-recorded responses that provide detailed assistance, or be transferred to external phone numbers.

Call routing sends calls to specific agents or departments based on pre-set calling rules. 

Call forwarding forwards customer calls to multiple phone numbers for the same agent without the customer having to hang up and dial additional numbers. For example, if the agent doesn’t answer their desk phone after a preset number of rings, the call will automatically be sent to their mobile number, then perhaps their home phone number, and finally, their voicemail box (or any other pre-programmed numbers.)

Call screening is the process of managing and responding to phone calls based on the caller’s identity as displayed in the caller ID box.

Call routing is a top feature of VoIP phone systems, most of which will provide advanced real-time and historical analytics such as:

  • Average phone call length
  • Daily call volume
  • Number of missed or abandoned calls 
  • Agent-specific statistics
  • First call resolution rates 
  • Average call wait time
  • Customer sentiment
  • Percent of calls that ended in a sale

You should expect to pay anywhere from $75.00/user per month to $200+/user per month, depending on the software and additional features you choose.