13 June 2024

What is call routing and how to master it.

What is call routing and how to master it.

Ever feel like a phone call pinball, bouncing around from hold music to voicemail to hold music to the wrong department to hold music? It's enough to make anyone want to toss their phone out the window and never call customer service again. Well, fear not, because there's a solution that can make your calls feel less like a chaotic adventure and more like a smooth ride to your destination. It’s called call routing and, if everything goes according to plan, it’s something that the customer never notices or thinks about.

What exactly is call routing?

In its simplest form, call routing is the process of directing incoming calls to the right person or department. It's the system that takes a myriad of factors into account and decides where your call goes when you dial a company's main number. 

Just like how an air traffic controller guides planes to their designated gates, call routing ensures that your calls land in the right place. It takes into account things like the caller's needs, the time of day, and even the current call volume to make sure that every call gets to its destination smoothly and efficiently. No more circling the airport of hold music or crash landing in the wrong voicemail box. With call routing, your calls take off and land right where they're supposed to.

How does it work?

Buckle up, because we're about to take a peek behind the curtain of this telecommunications magic trick. Ever wondered how your call seems to know exactly where to go? It's not mind reading, although that would be cool -  it's all thanks to some clever technology and a few well-placed rules.

The easiest way to think of call routing is as a three-step process: qualifying, queuing, and distribution. It's like a well-choreographed dance, with each step ensuring your call gets to the right partner.


This is where your call gets its first impression. Just like a bouncer at a club, the system assesses your call based on a set of rules. It might ask you to press a number for a certain department, or it might use your phone number to identify you so that you can be routed to someone familiar with your situation. This helps determine where your call should go next.


If the lines are busy, your call might be put on hold for a bit - something we’re all familiar with. But don't worry, it's not just random, and with good call routing it should either be very short or very worth the wait. The system uses a queuing algorithm to ensure that calls are answered in the most efficient order possible. It's like waiting in line at a well organized theme park, except with less screaming children - hopefully.


This is the grand finale of the call routing process. Once a representative is available, the system routes your call to them. This agent should be the one most qualified for your issue, or familiar with your account, or the one that speaks your language or any one of a vast array of factors that go into making a decision like this.

What are the benefits?

So, we've explored how call routing works its magic behind the scenes, but what else? If you’re not a tech and process enthusiast like us the process itself might not be reason enough. In other words, what's in it for your customers, your agents, and your business? Let’s find out.

Customer perspective.

We’ve talked plenty about the customer perspective already - good call routing is the difference between a frustrating phone experience and a positive one. It means less time spent navigating confusing menus, being transferred between departments, or getting stuck in endless hold music loops. Instead, it's about getting connected to the right person quickly and efficiently, so you can get your questions answered and your issues resolved without pulling your hair out. In other words, higher CSAT which means returning customers or loyal customers.

The benefits of call routing.

Agent perspective.

The agent has an unbelievable amount to gain from call routing as well. Efficient call routing ensures that agents only handle calls they're qualified for, empowering them to excel in their specific areas. Additionally, call routing balances the workload, preventing burnout and ensuring attention and efficiency. On the other hand, it ensures that there is also no pronounced quiet period for certain agents causing them to get out of the flow of work. A balanced, moderate work distribution ensures good morale and efficiency. 

Business perspective.

Good call routing isn't just about convenience, it's about giving your business a competitive edge. When calls are handled efficiently, your customers are happier, leading to increased customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Imagine the boost to your reputation when every caller feels heard and valued, right from the moment they dial your number. 

Plus, a well-designed call routing system can streamline your operations, reducing the need for manual call transfers and minimizing the time spent on hold. This translates to a more efficient workforce and potentially significant cost savings for your business. Think of it as optimizing your phone lines for peak performance, just like a finely tuned engine.

How is call routing managed?

The path a phone call takes to reach its destination is rarely a straight line. Instead, it's a winding road influenced by a variety of factors, each playing a role in ensuring the call gets answered by the right person or department. In this chapter, we'll take a behind-the-scenes look at how call routing decisions are made. Buckle up, because we're about to navigate the fascinating world of skills-based routing, time-based routing, and more—where the goal is always to deliver a seamless experience, ring by ring. 

Factors that influence the decision.

The decision of where a call gets routed isn't a game of chance. Instead, it's a carefully orchestrated process, a symphony of information working together to ensure the right connection is made. In this section, we'll unveil the maestros behind the curtain, the factors that orchestrate the routing process, from the caller's history and language to the time of day and even the day of the week. Get ready to discover how these seemingly unrelated details harmonize to deliver a call routing experience that's both efficient and personalized.


The time of day plays a significant role in call routing, often acting as a silent conductor directing calls to the most appropriate destination. Call centers and businesses frequently operate across different time zones or have varying staffing levels throughout the day.

For instance, a call received outside of regular business hours might be routed to an after-hours answering service or a voicemail system. During peak hours, a call might be placed in a queue and routed to the next available agent to minimize wait times. Time-based routing ensures that calls are handled efficiently, regardless of when they're placed, by taking into account the operational hours and staffing availability of the business.


In the intricate dance of call routing, location plays a crucial role, influencing the path a call takes and ultimately determining who answers it. Imagine a customer calling a multinational company with offices spread across the globe. The call could originate from anywhere in the world, and the company's call routing system needs to consider this geographic information to ensure the call is handled efficiently. 

For instance, if a customer calls from Japan during business hours in Tokyo, the system might route the call to the company's Japanese office. However, if the same customer calls outside those hours, the call might be routed to an office in a different time zone, where agents are available to assist them. This location-based routing ensures that customers receive prompt support regardless of their location or the time of day they call. It's a testament to how call routing systems can seamlessly leverage geographical data to deliver a truly global customer service experience.

Factors influencing call routing.


When it comes to ensuring a call is answered by the right person, agent skill is a key player. By carefully assessing the skills and expertise of each agent, call routing systems can match incoming calls with the agents best equipped to handle them. For instance, a call about a complex technical issue might be routed to a seasoned tech support specialist, while a billing inquiry could be directed to an agent specializing in customer accounts. By leveraging agent skill, call routing optimizes the customer experience, ensuring each caller receives prompt and knowledgeable assistance.


The language spoken by a caller is a crucial signpost in the call routing journey. Call centers and businesses operating in multilingual environments often employ language detection tools. These tools swiftly identify the caller's language, ensuring the call is directed to an agent who is fluent in that language. This not only enhances the customer experience but also ensures efficient communication, as callers can express their needs and concerns in their native tongue. 


The availability of agents plays a crucial role in call routing.  After all, there's no point routing a call to an agent who's unavailable to answer. When a call comes in, the system checks which agents are currently available, taking into account their scheduled shifts, breaks, and current workload. The system then routes the call to the most suitable available agent, ensuring that calls are answered promptly and customers aren't left waiting on hold. This dynamic process ensures that resources are used efficiently, maximizing productivity and ensuring a seamless customer experience.

Types of call routing.

Now that we’ve talked about what influences the algorithm’s decision making, let’s talk about systems of distributing calls. These are equally if not more important than factors. As the old adage goes, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You can have perfectly weighted factors and algorithms, but if your distribution is off it all falls apart. Let’s see some of the available types of call routing and what makes them great.

List-based routing.

List-based routing, sometimes called fixed order routing, is a straightforward approach where calls are directed to agents based on a predetermined list. It's like a queue where the first agent in line gets the call, and if they're unavailable, it moves on to the next one. This method is beneficial in situations where a specific order of expertise is needed.

For example, a new hire might be placed at the end of the list to handle simpler queries, while seasoned veterans at the top tackle complex issues. List-based routing ensures a fair distribution of calls and helps maintain a consistent customer experience. While not the most dynamic method, its simplicity and predictability make it a valuable tool in certain call routing scenarios.

Skill-based routing.

Skill-based routing is a method of directing calls to the agent who is best equipped to handle the inquiry, rather than simply the next available agent. It goes beyond simply answering the phone; it's about connecting customers with the right expertise for their specific needs. 

For instance, a customer with a complex technical question would be routed to an agent with advanced technical knowledge, while someone needing help in Spanish would be connected to a fluent Spanish speaker. This targeted approach streamlines the customer experience, reducing wait times and increasing the likelihood of a first-call resolution. Skills-based routing ensures that customers aren't just heard, but truly understood and assisted efficiently. On the downside it may leave some agents with a higher workload.

Least occupied routing.

Least occupied routing, as the name suggests, is a strategy where incoming calls are directed to the agent or department that is currently handling the fewest calls. This simple yet effective method aims to distribute the workload evenly, ensuring that no single agent or department is overwhelmed while others remain idle.

Imagine a call center with three departments: sales, support, and billing. A customer calls in with a billing question. If the billing department has two agents on calls and the support department has none, the call would be routed to support. This not only reduces the customer's wait time but also prevents the billing department from becoming overloaded. By continuously monitoring the occupancy levels, least occupied routing optimizes resource utilization and enhances the overall customer experience.

Round Robin routing.

Round robin routing is a method of distributing incoming calls evenly among a group of agents or phone lines. Think of it like dealing cards in a game, where each agent takes turns receiving the next call in line. This ensures a fair distribution of workload and prevents any one agent from being overwhelmed with calls while others sit idle. 

For example, a customer service department with five agents would use round robin routing to send the first call to agent one, the second to agent two, and so on, cycling back to agent one for the sixth call. Round robin routing is particularly beneficial in high-volume call centers where efficiency and fairness are paramount. It helps to minimize wait times, maximize agent utilization, and ultimately enhance the customer experience.

This might sound awfully similar to list-based routing as both list-based routing and round robin routing involve distributing incoming calls among a group of agents or phone lines, but they differ in their approach.

List-based routing follows a predetermined list of agents or phone lines, sending each call to the next available one on the list. This list can be prioritized based on factors like agent skill level or experience. Once the call reaches the end of the list, it cycles back to the beginning.

Round robin routing, on the other hand, distributes calls evenly among the group, with each agent taking turns receiving the next call in line. This ensures a fair distribution of workload and prevents any one agent from being overwhelmed.

In essence, list-based routing prioritizes certain agents or phone lines, while round robin routing treats all members of the group equally.

In conclusion.

And there you have it – a whirlwind tour through the intricate world of call routing. We've explored the diverse types, the influencing factors, and even the strategic decisions that shape the customer journey from the moment they dial a number. Remember, effective call routing isn't just about connecting calls, it's about fostering positive interactions, optimizing resources, and ultimately, building stronger customer relationships. If you’re ready to start creating something brilliant, let us know.