Call routing most probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you're thinking about sales, marketing and customer service,  but it is undoubtedly something that should be given fair consideration for businesses that handle a significant volume of inbound calls. For many of us, a customer's experience of calling the business is a key part of their journey and if we get it wrong, it can lead to frustration, loss of sales and even complaints.

In this, our guide to call routing and automatic call distribution, we look at what it is, how it works, how you can set it up and much more.

What is call routing?

Call routing often called automatic call distribution (ACD), is a feature of a business phone system that automatically answers incoming calls and directs them to individual extensions or hunt groups based on pre-configured rules.

By routing calls, you ensure that people reach the correct individual or team as quickly as possible, without needing to dial a unique telephone number or speak to an operator.

Call routing example

To illustrate how call routing works, let's look at a real-life example. Let's say you need to speak to the provider of your business insurance about renewing your policy. You'd find the number for your insurer on your policy paperwork or via Google and call them. Once connected you'd likely hear an auto-attendant which will present you with a number of options to choose from. You'd select the option most relevant to you and your call would be routed to the team that handles customer service and renewals.

Behind the scenes, a number of types of call routing have taken place to best handle your call. Firstly, because you've called in-office hours, your call has been routed to the company's auto-attendant, rather than a voicemail system, this is done using time of day routing. Next, by choosing the relevant options from the auto-attendant system, your call has then been routed directly to a hunt group or team of people that share a common role. Finally, depending on how the hunt group has been configured, their phones will have rung in a specific sequence to get you to the person both you and the business think you need to speak to.

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How does call routing work?

A cloud-based VoIP phone system such as our Horizon platform can route calls in a number of ways depending on how it's been configured. Common criteria that can be used to determine how the call is routed include:

  • Time of day - depending on the time of day the call will be routed to different destinations, so during office hours it might be to a team of people and outside of office hours, it might be routed to a mobile phone of someone on call.
  • Caller's phone number - The incoming call's phone number can be used to route the call, usually based on location. So if someone calls with a London dialling code, their call can be routed to a team based in England, rather than Scotland.
  • Auto-attendant selections - As we outlined in our example, many companies will route their calls using an automatic, menu-based system that allows the caller to choose where their call should be routed to.

All of these methods can be then be combined to create bespoke rules based on your specific requirements.

Benefits of call routing

Far from being a technology that's only useful to large call centres, call routing has significant benefits for businesses of all size. The primary benefit is that it improves the customer experience, ensuring that fewer calls are missed and that callers reach their required destination as quickly as possible.

Call routing benefits

  • Provides customers with the best experience by routing their calls directly to the best person
  • Reduces the amount of time customers spend on hold because agents are more productive
  • Effectively manages calls outside of working hours
  • Forwards calls to a business partner or virtual assistance when you're unavailable

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Call distribution for hunt groups

When a team of people share a common role and therefore can all take inbound calls of a certain nature, we call that group a hunt group. Calls that are routed to hunt groups can be distributed to members of that team in a number of ways:

Round-robin (circular)

Round-robin or circular ensures that calls are fairly distributed among the team, so no one agent is overburdened with calls.

Example: If you have five people in a team, the first call will go to the first person and then after they accept that call, the next one will go to the second person in the team. After the fifth agent, the rotation will start again with the first person's phone ringing.

Regular

Great for busy offices and call centres, Regular sends calls to the next available person in the hunt group.

Example: In a team of five people, all five are either on a call or away from their desks. As soon as one of them becomes available it will be their phone that rings.

Uniform

Uniform call routing will distribute the call to the person that's been idle for the longest period of time. Once they take a call, they'll join the back of the line until they have the longest idle time again.

Example: If you have five people in your team and one took a call 10 minutes ago and another took a call 45 minutes ago, the next call would be routed to the second person.

Simultaneous

Probably the simplest method of routing calls to a hunt group, simultaneous rings all of the phones in the group at the same time. This is often the best option when the speed of answering calls is essential to your business.

Example: If you have five people in a group, all of their phones would ring and the first person to answer would take the call.

Weighted

This type of call routing allows you to set a ratio of calls to be routed to each person in the group. You might for example be training a new member of staff and you don't want their phone to be ringing continually. You could set them to 10% so that you can have a conversation about the call after each one has been handled.

Example: Again, using our example of a five-person team, you would allocate a percentage of the calls to each individual, so for example, one member of the team may perform dual roles and therefore they can't take as many calls as the other members. You'd therefore set their percentage lower than the rest of those in the group. Equally, if you have several high-performing salespeople, you may wish to funnel a larger proportion of calls to them to get the best performance out of the team.

Speak to your provider

As there are so many options when it comes to routing calls to hunt groups, we'd always recommend speaking to your VoIP provider to make sure the system works as well as possible for you.

Upgrading your phone system

You may be here thinking that all of this sounds great but your phone system isn't capable of doing the things we've covered. Don't worry, it's actually inexpensive to upgrade and if anything you usually reduce costs by doing so.

Our Horizon cloud VoIP system is perfect for businesses of size, providing a feature-rich experience for a fraction of the cost of buying your own system. As the platform is provided as a service, it's updated and improved on a regular basis, with more features being added over time. Effectively you get access to the type of phone system that large corporates have, but while only paying on a per person per month basis.

T2k provide free on-boarding and UK based support, so switching is very straightforward.