Skill group routing has become one of thehot topics in call center management today. Most ACD vendors have included some type of skills routing in their switch offerings. The questions that this has created for call center management is, “How will this affect the operation of my center?” and “How will I manage skill group routing in my center?” While it may not be clearly evident, callLAB is capable of answering these questions! This article will cover the skill group routing arena from general concepts, critical considerations for call center managers, to some callLAB “how to’s”.
What Is Skill Group Routing ?
Skill group routing can best be described as an added dimension to ACD technology that not only equitably distributes incoming calls among a group of agents to yield a better level of customer service, but also routes incoming calls to the agent “best qualified” to handle the caller’s needs.
The ACD accomplishes this in a two part process. First, some technology, eg., DNIS, ANI, IVR/VRU or some other form of data-base look-up, must employed to identify a caller’s needs. (Without pre-identifying a callers needs, why would you use a skill group routing routine?) Then the ACD matches those caller needs to a set of agent skills or skill groups. Agent skill groups can be predefined and stored in an ACD database or defined each time an agent logs onto the ACD.
Two newer advances in ACD technology that allow effective skill group routing routines are:
1. Leaving a call in an initial queue while simultaneously and continuously checking other agent groups for agent availability.
2. Allowing an agent to be logged on to more than one agent group type (skill group) at a time and assigning priorities to those groups by call type.
How Does it Work?
There are three critical steps in making skill group routing work:
1. Identifying the caller’s needs
2. Establishing an agent’s set of skills
3. Matching the needs and skills efficiently
As suggested earlier, to identify a caller’s needs, some type of incoming call sorting must be employed. That may be DNIS, ANI, some form of IVR/VRU scripting, perhaps some human operator. With one or more of these types of call sorting techniques in place and available to the ACD, the ACD can start searching for the best qualified agent available to handle the call.
To do so, each individual agent’s unique skills must be inventoried for the ACD. In the more prevalent form of skill group routing, the ACD dynamically adjusts skill groups as agents log on and off. For example, an agent may be an expert in one skill but only adequate in another. This multi-level set of skills can be indicated to the ACD.
With the identification of the call type and the inventory of available agent skills, the ACD can now match the caller to the “best” available agent – “best” being the agent with the appropriate skill set to service that particular caller at the time of the call. This is achieved by setting up a call routing pattern within the ACD that simultaneously examines the logged-on agent skill sets and the queues in front of each skill set. The ACD is balancing the need to have the call answered by the best qualified agent with the need to answer the call quickly and equitably distribute agent workload. No small task!
Is the Effort Worth It?
Certainly the ability to match a call to the best qualified agent for that caller in an appropriate time frame, raises customer service to a new level of excellence. However, just trying to match call types to agent skill sets presents a whole new dimension of call center management complexity. Further, traditional call center management tools, such as work force management tools, are not designed for this level of complexity.
We at BARD Technologies built a series of cases to compare skills based routing to traditional form and an ideal form. The traditionalcase routed calls to single skilled agent groups where, a call, for example, for plumbing was only answered by agents knowledgeable in plumbing. The skill group routing case routed calls to agents according to their skills – some (not all) of the agents being multiply skilled. The ideal case was where all agents were trained in all skills (a desirable but not always possible situation!).
Our findings were that skill group routing dramatically improved service levels with no additional training or staff and even approached that optimally achievable from the all agents trained in all skills. Additional simulation studies, not charted here, showed that it would require 50% more people, organized into traditional groups, to achieve the same level of service given by skill group routing.
An additional benefit to the improved service level is the significant reduction in trunk billable minutes, a meaningful cost saving when the center is paying for incoming calls.
Skill group routing will give significantly improved results to those centers which must deal with a broad range of product or service skill needs, such as the previously mentioned help desks, support desks, and outsourcers. Centers having the need for only a few skills, coupled with a large number of narrowly trained agents and accurate forecasts of load by skill type cannot expect to see the magnitude of the benefits shown above.
callLAB is capable of helping determine if skill group routing is for you. In addition, callLAB can be used in conjunction with your scheduler to determine the effectiveness of your daily skill group schedule.