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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
April 2007 - Volume 25 / Number 11
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Routing: The Foundation For Contact Center Optimization

By Katrina Howell
Genesys (News - Alert)

Increasingly, contact centers are shifting focus from cost-containment to strategic goals such as improved customer loyalty, superior quality and revenue generation. To realize these objectives, contact centers must first gain greater visibility into their customer base.

Every customer is unique. As a result, every contact center interaction must begin with an intimate knowledge of each customer's unique identity, motivations and value prior to routing the interaction to an agent. With this knowledge, interactions can then be routed to the most effective and available agent to maximize business outcomes.

It is important to enable accurate and effective matching of customer requirements to agent skills and availability. By doing so, companies are taking the first and most essential step in evolving the contact center to meet individual customer service requirements and enterprise revenue generation goals.

Implementing business-driven routing strategies is accomplished by linking customer applications and databases with the routing decision process. Dynamic routing strategies are as varied as the businesses using the technology.

Business Benefits Routing strategies can be deployed in a variety of different ways in order for contact centers to align their operations with overall corporate strategies and business goals such as:

• Service differentiation through segmentation;
• Effective cross-sell and upsell;
• Improved customer satisfaction;
• Increased agent productivity; and
• Better use of resources through virtualization.

#1: Service Differentiation Through Segmentation
Customer segmentation allows contact centers to manage resources by classifying and aligning interactions with each agent's unique skill set. As a result, corresponding business strategies can be targeted toward specific customer groups to determine which interactions should receive priority in queue and be sent to expert agents and which interactions should be sent to agents with prior experience handling that account.

Such differentiated service leads to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty and, ultimately, profitability. At the same time, segmentation allows for improved resource utilization. Customers seeking to resolve routine inquiries (address changes or account balance lookup) may be directed to overflow agents or voice self-service. The goal is to ensure that customer service requirements are met for all segments while simultaneously maximizing profitability.

At the core of effective segmentation is a flexible routing engine capable of enabling specific business strategies. A fine-grained view of agent skills and resource availability is necessary. Additionally, the routing engine must enable effective resource utilization based upon availability and regardless of geographic location. Finally, effective segmentation involves integrating the routing engine with customer databases and third-party applications (CRM, voice self-service, automated e-mail engines, etc.).This integration enables the creation of sophisticated routing strategies, all based upon the most current and relevant customer information.

#2: Cross-sell And Upsell
At the exact moment customers are satisfied with the service they receive from a contact center, they are most open to cross-sell and upsell offers. Increasingly cross-sell and upsell goals are major focal points of contact centers.

The ability to integrate customer data from multiple sources, and an agent's skill set, into routing decisions is a prerequisite for increasing sales through inbound interactions. Without this ability, companies will be unable to tailor offers to specific customer segments. For example, customers must often listen to mass-marketing offers and product announcements while waiting on hold regardless of their propensity to buy and their ability to qualify. This scenario leads to a series of negative consequences, such as increased marketing costs and missed sales opportunities.

With a cross-sell/upsell routing strategy, a banking customer with a high savings account balance would be targeted for an investment promotion and directed to an agent best qualified to make the pitch.

Targeted marketing also has a direct effect on ROI by improving acceptance rates and decreasing program costs. For example, this may include targeted queue announcements that reinforce marketing mailers and suggest marketing information on the agent's desktop. When relevant customer data are displayed on the agent's desktop, the agent is able to use a customer's contact history to understand past offerings to make new offers.

Numerous companies perform cross-sell and upsell in the contact center with the aid of a platform that has the ability to leverage business data to understand customer value to the company, and the ability to accurately match customer profiles with agent skills.

#3: Improved Customer Satisfaction
Fine-tuning the matching interactions with corresponding resources is a major first step to improving customer satisfaction.

Businesses often measure customer satisfaction with first-call resolution rates — a customer inquiry that is resolved to the customer's satisfaction and after which no further manual action needs to be taken by the agent other than post-call administration. Naturally, first-call resolution is directly related to improved customer satisfaction, agent productivity and, ultimately, revenue generation.

Improving this metric is a major initiative for all contact centers. First-call resolution pays significant dividends in customer satisfaction and business savings by eliminating repeat interactions and their corresponding negative consequences such as requiring more time for explanation, negative customer emotion and agent frustration.

#4: Increased Agent Productivity
In addition to first-call resolution, contact centers improve productivity through a variety of measures including increased agent utilization and improved agent development and motivation.

Agent utilization measures the percentage of an agent's time spent interacting with the customer. This is generally considered the metric that most accurately reflects the productivity of the contact center. By allowing agents with multiple skills to be available for various types of interactions, routing broadens the pool of available agents. Typically, contact center managers must choose only one pool for an agent, even if the agent has skills applicable to multiple pools. With a superior routing map, each agent can be graded for particular scenarios and be available for highly specialized interactions.

The benefits of agent profile-based routing on service levels are further magnified in a virtual contact center environment. When multiple agents and multiple sites are treated as a single resource, the probability of matching the agent with the right resource increases significantly.

A robust routing application will route based upon agent profile. When agents are given meaningful tasks commensurate with their skill sets, agent motivation and job satisfaction improve while absenteeism decreases. Similarly, both agent and customer frustration is eliminated by routing calls that an agent can adequately address with his/her skill set. Agent-level routing encourages accountability and development among staff since agents will receive calls within their appropriate skill level only.

# 5: Virtualization
During the past few years, many companies have made a strategic shift to consolidate and virtualize resources spread across multiple sites. The business drivers for creating virtual contact centers include resiliency and better utilization of infrastructure
and staff.

Unfortunately, whenever companies connect multiple sites, business units or former acquisitions, they often discover the challenge of integrating extremely heterogeneous environments. The key is to implement a routing strategy that is flexible and will support even the most heterogeneous environment to create a virtual contact center, spanning IP, TDM or hybrid environments.

Migrating to a converged IP network provides cost-effective options in a virtual contact center environment. This migration allows organizations to experience the benefits of virtualization and gain access to a broader pool of labor resources across disparate geographic locations.

As today's contact centers make the transition from cost center to strategic asset, accurate and effective matching of customer interactions to agent skills and availability is a fundamental requirement.

Routing allows companies to match any interaction with the appropriately skilled resource at the level of granularity that best suits business needs. No matter what corporate strategies or business goals are, be it improving customer satisfaction or increasing cross-sell and upsell success rates, routing provides the tools needed to succeed. By Katrina Howell

Katrina Howell is senior product marketing manager for Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc. (www.genesyslab.com).

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