contact center

The Next Frontier in Routing – or Why Skills-Based Routing is not Nearly Enough

Skills-based routing is pretty great – don’t get us wrong – but there is so much more we could do. We are talking about smart inbound routing. 

Routing has come a long way since the first automatic call distribution device was created. Those early devices were surprisingly sophisticated little blighters – just have a look at the reproduced product page for the GEC PABX 4 from way back in 1956(!).

The ACD essentially created the contact center; but that automation has also been credited, on the flipside, with an experience devoid of humanity. That’s because it’s taken half a century for our cold hard technology to warm up to body temperature.

These days an ACD is usually part and parcel of a much larger system abstracted away from all that expensive old hardware. It tends to incorporate keypad pattern recognition and interactive voice response, among others. It can match customer to agent according to need and skill.

But for all the frills, it’s still a dead little pacemaker kicking away at the heart of a terrible customer experience.

Now, with machine learning, we can do better. And we should do better.


The shared experience

Like most other mammals, people like feeling recognized. They like feeling connected. There is study after study showing the significant psychological injuries associated with isolation, along with sheaves of research correlating well being with togetherness.

In business, the unfathomably vast oceans of data we have access to have helped us get closer to the people we want with our marketing efforts, and yet our one-to-one interactions still suffer grievously.

That’s because connectedness, on a fundamentally human level, turns out not to be very scalable. Like, at all. It’s been said before: the interconnectedness of our world seems to have a paradoxically inverse relationship with the interconnectedness we feel.


The pizza parlor effect

When we started Zailab, we had this intuitive idea of what we wanted for contact centers. Instinctively we thought of a local, family-run pizzeria – the sort where the owner greets you warmly every time you walk in the door, displays genuine interest in your life, and slips you complimentary little glasses of freezing, syrupy limoncello with a conspiratorial wink.

And when you call in to order takeout, staff are always, always delighted to hear from you. They ask about your kids. When people want to know what you love most about your neighborhood, it’s this place that leaps first from your mouth.

What if we could make an experience like that scalable? This is the question we asked ourselves. And the question has stuck – it still informs our thinking today, and it is still the usher to our long-term vision.

A routing algorithm with real heart is a huge part of getting it right.


The routing algorithm of our dreams

Picture it.

You dial into your insurer’s contact center and the system asks if you’re calling about a previous inquiry regarding your premiums. You say yes, and the voice on the other end asks whether you’d like your favorite agent to call you right back.

Another yes, and within minutes phone rings. You spend some time catching up and, before you know it, you’re done. How wonderful would that be?

We’re in the contact center industry, and we usually absolutely hate dealing with contact centers ourselves. So it’s thoughts like this that get us up in the morning.


What does this actually mean?

Behind a contact center like the one above would sit a routing algorithm capable of learning. It would be able to figure out what time you prefer to be called. It would know how long you’ll hold before abandoning a call. Using sentiment analysis it would remember your past interactions. And with the uncanny ability of a sophisticated dating algorithm, it would be able to match you with agents who gel with your personality.

Read more about Zailab’s Smart Inbound Routing here.