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Using Intelligent Skill-Based Routing to Deliver Great Customer Service and FCR

October 5, 2021 | 3min read

Intelligent skill-based routing

Intelligent skill-based routing is a call assignment practice used in call centers to assign incoming calls to the most suitable Agent rather than simply the next available Agent. The most suitable Agent is determined by utilizing information about who is calling and why they are calling to determine which of the available Agents has the necessary skill level to resolve the customer’s call reason.

Many call centers use a generalist Agent call handling business practice. Using this approach creates a large queue of generalist Agents to handle calls, but they are not specifically matched to customer needs. SQM’s research shows that the specialized Agent’s skill set to handle specific call types has 5% to 15% higher FCR performance than the generalist Agent who has a skill set to handle most or all call types.

Skill Based Call Routing

Specifically, intelligent skill-based routing technology can route calls based on customer identification, dialed number, time-of-day, and other customer-defined criteria. Once intelligent skill-based routing practices have been defined, calls can then be assigned to specific Agents based on their skill set.

​For example, intelligent skill-based routing can route customers by language preference, the caller’s geographic location, the value of the customer, or repeat calls the customer has recently made to the call center. These customers who call back can be identified and transferred to the best Agent within the skill set queue needed to resolve the customer’s call or to the original Agent who handled the call.

Another example is customers who have been identified as dissatisfied should also be transferred to the best Agents. This could be done by using customer satisfaction (Csat) survey results and integrating that data into the intelligent skill-based routing system.

SQM has found that it is not uncommon for a new customer to call one to five times within the first 90 days of becoming a customer. Based on this data, a best practice is to identify new customers and route them to an Agent skill set queue specializing in handling new customer call types (e.g., address update, technical, and billing).  

The bottom line is that using intelligent skill-based routing can improve FCR and Csat by 5% to 15%. Call duration is also shortened because Agents are handling calls for which they have the skills. Cost per call resolution will improve because a more knowledgeable Agent handles the customer’s call.

Tips for Using Intelligent Skill-Based Routing


New Customers

New customers – SQM has found that new customers have questions and situations that arise and place multiple calls in the first 90 days of their association with an organization (unlike existing customers). Therefore, it is expedient to identify new customers in CRM and route them to Agents that are well-trained in new customer issues. In addition, proper and complete onboarding of new customers is critical to heading off future calls and collecting customer information upfront to serve them down the road better. 

Repeat Callers

Repeat callers – Customers who have ‘pending resolution,’ ‘open cases,’ ‘open trouble tickets,’ or are calling within one to five days of their previous call should be flagged and routed to a specialized Agent or to the best Agents, who can provide appropriate status or final resolution. In addition, these Agents should be empowered to make clear follow-up commitments to the customer to avoid the customer calling back for further status updates.

High Value Customers

High-value customers – Route high-value customers to specialized Agents and, if there is competition for these Agents’ availability, assign high-value customers a priority in queuing time. These customers should be presented to Agents with a higher priority than regular customers, and Agents should be empowered to provide concierge service to these valuable customers.

Default Customers

Default customers – If a customer is flagged as being in default of their account, their call should be routed immediately to the group responsible for collections and payment arrangements. Only after acceptable payment terms are reached should the customer then be provided further service. It should be pointed out that most call centers prefer to explore payment options with customers and only use the no service option when all efforts to receive payment from the customer have failed.

Wait Time for Customers

Wait time for customers – Service levels are something that most call centers struggle with, and many repeat calls are driven by callers who abandon the queue to call back later. By understanding the abandoned thresholds, intelligent skill-based routing can script alternate destinations for calls during peak calling hours. For instance, all calls in the queue for over two minutes may be routed to an alternative skill with Agents presently available. These alternative skills should be closely matched to the primary servicing skill type to provide the customer with the most accurate service possible.

Call Back

Outbound call back – An alternative is for the customer to be given a choice in the IVR for an automated call back (sometimes called virtual hold time -VHT). The VHT practice allows customers to retain their queue placement without being on hold or schedule a call back at a specific time.


Defecting customers – If the products and services offered by an organization are highly competitive, it may warrant adding a ‘changing service’ option to the IVR that front-ends a customer’s call to the call center. In this way, callers opting for this selection can be routed to Agents specialized in ‘retention’ or ‘loyalty’ skills, where Agents are better empowered to make service offers that are more attractive and competitive to customers. 

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