What is Intelligent Routing & AI Routing?

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What is intelligent routing?

When a customer contacts your business with a question or issue, they expect fast and accurate answers. Instead, they’re often put in a queue to wait for the next available agent.

Who’s to say that next available agent is the best resource for handling that specific question or issue? If the issue can’t be resolved on the first conversation, the queue is going to become longer as agents play hot potato over who can handle the customer’s issue. First Contact Resolution (FCR) is a key contact center metric to assure operational efficiency and deliver better customer and agent experiences.

This can happen on any channel, whether phone, chat, text, email, or social media messaging. Not getting to the right resource the first time results in agent handoffs. Frustratingly, that requires the customer to repeat themselves over and over again. All of this negatively impacts the customer experience (CX) and contact center metrics, including Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).

The better way to handle incoming communications is with intelligent routing. This helps to ensure that every customer communication is sent to the best resource for resolution.

Intelligent routing definition:
Routing (also known as smart routing, intelligent customer routing, and intelligent call routing) is a technology that automatically sends inbound customer communications to the right place, so that agents, or groups of agents, can take ownership of appropriate items and use the best tools available to assist in real time.

What is smart routing? Smart routing is synonymous with intelligent routing. Different term, same technology.

How does intelligent routing work?
Intelligent routing is fueled by data. With information about the customer and the question (or even better, knowing their intent), you can route that inquiry to the best resource available, rather than waiting for the first agent available.

Some data sources include:
  • Initial discovery questions

    You can ask a customer what they’re looking for before they’re routed to the right agent.

  • Customer profile data

    If you know who’s contacting you, you can pull data from your customer relationship management (CRM) system to inform routing.

  • Customer journey data

    What clicks has the customer taken leading up to the point where they reached out for help? This can help you understand what they might be looking for.

Intelligent routing is facilitated through a customer engagement platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Often, intelligent routing happens through a chatbot interaction. A customer may begin engaging with the chatbot for self-service, but if they need help from an agent or hit a dead end and therefore must speak with an agent, the chatbot leverages the data it has already gathered to route the customer to the best agent to resolve the issue


Types of Intelligent Routing

There are a few different types of intelligent routing, which largely depend on what channel the customer uses to contact a business and what resources the business has for fielding incoming communications.

Live Chat Routing When a customer clicks a “Chat Now” button on a website, this type of routing directs the customer to a human agent for a live chat conversation. Data gathered along the customer journey (such as what page the customer is on when they click that “Chat Now” button, how long they have lingered on a webpage, and other webpages visited along the way) along with CRM data can help the intelligent routing engine decide which agent or agent group to route the customer.

What this looks like:

  • If a customer is trying to decide between two products on your website, a sales agent will likely be the best resource for the chat.
  • If the customer is having a hard time logging in, a technical support agent would be the best fit.
  • If the customer is logged in to your website when they click to chat, they can be automatically routed to their main point of contact, like a customer success agent
  • Purchase history information can help route the customer to an agent who is knowledgeable about the product or products that the customer is likely to inquire about.

Sophisticated live chat routing capabilities at the department, agent, and work item levels can be as simple or detailed as you need them to be. As your business grows and chat volume rises, you’ll likely find that live chat routing is a lifesaver.

Automated & AI Routing
This type of intelligent routing starts with automation, or AI. For example, a customer may interact with an AI chatbot before, or even instead of, speaking to a live agent. Here again, data fuels the routing decisions.

The chatbot’s job is to route the customer to the best available resource to answer the customer’s question, which aligns to their intent. That best resource may be an online resource, a human agent, or another chatbot.

The bot will assist the customer using natural language processing (NLP), an AI technology that understands the intent of the question without relying on keyword matches. The customer can ask their question any way they want, and NLP will parse out the intent. The chatbot then matches the intent to the best resource for answering the question in real time

That best resource might be:

  • An answer from the knowledge base (KB)
    If there is an answer in the KB that has been successful when responding to the same intent before, the chatbot will offer that information to the customer in the chatbot conversation.
  • Another chatbot

    Sometimes the best resource for handling the customer’s request is another chatbot. This may be in a situation where an enterprise has one bot that answers FAQs and another bot that can help customers with things like transferring money between accounts, booking a hotel reservation, and other transactions. (This strategy helps chatbots specialize in one area, and handle requests in that one area really well.)

  • A human agent
    Chatbots can’t be expected to know everything. After all, a chatbot’s knowledge is only as robust as the KB it pulls from. If the chatbot is unable to resolve the customer’s inquiry, it routes the customer to a live agent. This happens seamlessly when all of the context from the conversation is passed to the agent, because it brings the agent up to speed immediately without requiring the customer to repeat everything.



Intelligent Routing Device
How does intelligent routing happen? With an intelligent routing device or platform. Routing rules determine how incoming communications are directed to specific folders and departments.

Intelligent routing devices definition: Often a feature of a larger customer engagement solution, an intelligent routing system (or intelligent call routing system) is the technology that uses data to automatically send inbound customer communications to the best resource for resolution.

Routing rules can be based on:

  • How your organization schedules agent shifts across teams and time zones
  • Geographic areas based on customer location data like area code or CRM profile
  • Custom chat buttons that send chats to a specific team
  • A pre-chat form that directs chats to an associated department
  • Folders that you create, where agents can pick up chats appropriate to their area of knowledge
  • Operator ranking
  • Chat urgency settings
  • The customer’s language

Benefits of Intelligent Routing

Intelligent routing is a valuable method for improving the customer experience and customer satisfaction while boosting sales, agent productivity, contact center efficiency, and the employee experience (EX).

  • Decreased Average Handle Time (AHT)
    By reducing the number of customer transfers and time the customer is placed on hold, companies see better AHT metrics, which also impacts customer satisfaction. The customer gets what they need quickly and can get on their way.
  • More Personalized CX
    The ability to route communications based on customer information helps companies create more personalized experiences in every interaction. The agent or chatbot will know a little about the customer and what they are trying to achieve before they even begin the conversation.
  • Increased First Contact Resolution (FCR)
    Routing the customer to the best resource for handling their specific inquiry helps to ensure that issue is resolved on the first call.
  • Increased Operational Efficiency
    Agents won’t have to pass customers around, a time-consuming and costly practice, and with chatbots in place, less complex issues can be handled in self-service interactions, freeing up agents for higher value conversations.
  • Increased Sales
    Intelligent routing reduces lost revenue from abandoned calls or chats by ensuring that the customer’s inquiry is handled by the best resource for resolution. More efficient and personalized service helps create customer loyalty and referrals.
  • Valuable Insights
    Businesses can leverage routing data to improve the customer journey and organizational efficiency. This data can point you to webpages where customers often reach out for help that need optimization, teams that need to be staffed up to handle a category of requests, or recurring questions for which you add answers to in your knowledge base so that they can be easily handled in self-service interactions in the future.

Call Routing Strategies & Best Practices
Each business is unique with different routing needs. How one company routes customer communications may not be right for another. Here are some strategies and best practices to consider:

Set up departments, folders and permission groups. This can allow you to:

  • Structure tiered support so that as chats escalate, agents gain access to more advanced tools like remote support for technical assistance.
  • Segment sales from support for inbound customer communications.
  • Support multiple websites with either the same or totally different teams.

Decide what CRM data to use for routing:

  • Retention risk calculations based on purchasing patterns can help you prioritize agents who are adept with handling customers who are more likely to cut ties with your business.
  • The last agent the customer interacted with can help build personal relationships, create continuity, and pick up sales conversations where you left off to close deals.

Set cross-selling strategies:

  • Determine what types of customer inquiries are appropriate for cross-selling opportunities.
  • Use customer data to determine what products or services might be of interest to them.
  • Serve these tailored cross-sell promotions to your customers while they wait for the best agent for their inquiry.
  • Be cautious: don’t serve up another product when the customer’s intent indicates they’re having trouble with their existing purchase.

Create seamless chatbot-to-agent transitions

  • Ensure your chatbot solution can seamlessly transition customer conversation to a human agent with all previous context intact.
  • Make it clear and easy for customers to reach a human agent in the chatbot conversation.

Consolidate routing rules with an omnichannel engagement platform:

  • One platform that unifies all of your communication channel can simplify your routing rules process, eliminating the need to replicate rules on multiple platforms.
  • This also ensures consistency of routing across channels. All customer intents around billing questions, for instance, are routed to the appropriate resource, regardless of where the customer asks the question.

Automated Call Routing Technology
Especially useful in high volume environments, best-in-class automated routing technology gives administrators control over work assignments based on agent workload, department rollovers, and other factors.

Here are some key technologies that give you more control:

  • Automatic Distribution Engine
    Sophisticated logic distributes incoming work to the right agent based on reassignment time thresholds or number of concurrent work items allowed, and on-site chat buttons can be automatically disabled if the queue gets too long.
  • Assignment Algorithms
    Choose to have work delivered in a round-robin, least-busy, or most-busy methodology. You can even mix assignment algorithms within your account if you like. Select round-robin for sales and least-busy for support, for example.
  • Multi-Department Rollover
    If one department is unavailable, inbound communications can be rolled over to another department, based on your preferred hierarchy.

Machine Learning Contact Center & Call Routing
Since intelligent routing uses information to get customers to the best resource for their inquiry, the intelligence it uses should grow over time. Platforms with machine learning ensure that the AI that drives intelligent routing is able to learn from every customer interaction.

This happens through feedback. Agents and customers alike can be asked to rate how satisfied they are with how the customer was routed.

How does machine learning work in intelligent routing? Here are some examples:

  • If a chatbot serves up a link to a video from the knowledge base in response to a customer’s question, the customer can click on a thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon to rate how the chatbot did in understanding their intent and resolving their question. The AI collects and remembers this input to better route customers with the same intent in the future.
  • When a customer chat is routed to an agent, the agent can rate how the AI did in deciding where to send that customer. If the agent is able to assist the customer, the intelligent routing AI remembers this for future routing decisions. The agent can also help the AI understand where the chat should have been routed instead, and it will learn how to route similar requests in the future.

As organizations change and grow, it’s helpful to have AI that learns how to shift and keep getting better on its own. This relieves businesses from the additional work of gathering routing insight on their own, deciding what changes need to be made, and hard coding every single routing rule. An intelligent routing solution with machine learning will help alleviate extra work right out of the gate.


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