Picture a telephone operator from the 1950s answering telephone calls and inserting wires into different areas of a switchboard. That depicts the earliest incarnation of routing, which, in its most primitive state, is simply about making connections. The ever-present search for ways to keep costs low and revenue high leads to the concept of skills-based routing—the ability to route customers to the person in a company most able to help and solicit a transaction.
Skills-based routing began in the world of telephony and naturally progressed into the world of the Internet. As the unique attributes of the Internet allow for breakthroughs in efficiency for both companies and their customers, many companies are now beginning to embrace technologies that include Internet skills-based routing capabilities.
However, the world of Internet skills-based routing is constantly evolving. The latest trend is about being predictive and agile. Companies should employ web technologies that give them the ability to predict success and allocate labor resources accordingly. Technology that includes a real-time data mining component, which compares current web site visitors against a company-specific statistical model, will let companies predict which customers would be most likely to transact and how valuable each customer is to the company.
In other words, the key to generating more transactions or leads, and thereby revenue, from a company’s web site is pairing the right agent with the right customer at the right time. Technologies that employ the latest Internet skills-based routing capabilities will allow companies to do just that.
Keep the 800 number …
Most companies employ telephone skills-based routing. The most popular method is through Integrated Voice Response (IVR). You may know it better as: “Press 1 to speak with a sales representative; press 2 to speak with customer service.” This lets companies route their phone customers to the most appropriate personnel—a good idea, given that many consumers are still more comfortable calling a company than transacting online. However, as the number of Internet-savvy consumers is growing consistently and companies are spending more and more marketing dollars driving prospective customers to their web sites, they should be taking the same approach online. In fact, companies already have agents answering that 800 number. Why can’t they be actively engaged with potential online prospects, as well?
Internet skills-based routing technologies overcome many of the limitations inherent in telephony. The biggest conceptual challenge with telephone skills-based routing is that the customers are ultimately in control. They call the company at their discretion and then decide whether or not to provide information to the IVR. They, in essence, have to effectuate their own routing.
With Internet skills-based routing, the company is in control and has the ability to, at a granular level, determine how and when its resources are deployed against an opportunity. For instance, a bank could have an agent who is focused strictly on young customers searching for a mortgage for condominiums in urban areas. This uniquely specialized agent’s skills would be brought to bear only when the appropriately classified visitor was available. When the company is in control of how those expert skills are deployed, the company is also able to further minimize contact with the wrong person (“You should be talking to Susan in billing; let me transfer you.”).
Route your online visitors
Whether your company’s web strategy is to get prospects to transact online or to simply generate leads, the granularity of data that can be gathered through interactive online sites is exponentially better than what is available over the telephone. IVR requires customers to enter data directly through a low-fidelity input device; only so much rudimentary data can be gathered this way with a reasonable amount of effort. Internet skills-based routing technologies typically allow companies to indirectly collect rich data about customers’ potential interests and/or areas of need. For instance, a company can discern interest in a particular product or service based on a customer’s path through the web site content. It’s also easy to collect data such geographical location, connection speed, ISP and field values from existing web site forms, without burdening the customer.
Companies should not be ignoring this huge opportunity to route their web site visitors. The characteristics of Internet skills-based routing are important because they allow for a higher velocity through the sales funnel. Combining this rich data collection with observation-based real-time data mining, in which the collected data is linked to and compared against statistical patterns, provides much more clarity on who is visiting a company’s site and how valuable the visitors are. Companies can more quickly make the optimal agent-to-customer pairing, resulting in fewer touches and more closes.
Internet skills-based routing affords companies a win-win-win situation: Customers have their needs met quickly; agents are able to develop finely-honed expertise; and companies accelerate the right customers more quickly through their sales funnel, which translates into more revenue.
Companies should cover all of their bases; they should keep their 800 numbers but apply skills-based routing to online prospects at the same time. Take advantage of the unique attributes of the Internet that make it easy to collect anonymous prospect data and move prospects more quickly through the sales funnel. Companies not employing a skills-based routing technology to web site visitors are leaving a huge pool of potential customers largely untapped.
Products are available at many prices-points for companies in different market levels across many industries. Technology that includes a real-time data mining component that compares current web site visitors against a company-specific statistical model will let companies predict which customers would be most likely to transact, in the event that an agent is available, and how valuable they are to the company. Pairing the right agent with the right customer at the right time—that’s how Internet skills-based routing technologies will continue to evolve and help companies positively impact their top-line revenue.