What is call routing?

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A customer's call being routed to another call center agent

It’s pretty common in a call center setting for calls to start pouring in at the same time due to seasonality, issues with software releases, etc. When the call volumes increase, you need to make sure your agents don’t get overwhelmed. Having an efficient call routing system can be a massive help to your team.

Let’s take a closer look at what it is and how it works. Read on for more information on how it can benefit a company, and the different call routing strategies you can use to improve customer experience.

Table of Contents:
Call center team receiving calls from customers

What is call routing?

Call routing is a call management process that automatically queues and distributes incoming calls based on a predefined set of rules and criteria. It is also sometimes referred to as an automatic call distribution (ACD) system.

Satisfied customer being assisted by the call center agent

The benefits of call routing

Call routing can bring a lot of benefits to your business phone system or call center. It can speed up waiting times and ensure that your customer experiences a swift and successful resolution to their problems. It can also optimize your workflow operations, improving your agent’s productivity and efficiency.

Here are some of the common advantages of having a call distribution system:
Satisfied customer being assisted by call center agents using RingCentral Contact Center

Customer success

Resolving customer issues is the primary goal of contact centers. An intelligent call routing strategy can help improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that they are sent to the right agent in the company with the skills to assis them quickly. This results in overall better agent and customer relationships, and positive brand reputation.

Some customer benefits include:

  • Reduced waiting times – Reduce wait times by automatically assigning calls to agents as soon as they are available.
  • Faster resolution – The faster calls are assigned, the faster agents can assist customers and resolve issues. When used with skill-based routing, the chances for first call resolution increases further. That is because it directs calls to agents with the relevant skills to the customer’s concern. For example, a customer may press 2 to speak to an agent in Spanish, or in a subsequent menu, select 3 for questions about billing.
Call center manager supervising her agents as they assist customers through RingCentral Contact Center

Workforce management

Call routing prevents your team from being overwhelmed by the number of inbound calls received at once by balancing the workload between agents. That means your team can focus on productivity and customer support. Some workforce benefits include:

  • Higher productivity – Automated call routing allows your agents to focus on assisting customers, resulting in higher productivity levels.
  • Improved performance – With skills-based distribution, your agents will be assigned to issues that require skills they already possess. This will help them resolve tickets faster and more accurately.
  • Balanced workload – You can choose a call routing strategy that distributes calls evenly between your agents, making the workload more balanced and preventing your team from being overworked.

How does call routing work?

Different call centers have different methods of routing calls, but they all follow a similar process. Let’s look at the standard steps to get a better idea of how it all works.

How are calls routed in a call center?

Qualifying Phase

In most call centers, the first step in the routing process is sending the call to an interactive voice response tool or IVR. Using IVR systems, you can determine the purpose of the caller through a series of automated questions and answers.

Call Queueing Phase

The caller’s responses to the IVR will then be forwarded to the automatic call distributors (ACD) for queueing. The ACD can queue inbound calls based on query, skills, or waiting time. Priority will depend on the routing rules you establish.

Call Distribution Phase

Once the calls are queued, the next step is to have the calls routed to your agents. As with the queueing process, the call distribution method is determined by your rules. For example: you can choose the talk-time distribution strategy, which routes callers to the agent who has worked the least, ultimately minimizing the idle time of your agents.

Setting up call routing strategies for better customer experience

Before we look at how to create your own customized call routing strategy, let’s look at the common types of call distribution methods and gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Different types of call routing methods

Fixed Order

Calls are always assigned to the first agent on the  line up. Only if they aren’t available will the next agent be given the call.

Skills-based Routing

Callers are routed to agents with the necessary skills to address their concerns.


Rotates the call assignment between agents. Each agent must take a turn before the ACD assigns another call to the first agent.

Percentage routing

Allows you to allocate a certain percentage of calls to a specific team. For example, you can divide calls between different sales teams with 50% going to Team A and the other 50% going to team B.


The ACD assigns the call to the agent with the least talk-time with clients.


Only assigns calls to agents within business hours or a specified time of day.

Tips on building a call routing system

Conduct customer research

Conduct customer research to figure out what the usual customer concerns are and the typical caller demographics. This is so you can anticipate issues and plan your call routing strategy according to those needs.

Determine your distribution method

Choose the appropriate distribution method from the ones listed above. Some methods work better depending on the size of your team and the volume of incoming calls.

Create skills

If you’re opting for skill-based distribution, you need to create skills in your ACD. You can learn how to create skills in RingCentral Contact Center with this video:

Getting Started with Routing Video

Add other call management features

If you’re using a contact center solution like RingCentral, most of the features you need are already included in the package. Here are some of the common call management features you’ll need:

  • Call recording – allows you to record calls between your agent and your caller. This can be used for future coaching and improvement sessions.
  • Call monitoring – allows managers or supervisors to monitor a call between the agent and caller, letting them give advice to agents in real-time.
  • Dynamic number insertion (DNI) – a call tracking app integration feature that assigns a phone number to a specific ad. It is used by marketers to determine which ads are generating more leads and inbound calls.
  • Call analytics - helps you track and analyze agent performance and productivity.


  • Call forwarding is a call command feature that forwards a call to the device or number that the person they want to contact is currently using. It’s an essential feature for business phone systems as it allows employees to take calls anywhere.
  • Call routing is a call management feature that queues and distributes inbound calls to a team of agents. Unlike call forwarding, call routing is a feature commonly used in contact centers to manage a high volume of incoming calls.

For most call center phone systems, call routing is done automatically. If your agent is not available, the ACD will simply direct calls to the next agent who is. Here is a video with basic steps on how to create a call queue in RingCentral:

Building a Call Queue Video

Yes. You can add advanced answering rules and customized greetings to RingCentral based on the following criteria:

  • Date and/or Time – customized greetings on specific time and dates such as weekends, holidays, off-hours, etc.
  • Caller ID – customized greetings for specific callers.
  • Called Number – customized greetings for dialed numbers. For example, you can set a unique greeting for your sales rep team and a different one for the rest of your call center.

Use call routing systems to optimize your customer contact center

Use call routing to manage inbound calls with ease and efficiency. For more information on call routing and other call management tools for customer experience, click on the View Demo button below to check out RingCentral Contact Center’s full product features.