Skip to main content

Article 5 min read

Omnichannel routing: What it is, how it works, + benefits

Learn how omnichannel routing streamlines customer service workflows, boosts agent efficiency, and increases customer satisfaction.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated June 26, 2024

What is omnichannel routing?

Omnichannel routing automatically directs customer or employee requests across multiple support channels, factoring in agent status, capacity, skill set, and ticket priority. It uses automation to connect individuals with the most suitable agent, regardless of channel.

Customers expect seamless and efficient interactions with your business across their preferred channels. Whether they reach out through a quick social media message, a detailed email, or a traditional phone call, they crave a consistent and frictionless experience. Managing a multitude of communication channels, however, can be a logistical nightmare and often leads to long wait times, frustration, and customer churn.

Omnichannel routing can help prevent these issues and orchestrate a smooth customer journey by skillfully connecting inquiries with agents, regardless of the channel used. Keep reading to discover how omnichannel routing can turn fleeting interactions into lasting customer loyalty.

More in this guide:

How does omnichannel routing work?

Omnichannel routing integrates multiple communication channels—such as email, chat, phone calls, social media, and messaging apps—into a single routing engine. It acts as the mastermind behind the scenes, ensuring each conversation finds its way to the best possible agent for the inquiry.

Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  1. The system employs automated routing logic to determine the best-suited agent for each incoming request. This logic considers factors like agent availability, expertise, workload, and the urgency of the request.
  2. Requests are prioritized based on pre-defined criteria such as ticket urgency, customer value, or issue complexity. This ensures critical issues receive prompt attention and less urgent matters are managed appropriately.
  3. Omnichannel routing takes into account the skills and capabilities of individual agents. Requests are routed to agents with the expertise necessary to address specific issues effectively.
  4. The system continuously monitors agent status and workload in real time. It dynamically adjusts routing decisions to ensure optimal efficiency and customer satisfaction.
  5. Omnichannel routing maintains consistency across all communication channels, providing customers with a seamless experience regardless of how they interact with the business.

By performing the above tasks, omnichannel routing creates a smooth handover for the customer and enables efficient resolutions.

Omnichannel routing examples

Check out how companies use modern routing practices to turn outdated call centers into omnichannel contact centers.

Omnichannel routing can be used for skills-based allocation, agent availability, and conversation prioritization.

Routing by skill

Imagine a customer contacting a business for technical support over live chat due to issues with the software. Omnichannel routing assesses the customer’s query and identifies it as a technical request. The system then scans its database of agents, looking for those with the specific technical skills and knowledge required to resolve software issues. It immediately assigns the chat to the identified agent, who then uses their skills to diagnose and solve the customer’s problems.

Routing by agent status and capacity

When a customer contacts a company’s call center, an omnichannel routing system instantly evaluates the availability and capacity of agents. The system checks which agents are currently online, how many support tickets they have open, and whether they are handling other interactions, and then routes the conversation accordingly.

This ensures the customer waits on hold for the shortest amount of time possible without overwhelming the agent, decreasing the first reply time. For example, omnichannel routing helped Pair Eyewear reduce its first reply time by 83 percent.

Routing by conversation priority

Omnichannel routing also helps customer service teams prioritize incoming conversations to address urgent matters quickly, ensure critical customer accounts get speedy support, and uphold customer service SLAs. For instance, a customer might use a company’s online portal to submit a ticket and mark it as a high priority due to a business-critical software crash. The routing system recognizes that the ticket is tagged as urgent and moves it to the top of the queue, overriding the default first-come, first-served order.

For example, The City of Portland struggled to prioritize citizen requests using a shared Outlook email inbox. Switching to Zendesk omnichannel routing allowed the organization to fully automate the assignment of requests in compliance with government regulations, like the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Enhancing omnichannel routing with intelligent routing

Intelligent routing leverages AI to direct customer requests based on customer intent, sentiment, and language. While it’s becoming increasingly popular, intelligent routing is not a default feature of omnichannel routing. However, teams can use the two types of routing together to enhance ticket workflows.

Consider this scenario: a customer submits a ticket reporting that an item arrived damaged. With intelligent triage, the ticket is swiftly tagged as a “Damaged item,” routed to the appropriate team, and prioritized based on this intent. When the agent opens the ticket, AI promptly shares these crucial details, empowering them to instantly understand that the customer requires a replacement for the damaged item.

Beyond simply routing tickets based on agent skill sets and customer intent, Liberty London uses Zendesk to identify and label customer sentiment and language. Zendesk AI uses this context to intelligently route issues to the right place and share the details with the agent, leading to faster and more personalized resolutions.

“Liberty is all about delivering a personal service. I see AI enhancing that personal service because now our customers will be interacting with a human who’s being put in front of them at the right time with the right information.”
—Ian Hunt, Director of Customer Services at Liberty London

Provide world-class omnichannel support

Download our guide to discover how you can provide seamless conversational service and improve the customer experience.

Benefits of omnichannel routing

The automation that omnichannel routing provides leads to several improvements in customer service. Here are some of the key benefits your business stands to experience.

Four people holding paper airplanes are next to a list of omnichannel routing benefits.

Reduces wait times

The system leverages real-time data on agent availability, skill sets, and current workloads to match each customer inquiry with the best-equipped agent to handle the specific issue. This approach minimizes bottlenecks and prevents overloading any single channel or agent so customers swiftly receive support.

Increases agent productivity

Omnichannel routing boosts agent productivity by ensuring they address interactions aligned with their skills and expertise. This minimizes idle time and optimizes their performance and efficiency. It also reduces the need for transfers or escalations, helping agents resolve issues more quickly and effectively.

Boosts customer satisfaction

Omnichannel routing increases customer satisfaction by providing a seamless experience across all communication channels. By efficiently directing customer inquiries to the most appropriate agents, customers receive faster and more accurate responses, which reduces customer frustration and wait times.

For example, the legal and accounting software provider CARET uses skills-based omnichannel routing to connect customers and agents automatically, leading to an average customer satisfaction score of 91 percent.

Helps scale support operations

Omnichannel routing acts as a force multiplier for your call center team, supporting broader strategies for scaling customer support. Using skills-based distribution to direct inquiries to the most qualified agent reduces the time spent on a single issue. This approach frees up valuable agent time, enabling you to address more inquiries without expanding the team.

Frequently asked questions

Deliver faster support with omnichannel routing

By implementing an omnichannel routing system like Zendesk, you can empower your agents to deliver faster, more efficient customer support across all channels. But Zendesk extends beyond routing, offering a comprehensive customer service solution that is AI-powered, quick to set up, easy to use, scalable, and secure. See our omnichannel routing at work in this Zendesk demo.

Related stories

5 min read

Lifelines for the frontline: How IRC delivers critical customer service and humanitarian aid using Zendesk solutions

Zendesk helps the International Rescue Committee to empower millions of people with vital information and tech innovations.

Nucleus Research report: Zendesk vs. Freshworks

Nucleus Research found that users prefer Zendesk vs. Freshworks due to our ease of use, adaptability and scalability, stronger analytics, and support and partnership.

1 min read

Customer data privacy: A CX guide for 2024

Prioritizing customer data privacy is key to building strong, trusting customer relationships. Learn how your business can help keep consumer data private.

9 min read

Hypercare: What it means and why it matters in CX

Explore how incorporating hypercare in your customer service efforts can create seamless customer experiences and lead to greater satisfaction.