Contact Center Attribute Matching vs. Skills-Based Routing

Posted by David Lover on Mar 30, 2021 10:00:00 AM

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When we think about the world of Contact Centers, the concept we’re describing is the ability to get someone’s request for something routed to the best person to handle that request. That “something” started out as phone calls, made by someone calling into a group of people (known as agents) who could answer that phone call and help the caller with their request.

The traditional voice-based Contact Centers (known as Call Centers) used a concept called “Skills” to help identify type of Skill that was required by the agent to best handle the caller’s needs. This added to the intelligence of the routing engine, enabling it to route the call to the best agent. This introduction of Skills-Based Routing was an incredible step forward from the traditional “round robin” methods used by the old-school “Hunt Groups.” Call Center administrators got incredibly creative about what would constitute a “Skill.” Maybe it was a spoken language. Maybe it was a subject matter expertise. But maybe it was a VIP status, or even an ability to be easily upsold to more expensive items with the right sales talent.

Eventually, it was realized that if I could route a phone call to person, I could probably route other forms of communication—such as emails or chats—to a person just as easily. The logic was often the same. In fact, a common method used to route these non-voice calls was (and still is) to programmatically make that thing look like a phone call, and let the traditional routing engine route the “phantom” call as though they were a phone call. Instead of ringing the agent’s phone when that thing was ready to be handled, you would just signal the agent’s desktop application to run whatever needed to be run to view the non-voice thing. Traditional “Skills” and Skills-Based Routing could still play a role here, and could even be used to help identify the platform needed to respond to these new non-voice contacts.

However, vendors quickly found out that all of these different types of Skills created unmanageable permutations of combinations of Skills. While the number of permutations of Skills and Skill-levels could pinpoint the exact best person to handle the customer contact, you then ran into an inability to match that with enough agents to handle the call/contact in a reasonable amount of time. Interactive Intelligence, now Genesys, actually introduced the idea of Bullseye Routing. This let you have a fallback plan for when you didn’t have an agent that perfectly matched the Skills you ideally wanted to have. You get to a point where anything is better than nothing. And bullseye routing let you find that balance.

Omnichannel solutions introduced two main innovations related to this. The first was the insane flexibility of what we can consider to be a “Contact” (i.e., the thing to be routed to an agent). In fact, some of the things to be routed, shouldn’t even be routed to an agent—or at least not a human agent. The second innovation was related to this idea of what an “Attribute” can be. Let’s look at those two innovations a little closer.

Work Items: A significantly more flexible handling of “sessions,” often referred to as Work Items, have evolved. Instead of distributing a call to an agent, the routing engine assigns Work Items to the correct resource to work on it. It’s a significantly more agnostic way to handle the types of things that need to be worked on by a Contact Center. It could be the traditional channels of voice, video, email, chats, and so on, but it could just as easily be the threshold/anomaly of a Temperature Sensor, the administering of a COVID-19 vaccine, or an inventory-level depletion. The receiving end of this work item (i.e., the thing assigned to work on it) could be the traditional human agent, but it could also a chatbot, a predefined workflow, or some other AI-based process.

Attributes: The concept of “Attributes” and, more specifically, “Attribute Matching.” In a traditional ACD, we are limited to the characteristics that are defined by the manufacturer to get the customer “Contact” to the agent. We typically think of things like “Skills” and “Agent State” (e.g., available, AUXWORK, After-Call-Work, etc.). But with such flexibility in what we can route, and what we can route to, we need just as flexible options to identify the characteristics of those items. These characteristics, or “Attributes,” can be statically assigned or dynamically created and populated based on the “context” that we identify to be relevant to the interaction. This list of types of Attributes is infinite, all based on the workflow that your Work Item is using. It could be location, identity, interaction history, user preferences, sentiment, UC Presence states, and so on. It is no longer limited to what the manufacturer thinks the list should be.

Unlike with traditional Skills-Based Routing engines, it no longer requires a single static list of “Skills” to be matched with a single, static list of “Skills” assigned to an agent. Work Assignment can dynamically adjust its attribute matches or targets to achieve the goal desired by the Customer Experience engagement. Sometimes a perfect match is critical; other times, it is not. Attribute Matching routing engines give you that flexibility.

Unfortunately, Attribute Matching is a completely new way to think about and deploy flexible, advanced routing strategies. This is not a traditional upgrade from Skills-Based Routing. For Contact Centers that have leveraged a vendor’s Skills-Based Routing platform forever, it’s rarely a good idea to switch over to Attribute Matching with the expectation of “just make it work the same way it did with Skills.” Successful deployments will start by understanding the business drivers and desired outcomes, developing new strategies, and planning the rollout across the enterprise.

ConvergeOne has the best Customer Experience expertise in the industry for and can help a Contact Center migrate from functioning in a traditional Skills-based Multi-Channel Contact Center model to an Omni-Channel Contact Center, letting them broaden to the full Customer Experience model that can radically change how a business interacts and engages with their customers.


Topics: Contact Center, Customer Experience


David Lover
David Lover  -- David is a leader in our Office of the CTO and works with every part of the business. From Sales to Professional Services, from senior leadership to end-users, from overall business strategy to nuts and bolts technical understanding, his skills at identifying, articulating, and managing our strategic technology direction to customers, partners, and employees sets ConvergeOne apart as a leader in our industry. David is a former Senior Engineer at Lucent Technologies and Avaya and has applied communications technologies in a business environment for large Fortune 500 and Enterprise multi-site corporations. David is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and presenter at numerous industry conferences, forums, and seminars across the United States. He has built tremendous, strategic relationships with analysts and manufacturers alike, insuring relevancy and the best possible “future state” outcome for ConvergeOne and its customers.