What is Call Routing in a Contact Center?

Contact Center | 4 minute read

Contact centers help customers get the information they need from a business while gathering valuable consumer insights through outbound and inbound communication. However, a contact center can’t function properly without effective, customizable call routing.

What is call routing?

Call routing ensures customers can access the information they need. The routing process directs incoming calls to specific people or departments within a contact center. Call routing isn’t new – the first manual switchboard of the late 1870s used the same concept to direct telephone traffic. This first instance of call routing in New Haven, Connecticut, allowed 21 customers to be directed with the help of a manual switchboard operator.

Call centers and call routing evolved more in the mid 1900s, with the first Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) appearing after the hacking of an Air Traffic Control System in England. The history of call centers and call routing included AT&T’s establishment of toll-free numbers in the mid-1960s, and the rollout of IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology in call centers in the late-1970s.

Most call routing these days is more sophisticated, and is often integrated with Computer Telephone Integrated systems (CTI) or Voice Over Internet Protocols (VOIP), both of which are types of contact center technology that keeps things running smoothly. Call routing is essential for managing high call volumes and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Types of contact center call routing.

Different types of call routing are classified by who the call will be directed to and how each call is queued.

Time-based and location-based.

This is one of the most common methods of call routing. Using the caller’s time zone and global location, you can connect them with an appropriate support agent in their region. With this approach, businesses can support their customers worldwide while contact centers maintain their set business hours.


Fonolo’s Smart Routing allows contact centers to limit calls from certain countries, states or provinces.


Skill-based – or department-based – call routing directs customer calls to agents based on their skills and knowledge. For example, an IVR system might direct a caller to a department that deals with complaints or product returns. It could also direct a caller to a technology support specialist. A caller might need to be routed to a representative at the managerial level. By quickly getting a caller to the correct representative with the right skills, you can reduce hold time and decrease abandonment rates by up to 60%.

Caller ID.

Caller ID call routing directs customers based on their call history. For example, if the customer has called before about a particular product, the system might direct them to a representative they have spoken to before. This can be very reassuring for the customer, as it prevents them from having to share their details from scratch.

Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Machine learning via AI can use biometrics to get customers what they need. Voice biometrics, for example, can authenticate a customer’s identity without requiring them to undergo a long identification process (forms, questionnaires, etc.).

Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

IVRs are one of the most common fixtures in a contact center. This tool can double as a form of self-service so customers can find information without needing to speak to an agent. IVRs can also direct a customer call based on how the customer voices their needs.

Methods of routing calls in the contact center.

There are a few methods, or policies, of call routing that your contact center might use:

  • Simultaneous: Great for speed, this call routing method gives all team members the option to take a call, since all of their phones will ring at the same time.
  • Weighted: An ideal method for call centers that have team members of varying skills, the weighted method allows a ratio of calls to be routed to each agent. For example, the most experienced or high-performing agent could receive 80% of calls, while less experienced agents might receive the remaining 20%.
  • Uniform: This routing method directs each incoming call to the agent who has been available the longest. For example, an agent that hasn’t had a call for 1 hour will receive the next call before an agent that hasn’t had a call for half an hour.
  • Regular: This method directs calls to agents in chronological order. Agent 1 will get the first call, Agent 2 will get the second, and Agent 3 will get the next call if Agent 1 or 2 aren’t available.
  • Round-Robin: This method ensures all calls are distributed equally among your team members, one at a time.

Benefits of call routing.

Call routing offers countless benefits to both contact centers and customers.

With smart call routing, a contact center can:

  • Optimize resources and use their call agents as efficiently as possible.
  • Improve customer satisfaction through skill-based routing, by getting them relevant and timely support.
  • Increase First Call Resolution (FCR), reduce average handling time and decrease customer wait times.
  • Increase agent availability by routing calls to different time zones.
Fonolo Resource cover image

A Guide to Contact Center Agent Engagement


A Guide to Contact Center Agent Engagement

Fonolo Resource cover image
Fonolo Resource cover image

A Guide to Contact Center Agent Engagement


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