Skip to content

What is call routing? How it works and why it matters

what is call routing

Call routing is automatically directing incoming business phone calls to the right team member or department within your company. That way, a huge part of call handling is off your team’s plate.

There are many technologies with different methods for call routing. Some technologies help you set up a custom ring order, a shared number for your whole team, or a phone menu to route calls.

This article will dive into the benefits of call routing, the different types of call routing, and how you can set up call routing.

Benefits of call routing

Ronnie Higgins, Director of Content at OpenPhone, had an experience with a company that had no call routing technology.

Ronnie needed a cleaning company to come before his parents visited. He called two places, and both calls went to voicemail. He didn’t want to leave a voicemail and wait until someone called back (what if they called and he was in a meeting?). So, instead, he called a third place that picked up the phone and earned his business. 

💡 When customers call and the call cuts off after ringing, the voicemail inbox says it’s full, or they have to leave a message, they’re going to call a competitor. Call routing solves this problem by making sure your customers get sent to a live representative who can schedule your services.

Here are a few more benefits of investing in call routing:

  • Fewer call transfers and holds. In one study, 69% of customers said the main reason they were impressed with a company’s customer service was the team was quick to respond. Call routing makes it possible for customers to get ahold of the right department from the get-go, resulting in quicker service and higher customer satisfaction.
  • Avoid missed calls. Intelligent call routing uses various factors, including shared numbers, to make sure your customers can reach you. With a shared number, everyone on your team can receive a simultaneous ring until an available representative picks up the call. Shared numbers reduce missed opportunities to connect with customers and prevent unnecessary callbacks.
  • Work-life balance. There’s little worse than getting a business call during your time off — shift-based routing prevents this. It sends callers to available team members depending on their specific schedules. That way, no one on your team has to worry about getting a call after hours.
  • Faster responses. Customers will only wait 2 minutes on hold, and 43% of consumers say long wait times are frustrating. You can avoid this with phone menus, which let customers choose exactly where they need to go instead of waiting on hold while you try to direct them to the right person. You can set up call routing based on language preference, department, or representative. You can even set up pre-recorded answers to commonly asked questions and customer issues.

So, how does call routing work?

Though it may seem like call routing is challenging to set up, it’s relatively simple. You can easily set up call routing functionality by yourself. With OpenPhone, for example, all you do is customize a few rules in your phone number settings to manage your call flow:

  1. Add teammates to specific phone numbers. The first step is to set up your shared and direct numbers. Shared numbers will route calls to representatives based on their availability. Alternatively, you can set up direct calls to route calls to a specific member of your team. For example, if you have one person on your team who handles billing, you can set up a direct line to that team member. 
  2. Set availability. The next step is to set the availability of your representatives. Each team member can set their own work schedule so they don’t receive calls when they aren’t at work. If your reps are temporarily unavailable or OOO, enable Do Not Disturb.
  3. Distribute calls through a phone menu. If you have different departments like sales, customer service, marketing,, and billing, set up a phone menu to automatically route calls to the right department.
  4. Specify who receives calls first with a shared number. After you’ve set up shared numbers, configure your custom ring order. This lets you prioritize who on your team receives calls first.
  5. Calls get routed to the correct representative. Sometimes it’s easier for a customer to continue talking to the same representative — even if they have to wait a bit longer to get ahold of them. If this applies to your business, the final step is to set up inbound calls to ring a direct representative. If that representative doesn’t pick up, it won’t get routed to another person. It will be sent to voicemail.

5 types of call routing

There are different types of call routing, including time-based, skills-based, round-robin, and language-based. You can set up call management features depending on your business needs. 

Let’s dive deeper into each type of call routing, what it means, and a use case for when it would be helpful.

1. Shared number routing 

Shared number routing on OpenPhone means all incoming calls are sent to the shared number your whole team uses. 

OpenPhone also offers ring order options, so you can set phones to ring all at once, in random groups, or with a custom group sequence.

Shared number routing is a great option for businesses with multiple-member customer service teams who have similar expertise and answer the same types of questions. 

2. Shift-based routing (also called time-based routing)

Shift-based routing sends calls to team members currently at work at the time of the call. If you’re at work, your phone will ring. If you’re not on the clock, calls will get sent to another team member or voicemail.

OpenPhone users can set their hours to supersede business hours in the OpenPhone system so team members can clock out and go about their day uninterrupted.

A good use for time-based routing would be if you have customer service representatives in different time zones. For example, if you have some customer service representatives in the US and others in the Philippines, you can set up shift hours so calls get sent to the numbers of representatives in the respective countries during their unique working hours.

3. Round-robin routing

Round-robin call routing occurs when incoming calls go to the representative in position to receive the call based on call history. For example, if employee A answered the last call, the next call would first go to employee B. If employee B didn’t pick up, it would go to employee C, and so on. 

This type of call routing is great for sales teams who want a turn-based calling system to ensure fairness. With round-robin call routing, every representative gets an opportunity to make a sale since the calls go in order of the circle.

4. Skills-based routing

Skills-based routing is when calls are sent to a specific representative based on their expertise. For example, you could set up a phone menu so all sales requests route to the sales team, all questions to the customer service team, and all technical requests go to the IT department.

OpenPhone has a phone menu feature you can easily customize to send incoming callers to the right team. 

5. After hours routing

After hours call routing in OpenPhone

After hours routing lets you automatically forward calls to an alternate phone number outside your business hours. For OpenPhone customers, you can set this up through conditional call forwarding, so that calls go to an external number such as answering service.

6 call routing strategies to save time

When customers call, they expect to get ahold of the right person, have their questions answered, get off the phone, and go about the rest of their day. Similarly, no team member wants to spend time answering spam calls or redirecting calls to the right department.

Here are 6 call routing strategies that will save your team and your customer’s time:

  1. Use phone menus to filter spam. Don’t waste any more precious time dealing with robocalls. Robocalls can’t select phone menu options, screening out spam calls.
  2. Add phone menus for diverse teams. Do you have multiple customer-facing teams with specialized skills? Phone menus make it possible for customers to select which department they want to talk to.
  3. Put popular menu options first. Whichever department customers call most often should be the first option on your phone menu. Consider adding audio recordings for FAQs as options customers can select without needing to speak to anyone, saving your team time.
  4. Increase ring duration as needed. If your team isn’t 100% tasked to provide phone customer support, consider increasing the ring duration (e.g., 10-15 seconds) with any ring order you set up. 
  5. Use auto-replies. Sometimes customers need a generic answer to a question. Leverage auto-replies for customers who don’t leave a message.
  6. Update your pre-recorded messages. Update your away voicemail greeting and auto-replies during your time off to set clear expectations on when your team will follow up with them. 

How to set up call routing options in OpenPhone

A VoIP phone system like OpenPhone makes it easy to set up call routing. With A VoIP solution, you don’t need additional hardware, and your system operates on WiFi. Getting started is easy and all self-service. All you need is the OpenPhone call-routing software and a few minutes to set up your call-routing rules.

Here are the step-by-step details of how you can set up call routing for your small business on OpenPhone — from the web or desktop app.

1. Invite team members

The first step for getting OpenPhone’s call routing system up and running at your company is to invite team members.

Add team members by logging into your OpenPhone account and finding and selecting the “Member” section. From there, you can let your team members select a dedicated phone number for their work account or give them shared access to an existing phone number in your workspace.

2. Set business hours and work schedules

The next step is to have your employees set their business hours and work schedules in OpenPhone. 

Here’s how to set your business hours:

  1. Navigate to the “Phone numbers” section. 
  2. Select the specific number you wish to add business hours to.
  3. Scroll down to the “Call flow” section and enable business hours.
What is call routing: Business hours option on OpenPhone desktop.
  1. Choose the appropriate time zone from the drop-down menu and enter the time of day your team is available. You can set the same hours every weekday or add custom hours if they vary. 
What is call routing: Custom business hours option on OpenPhone desktop.
  1. Tap “Change” next to “After-hours voicemail” on the desktop app or “After-hours voicemail” on mobile to set up a custom away voicemail greeting. You can upload an audio file, record yourself, or use text-to-speech on the web app. 
What is call routing: After-hours voicemail option on OpenPhone desktop.

Anyone on your team can check out this guide to set their work schedule

3. Set up an IVR phone menu (auto-attendant)

If you wish to route calls to specific teammates based on their skill sets, set up an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or phone menu that works via automation.

Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to “Settings” and then “Phone Numbers.” 
  2. Select the phone number you’d like to add a phone menu/auto-attendant to.
  3. Scroll down to the “Call flow” section and click “Phone menu.”
What is call routing: Phone menu option on OpenPhone desktop.
  1. Click “Change greeting” to set a greeting message. You can set the greeting by uploading an audio file, recording yourself, or doing text-to-speech. If you need inspiration on what to include, check out our auto-attendant scripts guide.
  1. Under “Menu options,” set the IVR options. 
What is call routing: Custom phone menu options on OpenPhone desktop.

You’ll be able to set up to 10 different options, choosing from any of the following menu destinations:

  • Forward to an OpenPhone number. Forward calls to another OpenPhone number in your organization. It can be a direct number for one of your colleagues or a shared phone number belonging to a group of people.
  • Forward to an outside phone number. Forward calls to any US or Canadian phone number.
  • Let the call through. Calls will come through to all members of the phone number. If you’re the only person with access to the number, you’ll receive calls. If you have a team sharing access to the number, everyone will receive calls.
  • Send to a member of the phone number. If your colleague is responsible for all billing questions, you can have the call go directly to them, even if they don’t have a dedicated OpenPhone number.
  • Send to voicemail. The callers will be able to listen to your voicemail and leave a message for you.
  • Play an audio. This is great if you want a dedicated option for letting callers know your business hours or business address/directions.
  1. By default, if a caller stays on the line without selecting an option, the menu options will be repeated. You can change this by clicking on “Repeat the menu options.”
What is call routing: Greeting message option on OpenPhone desktop.
  1. Hit “Save” and then toggle on the phone menu.
What is call routing: How to enable phone menu on OpenPhone desktop.

And that’s it! It’s super simple to set up an auto-attendant, and it will save you time and keep your customers happy.

4. Set up a ring order 

As we’ve mentioned, OpenPhone allows you to choose from three ring orders: all at once, random, or custom. Learn how to set a ring order based on your preferences for call distribution. 

Note: The IVR system and custom ring order features can be used by all of our Business plan users. If you’re a current OpenPhone Starter user, learn how to upgrade.

Choose OpenPhone for your call routing

Call routing, coupled with adding a phone menu, is an effective and simple way to save time, give customers better service, and help your team with call management.

OpenPhone makes it easy to set and organize call routing within minutes — while avoiding extra costs for hardware and IT support. OpenPhone’s call routing features also make it easy to expand and grow teams. All you have to do is add additional numbers or teammates to shared numbers to your business phone system as your company scales.

Ready to give call routing a try? Sign up for a free 7-day trial of OpenPhone.

5/5 - (2 votes)