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Despite the fact that 92% of customer interactions happen over the phone, just 15% of customers are satisfied with the caller experience. In order to acquire and retain customers in today’s competitive landscape, brands need to quickly and efficiently meet caller needs.

The end-to-end customer experience falls on the marketing department’s shoulders, and that includes the experience when people call. So, in order to provide consumers engaging with your marketing and website with experiences that drive sales and revenue, it’s imperative that marketers have processes in place to route callers to the right business location, call center, or agent right away.

For businesses with multiple locations — including pharmacies, franchises, banks, and retailers — it’s important to route callers to the destination closest to where they’re calling from, so they can receive location-specific information and assistance. For instance, if you’re a pharmacy chain, it makes sense to route callers to the location nearest to them so that they can call in a prescription refill for pickup or ask the pharmacists at that location questions.

For other types of businesses, like insurance companies and home service providers, it may be important to route the caller to the location closest to home. If you’re a home services company, you often want to route callers to their local office so they can choose the right appointment slots and redeem any special promotions that may be offered in their area.

And, for a wide variety of businesses, call routing is a crucial tool to help meet contractual sales territory obligations. Whether sales agents are located in a central location — such as an office or contact center — or at a branch office, if you have sales agents responsible for specific geographies, it makes sense to route callers from those geographies to the right agents right away.

Are Your Callers Being Routed to the Wrong Location or Agent?

It’s an important question. To answer it, DT University conducted a study of nearly 400,000 phone calls comparing the accuracy of two of the most common call routing methods: area code routing and zip code routing. We found one of these methods is potentially routing callers to the wrong destination 33% of the time.

Before we go further into this study and its significance to your marketing, it helps to first give a brief overview of the two call routing methods.

Area Code Routing

This method consists of automatically routing the caller to a location or agent based on the area code in the caller’s phone number. This use case is often employed because it doesn’t place any burden on the caller — the routing happens automatically without them having to enter in any information on their keypads, so they can continue their experience hands-free.

However, this approach is not always accurate:

  • Some businesses have more than one location within a given area code, and the one selected isn’t always the one closest to the caller.
  • Vacationers or commuters calling on smartphones want to reach an agent at their current location, rather than their area code’s location.
  • People rarely change their smartphone numbers when they move — area code routing incorrectly assumes smartphone callers still live in the location indicated by their area code.
  • People at work call businesses from their office phones, which may be from an area code away from their home area code.

Zip Code Routing

The more reliable routing method is to use an IVR to prompt callers to enter their current ZIP code. For the uninitiated, an IVR (interactive voice response) is an automated voice command that prompts the user to enter certain digits on their keypad — in this case, their zip code. You can then use that zip code to determine which location to send the call to.

This use case eliminates the issue of inaccurate or imprecise area codes. In addition, it deters spam, since automated spam calls won’t enter a ZIP and will be hung up in the IVR.

However, ZIP code routing introduces an opportunity for the caller to disconnect rather than respond to the IVR request. Disconnections often occur when the caller is on the go or multitasking, leaving them physically unable to enter the necessary digits. So it’s possible some callers will drop off.

DialogTechs ZIP code call routing options

CallFlow‘s ZIP code routing options

Study Shows 33% of Callers Were Routed to Wrong Location

Now back to the study. To gauge the accuracy of area code routing versus zip code routing, we analyzed nearly 400,000 calls to US businesses geo-routed and managed by the DialogTech platform. We compared how often the ZIP code each caller entered into the IVR (their specified location) was geographically located within their phone number’s area code (their implied location, if you go by their number alone).

In other words, we tested whether or not the caller would have reached their desired destination through area code routing alone, without the ZIP code IVR.

We found that 67% of the time, the ZIP code the caller entered into the IVR was geographically located within the area code they called from. Therefore the remaining callers — 33% — would not have reached their desired destination through automated area code routing.

So What Should You Do?

Clearly, it’s detrimental to your business when a third of your calls are routed to the incorrect location. This wastes your staff’s time as they field these calls only to transfer them to more suitable agents or locations. It also wastes your customers’ time as they endure these transfers, frustrating them and making them less likely to convert.

That’s why, for most types of businesses — especially regulated industries and companies with clearly-defined sales territories — the best routing method is often a ZIP code IVR.

However, if your analytics of caller abandon rates finds that the ZIP code IVR creates a significant drop-off in callers, area code routing may be more beneficial for you. In this case, 67% of callers will be instantly routed to the correct location, without the need to respond to an IVR prompt. The remaining 33% of incorrectly-routed callers will have to be manually rerouted.

When choosing a call analytics provider that can attribute calls and analyze conversations like DialogTech does, many marketing organizations also need flexible call routing technology that will connect each consumer to the best location or agent. It’s important to find a call analytics provider that can:

  • Handle and store all of the ZIP codes coming in to your IVRs without limits
  • Match the entered ZIP code to the closest business location
  • Match the entered ZIP code to a set of locations within a predefined radius (for example, 25 miles)
  • Match the entered ZIP code to the set of agents who handle that sales territory
  • Provide instantly customizable prompts to help you quickly pivot when changes arise at your locations

If you’re looking to offer other types of caller routing, the call analytics provider should offer contextual routing that allows you to automatically route callers based on customizable rules, including time of day, marketing source that drove the call, first time vs repeat caller, agent skill set, and more. Contextual routing can increase the efficiency of your IVRs or, in some cases, eliminate the need for IVRs entirely.