Chat Routing: How to Connect Customers with the Right Agent

March 11, 2024
live chat routing

‍‍‍‍In this article, you’ll learn what live chat routing is, how it can benefit your business and customers, and eight essential steps to a successful routing strategy.

Live chat is a must-have for digital customer service.

Case in point, 46% of consumers prefer live chat over any other support channel - while only 32% favour phone lines and 29% email.

But it isn’t enough to simply have live chat as an option. You also need to deliver high-quality chat support and a seamless customer experience.

Chat routing plays an integral role in this by ensuring customers get served by the right agent at the right time.

But for businesses or contact centres with multiple customer service teams/departments, managing and devising a routing strategy can be challenging.

That’s why we’ve written a guide on the subject - providing everything you need to know for optimal chat routing success.

We’ll cover:

  • What is live chat routing, and how does it work?
  • 8 best practices for routing chats
  • Benefits of chat routing for businesses & customers


Live chat routing is used to assign incoming chats to the most appropriate agent/team. The goal is to manage workloads and give customers prompt assistance from the most qualified representative.

Best practices for routing live chat interactions:

  1. Analyse live chat queries to understand customer needs and pain points.
  2. Devise routing rules based on factors like availability, team expertise, urgency, and customer attributes.
  3. Leverage chatbots to automate routing and handle a range of queries independently.
  4. Use the chat widget strategically to route website visitors based on their browsing context.
  5. Implement pre-chat surveys to gather essential information and prioritise chats more efficiently.
  6. Set live chat queue caps to optimise agent workloads and minimise wait times for customers.
  7. Keep customers informed about wait times to manage expectations and build trust.
  8. Choose the right live chat platform with robust routing capabilities and other key features.
ecommerce customer using website live chat on laptop

What is live chat routing?

Live chat routing is used in customer support to direct incoming chat requests to the most appropriate agent or department.

This process serves two purposes.

The first is to prevent agent burnout by evenly distributing workloads across your customer service teams.

The second is optimising the customer experience by assigning chat requests to the most suitable or available agents.

This streamlined approach to live chat customer service not only improves performance and efficiency but also ensures customers receive timely assistance from the most suitable personnel.

support agent answering live chat messages on laptop

How does chat routing work?

At the heart of chat routing is a configured system that directs incoming chats to online agents based on specific parameters.

The process typically works like this:

  1. A customer initiates a new chat session through your company website, mobile app, or messaging channels.
  2. The live chat system uses your predefined rules to place the chat request into the appropriate queue (e.g. support, sales). Each chat queue will be assigned to a specific group or team of agents.
  3. The routing method transfers the chat session to the most appropriate agent within the group/team.

The rules that route incoming chats can be based on various factors depending on the live chat software you’re using. Common examples include agent availability, agent expertise, team/department function, customer demographics, and query urgency.

By using specific rules/criteria to route chats, you can maintain a more consistent level of service quality across all interactions and departments.

customer and agent having live chat conversation

Best practices for routing incoming chat requests

Now that we know the basics of chat routing, let’s dive into the best practices for implementing and using this technology.

1. Analyse live chat queries

The first step to a fruitful routing strategy is understanding your customers’ needs and pain points.

In other words, what are the main reasons causing customers or website visitors to seek live chat support?

You can uncover this information by reviewing and analysing past chat queries.

Most live chat solutions are equipped with analytics and reporting tools that’ll help with this process. With Talkative, for example, you can utilise the following:

  • Interaction logs: When you’re revisiting live chat conversations, our interaction logs provide everything you need to know. In addition to a chat transcript for every conversation, you can also map the customer journey, analyse sentiment, and view the customer’s entire relationship with your brand (including all historical interactions and purchases).
  • AI interaction summaries: Although live chat transcripts are a great resource, reviewing them in full can be time-consuming. Interaction summaries rectify this problem by condensing entire conversations into a few sentences. These concise summaries allow you to understand the content and outcome of any interaction at a glance. Powered by our OpenAI integration, this feature can produce AI-generated summaries for every live chat, voice, and video call interaction.
  • AI insight reports: In addition to interaction summaries, you can also use AI-powered reporting to speed up your analysis of live chat queries. For this feature, the AI uses your interaction data and transcripts to generate an insights report. These reports provide an overview of the top 10 queries/issues raised by customers in the past week or month, with an example interaction for each one.
  • Google Analytics: By integrating with Google Analytics, you can discover which of your website pages spark the most chat conversations and how customers interact with your live chat across different devices. This will help you pinpoint the digital journeys that tend to result in chat sessions.

In addition to the content and key themes of past queries, you should also examine the volume of chat requests. This will allow you to identify fluctuation patterns and peak periods that may impact your routing strategy.

By evaluating the nature and frequency of live chat interactions, you can identify any common issues, trends, and bottlenecks.

This information can be used to tailor your routing strategy to your specific business needs and customer service goals.

2. Devise your routing rules & strategy

Once you understand the needs and pain points of your live chat users, it’s time to formulate your routing assignment rules.

These rules should be informed by the results of your chat query analysis plus your broader business objectives and customer support strategy.

The parameters of a routing strategy can be based on various factors. The following are some common examples:

  • Route based on availability: This method involves directing incoming requests to the most available agent or team (i.e. least busy or using round robin). It’s particularly useful for businesses that want to boost support speed through maximum resource utilisation and minimal wait times.
  • Route based on team: With this approach, chats are routed to the team/department with the most relevant function or expertise. This ensures that customers are connected with agents who possess the necessary knowledge and skills for their specific situation, leading to quicker resolutions, higher satisfaction levels, and more tailored support.
  • Route based on urgency/priority: This strategy routes incoming chats using a hierarchical system based on urgency or priority. High-priority interactions, such as time-sensitive queries or urgent customer complaints, may be routed to specialised agents or given priority in the queue to ensure timely assistance. If you’re mainly using live chat for ecommerce, you can also use this method to prioritise high-value sales queries.
  • Route based on customer attributes: With this parameter, chats are routed based on the attributes and/or demographics of the customer. These can include their location, language preference, customer segment, and the information they provided via your pre-chat survey or chatbot (more on this later). By routing in this way, businesses can deliver a much more personalised support experience and cater to the unique needs of different consumers.

Once a routing rule is in place, you should monitor its effectiveness and refine your strategy over time for maximum success.

Tracking performance metrics like first-contact resolution rate, average handling time, average response time, and CSAT scores will help you in this process.

customer service goals target

3. Leverage AI, chatbots & automation

The implementation of a chatbot or virtual assistant can significantly enhance your routing strategy.

Chatbots serve as the first point of contact for customers, allowing them to automate the routing process by acting as a triage for all chat support requests.

They do this by gathering essential details about the customer and their query through an automated back-and-forth conversation.

Once it’s collected the necessary information, a chatbot can then transfer the interaction to the most relevant team or agent.

This not only saves time for your agents but also enables you to route based on more specific parameters, guaranteeing that customers receive the best service possible for their individual circumstances.

What’s more, routing isn’t the only thing chatbots can automate.

Thanks to advancements in AI customer service, chatbots have evolved to become versatile and intelligent virtual agents, capable of handling a huge range of tasks and queries without intervention.

In fact, AI-enhanced bots can handle up to 80% of queries independently, reducing customer support costs by around 30%.

These systems work by using technologies like natural language processing, conversational AI, and/or generative AI to understand and respond to user messages.

One of the ways they do this is through integration with your knowledge base. For instance, with Talkative’s GenAI chatbot, you can create multiple AI knowledge bases using web page URLs or file-based content.

From there, the bot can learn from your knowledge base dataset and answer countless questions about your business, products, and services.

With a chatbot providing automated service to the customers they can help, and intelligently routing the ones they can’t to human agents, you’ll maximise the efficiency of your live chat support system.

You’ll also deliver a superior experience by ensuring customers get the best service possible for their individual circumstances - whether that be advanced self-service through a bot or human intervention.

virtual assistant chatbot graphic

4. Use your chat widget to route website visitors

As most chat requests will likely come from your company site, it makes sense to use the website journey to route them.

Your live chat widget can be a great tool for this.

Through strategic placement of a chat widget across your site, you can automatically route website visitors to the right team/agent based on the page they’re browsing when they initiate a chat.

To achieve this, start by mapping out your entire website and divide it into sections or sets of URLs. Consider the nature of customer queries typically associated with each section.

Then, choose the pages that will showcase your widget and match each one with the corresponding team/department. Here are some common examples to illustrate this:

  • Customer support team: Homepage, FAQ library, help centre articles, order tracking page, account management pages, returns/refunds page, "contact us” page.
  • Sales team: Product pages, pricing page, promotional landing pages, free trial/quote request pages, demo pages, lead magnet content, checkout page.
  • Human resources (HR): Careers page, job listings, application pages, company policy pages.

Of course, these are just a few broad examples. You’ll likely have to add to, amend, or refine them to align with your business needs, website structure, and industry.

By leveraging your chat widget in this way, you can use a customer’s URL to instantly route them to the most suitable department - thereby creating a streamlined journey for your digital customers.

live chat widget on ecommerce website

5. Implement pre-chat surveys 

It’s not just the placement of your chat widget that can help with routing.

You can also embed surveys within your widget for users to complete and submit as they’re initiating a chat conversation.

These pre-chat surveys serve as an invaluable tool for gathering essential information from customers before routing them to the right agent.

This is similar to using a chatbot to aid with routing. The difference is that a chatbot achieves this by interacting with customers conversationally using the power of AI, whereas a pre-chat survey is a static form to fill out.

That said, although chatbots are more advanced in their capabilities than pre-chat forms, surveys can still be a quick and easy way to tailor how chats are routed.

By collecting relevant details about the customer and the nature of their issue/query, you can prioritise and route chats more proficiently.

For instance, you could use survey responses to route particularly complex cases to specialised teams. You could also expedite routing for customers who submit urgent or time-sensitive queries.

This strategy also helps your agents prepare by arming them with introductory information and context before they even start the interaction.

In turn, they’ll be able to offer relevant solutions and provide personalisation from the get-go, effectively reducing handling time while creating an improved customer experience.

By incorporating pre-chat surveys into your live chat system, you’ll not only improve your routing strategy - you’ll also empower your agents to deliver high-quality support more efficiently.

customer interacting with agent using mobile phone

6. Set live chat queue caps

Live chat queue management is an important part of an efficient routing strategy.

It’s important because it allows incoming chats to be distributed optimally, decreasing the risk of agent burnout, user frustration, and poor customer service.

If you want to maintain live chat service quality while avoiding agent overwhelm, it’s best practice to set live chat queue caps.

A queue cap sets a limit on the amount of chats that can be initiated.

When the maximum amount of requests is reached, your chat widget will automatically disappear from your website and app.

Then, once the queue reduces back to an acceptable level, the widget will reappear, and customers will be able to start a chat conversation again.

The appropriate queue cap number depends on various factors, including:

  • Business size: Large and enterprise-level businesses will likely need a generous queue cap to accommodate higher chat volumes compared to smaller businesses and start-ups.
  • Number of teams/departments: Businesses with multiple customer-facing teams or departments often have the capacity to handle more chats concurrently, allowing for higher queue caps, whereas organisations with limited teams/departments may necessitate lower caps to prevent overload.
  • Industry: Industries with high customer service demands, such as retail or hospitality, will require higher queue caps compared to industries with lower customer interaction volumes, like manufacturing.
  • Complexity of products/services: Businesses that provide highly complex products or services (e.g. those in the healthcare or finance sector) should set lower queue caps to ensure agents have enough time to handle intricate customer queries thoroughly.

By limiting the number of chats that can be queued and routed at any given time, you can minimise wait times for customers and optimise agent workloads.

customers waiting for support surrounding clock graphic

7. Keep customers informed while they wait

Even if your routing method and chat support system are impeccable, you’ll likely still experience hectic periods when customers have to wait to be served.

In these situations, it’s crucial you take steps to manage expectations and mitigate any frustration.

You can do this with the simple act of keeping customers informed while they wait to be routed to an available agent.

With Talkative’s live chat, for instance, you can do this by displaying average wait times or the customer’s current position in the queue.

Keeping customers informed in this way demonstrates transparency and accountability, instilling trust and confidence in your brand.

It also enables chat users to make an informed decision about whether to continue waiting, try again later, or turn to alternative contact channels.

By proactively communicating wait times and providing status updates, you can reassure customers and empower them to take control of their support experience.

8. Choose the right live chat platform

Choosing the right live chat platform is paramount for the success of both your routing strategy and your overall live chat operation.

With this in mind, it’s crucial that you conduct thorough research and compare a range of potential providers.

When you’re assessing your options, be sure to examine the routing capabilities of each platform, as they may vary significantly.

Take Talkative’s routing engine as an example. With our solution, you can:

  • Create multiple chat queues and agent groups/teams with unique settings for each.
  • Set queue caps on a range of parameters.
  • Edit your chat widget visibility based on URL page rules.
  • Open and close queues based on business hours - whether globally or per queue.
  • Edit agent availability tags to keep track of your team scheduling and their breaks.
  • Configure time-based overflow between queues.
  • Assign high-value customers to your best agents.
  • Allow agents to transfer interactions to another team, queue, or user.
  • Use your widget to provide average wait time/queue position, out-of-office hours, and alternative contact options like email, chatbots, and more.
  • Escalate any live chat conversation to a web call or video chat.

In addition to routing capabilities, you should also evaluate other key aspects of each live chat platform.

Important factors to consider include the user experience, customisation options, integrations, scalability, data security, analytics/reporting, pricing, and additional features (e.g. AI enhancements).

Want more tips for finding the right chat solution? Check out our complete guide - Live Chat Software for Website: How to Choose the Best Provider.

agent considering live chat options

Benefits of chat routing for businesses & contact centres

Chat routing can aid your business operations and contact centre performance in a number of ways.

Let’s discuss the top benefits in turn…

Improved efficiency & productivity

A solid routing method can yield significant efficiency gains for businesses and contact centres.

It achieves this by ensuring all chats are automatically routed to the most capable and available agents.

This improves efficiency and productivity by minimising idle time while removing the need for manual sorting - meaning all incoming chats are handled promptly and by the most appropriate team.

Plus, as routing settings are contingent on availability and expertise, they also prevent your agents from being overwhelmed with too many chat requests or queries they’re not qualified to handle.

happy agent working in an efficient contact centre

Optimal resource allocation

Chat routing optimises resource allocation by distributing incoming requests and matching them with the ideal agent or team.

This empowers businesses to make better use of their workforce, ensuring that staff and resources are utilised where they’re needed most.

It also prevents specific teams, departments, or agents from being overloaded with customer conversations.

Through intelligent routing, you can better manage high chat volumes and prioritise interactions, effectively sustaining service quality even during peak periods.

call centre agent performance

Faster resolutions

If you want to improve and expedite issue resolution, chat routing is a must-have.

By connecting customers with available agents who possess the relevant skills and knowledge, you’ll facilitate faster and more successful problem-solving.

You’ll also guarantee customers are directed to the right team or department straight away, rather than being transferred between multiple representatives.

As a result, you’ll enjoy reduced handling times, higher first-contact resolution rates, and increased customer satisfaction.

satisfied customer handshake

Benefits of chat routing for customers

Chat routing isn’t just useful for businesses - it can also benefit your customers.

Let’s explore how...

Reduced wait times

One of the biggest frustrations for consumers seeking support is long wait times.

Chat routing helps alleviate this pain point by efficiently managing chat queues and connecting customers to the right agent quickly.

In turn, your customers will experience reduced wait times and faster responses, allowing them to get the assistance or information they need more promptly.

This is a clear win for customer relations, especially when you consider the fact that 90% of consumers rate fast support as important or very important.

customer watch waiting for assistance

More personalised support

When they’re leveraged effectively, routing options can aid your personalisation strategy.

By assigning incoming chats to agents with the most pertinent expertise or skills, routing means that customers receive assistance tailored to their needs.

This allows you to provide personalisation based on the customer’s unique situation leading to more positive outcomes and better chat support.

For example, if a customer has an IT-related query, they can be routed to your technical support or troubleshooting team. On the other hand, a customer with a high-value product query might be transferred to a sales advisor.

By directing a customer to the team best equipped to handle their issue, you’ll not only deliver a more personalised live chat experience - you’ll also facilitate relevant and accurate customer service.

ecommerce customer making online shopping purchase on laptop

A better digital customer experience

Consumers today expect a seamless and intuitive experience across digital touchpoints.

Routing can help you provide this by maximising the convenience, efficiency, and quality of live chat services.

From faster responses to tailored support, chat routing consistently adds value to the digital customer experience.

By supplementing your live chat services with intelligent routing capabilities, you can meet customers where they are and provide the best service possible for their individual circumstances.

This not only helps build customer loyalty and satisfaction but can also drive revenue from increased live chat sales and conversions.

magnet attracting digital customers

The takeaway: Intelligently route incoming chats with Talkative

Intelligent routing is vital if you want an efficient chat support system and satisfied customers.

With the best practices detailed in this article, you’ll be well on your way to optimising your routing strategy.

But, if you want to get the best results, you also need the right live chat provider.

That’s where Talkative comes in.

Our platform provides a scalable, flexible, and AI-enhanced live chat solution that can be deployed across your website, app, and messaging channels.

In addition to an intelligent routing system, our live chat is equipped with a range of features to help you serve and engage more customers, including:

Alongside live chat, we also offer a suite of customer contact channels and capabilities - including AI chatbots, web calling, video chat, messaging, and more.

Our platform also supports numerous integrations into other contact centre systems and CRMs. In fact, our Salesforce integration is one of the most in-depth on the market.

Want to learn more? Book a demo with Talkative today, and check out our interactive product tour.

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