Off Center
 
Many progressive contact centers are starting to break free from the confines and rigidity of traditional call routing. Rather than blindly sending callers to the next available agent – regardless of who’s calling or why – these centers are exploring routing methods that are so unconventional they have been banned in certain Midwestern U.S. cities.

Here are a few prime examples of customer care organizations doing call routing on the edge.

HMOno Health Insurance
HMOno uses priority queuing like no other contact center on earth or in New Mexico. The center’s New Policy division gives high priority to healthy callers because they cost less to insure and whine less to agents. 

Every call is front-ended by an IVR system designed to determine if new callers have any serious health risks. A voice prompt asks callers a series of risk assessment questions, such as “Do you smoke?” “Do you drink?” and “Do you work at a public high school?” Callers who answer “no” to all risk assessment questions are quickly routed to a live agent anxious to sell them a policy. Callers who answer “yes” to one or two assessment questions are knocked back a few places in the queue. Those who answer “yes” to three or four questions are placed at the end of the queue. And those who answer “yes” to five or more questions are immediately routed to a company competitor or a hospital.

The IVR system also has been programmed to listen for any sneezing, coughing or wheezing sounds to help determine a caller’s health. If any such sounds are detected, a voice prompt says “Gesundheit!” or “Please cover your mouth” before the caller is bumped back in the queue or routed externally.


MegaMerchandise
MegaMerchandise, which sells everything from saucepans to sporting goods, knows customers appreciate the personal touch. That’s why their contact center – staffed with an eclectic group of employees – uses a truly unique routing process that matches each caller with an agent who has similar interests, personality traits, and SAT scores.

All calls are initially answered by an automated “matchmaker” programmed to quickly assess which agent the caller is most likely to bond with. For instance, if a man from Brooklyn calls interested in purchasing a baseball bat or a thick gold chain, the matchmaker will route that call to an agent like Joey “No-Neck” Gambini. Joey can then have a friendly informal chat with the caller about benchpressing and broken kneecaps to help build rapport before closing the near-certain sale.


Big Spur Bank & Mistrust
Handling irate customers is never fun, but routing them to convicted murderers can be. Big Spur Bank & Mistrust – based in Sweetwater, Texas – has been doing it for about a year, with impressive results.

The bank’s contact center uses cutting-edge technology to identify angry callers, who are then seamlessly routed to death row inmates trained to help the callers realize the pettiness of their complaints.

Here’s how it works: The center’s automated attendant is able to measure the heart rate of each caller. Whenever the rate exceeds 200 beats per minute, the attendant knows that the caller is either furious or has just run a 10K race. To determine which is the case, the caller is told to “Press 1 if you are fighting mad” or to “Press 2 if you need some Gatorade.” Callers who press 1 are routed to the first available killer in one of the many fine high-security prisons in Texas. To help callers put things in perspective, Inmate agents use phrases like, “How dare you complain to me about a $3 ATM fee – I sleep on a metal slab and eat gruel every day,” or “You think being rejected for a loan is bad? Try having your stay of execution request denied 10 times.”

In most cases, callers calm down and apologize for their selfishness, at which point the inmate agent can take advantage of the caller’s guilt and begin cross-selling/up-selling premium bank products.