Understanding Call Routing in VoIP

If you’re considering switching your business phone system to a VoIP solution, one of the most important things to understand is how call routing works. With traditional landline systems, calls are routed through central office exchanges based on phone numbers.

But VoIP call routing is handled very differently.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain what VoIP call routing is, why it matters, and how it can benefit your business. You’ll learn about session initiation protocol (SIP), private branch exchanges (PBXs), and the components that enable flexible call routing.

We’ll also cover different call routing scenarios, how to test and optimize your system, additional features to consider, and where you can learn more about the top VoIP solutions on the market.

Whether you’re looking to route calls based on time of day, caller ID, menus, or queues, this guide will help you understand the possibilities with VoIP call routing.

What Is VoIP Call Routing?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It allows phone calls to be made over broadband internet instead of traditional phone lines. This gives companies much more flexibility and control over how calls are handled.

With VoIP, call routing happens on your private business network. A VoIP phone system uses session initiation protocol (SIP) to direct inbound and outbound calls. SIP is responsible for establishing, managing, and terminating communication sessions.

Each device on your VoIP network has a unique SIP address. When someone calls your published business phone number, the VoIP system looks at the SIP address and routes the call accordingly.

This process is handled by a private branch exchange (PBX) system or VoIP provider.

Benefits of VoIP Call Routing

There are many advantages to how VoIP handles call routing compared to traditional landlines:

  • Route calls based on specific criteria – day, time, caller ID, and more
  • Flexibility to change call routing on the fly
  • Scalability to add extensions, auto-attendants, groups, and locations
  • Advanced call handling with IVRs, ring groups, queues, and voicemail
  • Ability to seamlessly transfer calls between users and sites
  • Integrations with CRM, help desk, and other business software
  • Cost savings by reducing hardware needs

With VoIP, you’re no longer limited by geography and physical phone lines. Your entire team can be connected and calls routed intelligently based on your unique business needs.

VoIP Components that Make Call Routing Possible

There are several key components that work together to enable flexible call routing with VoIP phone systems:

  • Private Branch Exchange (PBX) – The PBX manages call switching and routing on your business’ private network. It’s essentially a phone switchboard. SIP phones and softphones connect to the PBX
  • Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) – SIP is used for signaling and controlling voice and video communications sessions. It allows devices to find and connect to each other
  • SIP Trunk – A SIP trunk replaces traditional phone lines. It connects your PBX to your VoIP service provider. Outbound calls are routed over the SIP trunk
  • VoIP Gateway – This device bridges the gap between VoIP and analog communications. It translates between VoIP and PSTN networks
  • Auto Attendant – An auto attendant provides a customized interactive voice response menu to callers. It can route calls based on menu selections
  • Endpoints – These are the user devices like desk phones, softphones, and smartphone apps that enable VoIP calling

Together, these components enable intelligent call routing tailored to your business needs. The PBX uses SIP signaling to handle call management while the VoIP gateway connects to the PSTN.

How to Route Calls with VoIP

There are several ways calls can be routed using a VoIP phone system:

Time-Based Routing – You can configure time frames and schedules for call routing. For example, calls during business hours could go to sales, while after-hours calls go to support or voicemail.

Skills-Based Routing – Route calls to agents with specific skillsets or product knowledge. This is useful for specialized departments.

Location-Based Routing – Calls can be sent to a specific physical location or group based on area code, caller ID, or other criteria.

Interactive Voice Response – An IVR system presents callers with a menu to route calls by pressing numbers, speaking requests, or saying keywords.

Auto Attendant – Similar to an IVR, an auto attendant provides prompts for routing calls to extensions, groups, mailboxes, or external numbers.

Caller ID Based – Calls can be directed based on the caller’s phone number. Individual customer records can be pulled up this way too.

Ring Groups – Phones ring simultaneously or sequentially within a specific group. This helps distribute calls.

Queues – Calls wait in a holding pattern until an agent is available. Agents log in and out of queues to accept calls.

Voicemail – Unanswered calls go to personalized voicemail boxes for later retrieval. Voicemail-to-email can also be enabled.

With endless routing combinations, VoIP call routing helps streamline communications and deliver better caller experiences.

Call Routing Across Multiple Locations

If your business has multiple office locations, branch offices, remote workers, or a distributed footprint, you’ll need to consider more advanced call routing scenarios.

With VoIP, you have tremendous flexibility to route calls intelligently regardless of geography.

A centralized PBX or SIP trunking enables managing all call routing from a single dashboard. This avoids having to configure separate systems.

You can set up location-based routing rules to send calls to specific sites based on criteria like area code, address, or caller ID information pulled from a CRM. Presence detection also allows routing calls to wherever users are actively signed in, whether at a branch office or remote softphone.

For businesses with on-premises and cloud environments, hybrid solutions exist to bridge routing between the two. This links your physical VoIP infrastructure with a cloud PBX to unify routing.

Multi-site environments can also be connected through distributed VoIP gateways and PBXs that are networked together.

Unified communications mobile apps empower remote workers to receive and make calls through the company system no matter where they’re located. With VoIP call routing, location doesn’t have to limit your growth or flexibility.

You can intelligently connect calls to the right resource for the best customer and employee experience.

Optimizing Your System with Analytics and Reporting

After setting up your initial call routing methodology, it’s important to continually optimize based on data. VoIP provides incredibly detailed call logs and reporting to identify issues and improvement areas.

Start by reviewing routing logs to see if calls are reaching the intended targets successfully. If calls are routinely sent to voicemail during business hours or queued for long periods, routing adjustments may be needed. Route logging will also uncover any misconfigurations sending calls to incorrect destinations.

Monitor calling volume by time of day and staff or group usage to rightsize routing. If certain teams are inundated during peak times, consider rebalancing call distribution. Analyze which menu options in IVRs have the highest usage and fine tune the experience.

VoIP call analytics provide insights into average handle time, wait times, and abandon rates. Use this data to streamline routing choices. Closely follow reports after any routing changes to measure the impact. Identify high performing groups to pattern route optimization after their success.

Ongoing testing and tweaking of call routing is key for continuous improvement. VoIP analytics empower you to base routing not on guesswork, but on real data intelligence.

Testing and Ongoing Routing Optimization

VoIP provides the flexibility to regularly test and adjust your call routing strategy. Take advantage of this to run routing experiments and find the optimal approach.

Try A/B testing new call distribution methods and see which performs better. For example, route calls to different agent groups on alternating days and compare data. Or test IVR menu tweaks by changing the keypress options presented to callers.

Temporary test routing rules can be created without disrupting existing configurations. Set up time-based rules to route calls in new ways during low volume periods only. Testing isolated changes makes it easier to measure the impact.

Listen to call recordings to evaluate routing from the caller’s perspective. Check for excessive hold times, clarity of IVR menus, whether agents seem knowledgeable, and other qualitative factors.

Solicit direct user feedback through surveys. Ask customers about their experience with menus, transfers, wait times and their overall satisfaction.

By regularly inspecting data trends, running A/B tests, listening to recordings, and gathering first-hand feedback, you gain the insights needed to build on successes and fix problematic routing. Don’t “set and forget” your call routing – optimize it continually for maximum value.

Other VoIP Call Routing Features to Consider

To unlock the many possibilities of VoIP call routing, you need a system with robust features. Here are some top features to look for:

  • Find Me / Follow Me – Forwards calls simultaneously or sequentially to multiple numbers or devices until answered.
  • Music on Hold – Plays music or custom messages while callers are parked or waiting in queue.
  • Voicemail to Email – Converts voicemail messages into audio files sent to any email address.
  • Ring Groups – Assigns groups of users to ring simultaneously or in a particular order, like sales or support teams.
  • Call Parking – Puts a call on hold and transfers it to a “parking lot” for anyone to pick up.
  • Call Transfer – Connects a call to another user, extension, group, or outside line.
  • Call Recording – Records calls for quality assurance, training, legal compliance, and more.
  • Auto Attendant – An IVR menu that offers callers options to route their calls, like dial by name, extension, etc.
  • Advanced Reporting – Detailed call logs and reports help identify issues and opportunities.
  • CRM Integration – Sync contacts, records, and call information with popular CRM platforms.

With the right features, you can customize call routing that aligns to your exact business needs. Evaluate providers based on the capabilities that matter most to your call flow.

Final Thoughts

Understanding VoIP call routing unlocks new ways to serve customers, improve operations, and manage calls with precision. Ready to explore your options?

Check out our list of the best VoIP providers to learn more about their solutions, features, pricing, customer support, integrations, and more.

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