ACD versus IVR: Dissimilarity, Purpose, and Goal

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Have you ever contacted any customer support department? If yes, then we can bet that you have experience in interacting with IVR or ACD technology. Contrastively, it is almost clear that you haven’t asked yourself: “How routing is functioning in the customer service units?”, and what are the names and essences of the techniques that serve you during your customer support journey? Thus, this topic covers the two most popular, essential, and efficient tools for client service - IVR contact center instruments and ACD solutions.

As the self-servicing trend rose, and client expectations about the service became higher, call center solutions uncovered the necessity for all-new advanced instruments that would decrease waiting times, provide intelligent routing, and increase client fulfillment.

Client experience has become the priority for numerous companies as competition across the market has become overly powerful. Pleasing clients is the only way to furnish customer retention and satisfaction, as well as convince new prospects to select your service instead of a competitor’s. 
Both IVR and ACD contact center tools are instruments with similar architecture, but they operate in the diametrically opposite way and bear distinct objectives. However, they have been invented to complete one another, not to compete with each other.

Our task for today is to uncover the definitions of the automatic call distribution system and its “brother” - interactive voice response technology, their working tips, virtues and drawbacks, and the main thing - the distinction between them and the areas where each of them is additionally preferable to operate.

Keep reading and learn all the ins and outs of these two instruments. 

In this article you will find:

IVR definition

IVR goals

IVR benefits

IVR improvement

ACD definition

ACD algorithm

ACD goals

ACD benefits

ACD insights

ACD routing modes


What to choose (and conclusion)

Definition of the IVR call center system

IVR (interactive voice response) system is the tool for call routing and providing self-servicing for elementary client requests, collecting useful information. IVR works as a multisectional interactive menu where the client can navigate to offered topics by using phone buttons and get answers to his queries as the pre-recorded messages replying to user input.

The main objective of an IVR is to assist clients in fixing non-complicated cases on their own without the human interaction of the operators or other client assistance specialists. On the contrary, IVR almost always holds a possibility to link a client with the call center agents - actually, it is the zone where it works in pair with call center ACD technology.

Advanced IVR has a feature of voice recognition, so the customer's requests are acknowledged even if he can’t find the right menu section. Nearly all modern IVRs bear this option to ease the consumer trip through the menu options, decrease the issue-solving term, and avoid client dissatisfaction. Another significant feature is the IVR call deflection - the algorithm offering a multichannel experience for customers by linking them to a separate digital pipeline. For a sample, if you have been scouring for paying a bill in the IVR, it may route you to the automated form on the website, or to the chatbot.

We also should pay additional attention to IVR routing: even though we have stated that this option is popular across IVR solutions, it performs thanks to ACD rules, and it is the foremost hint for the question of the dissimilarity of the two tools. Interactive voice response routes inbound calls to available agents based on the ACD instructions that define which operator should be linked with the exact client. So, IVR routing is a strong assistant for ACD as it can route calls using customer data from third-party bases for priority-based routing with diverse logic modes of routing for business and non-business hours, or even check if the caller’s digit isn’t in a black list. 

IVR goals

As with any other tool, IVR has its objectives and purposes to be utilized. 

  • The first and the most obvious objective is to decrease the amount of manual and routine operators’ work, as they have to deal with elementary queries and easy issues no more. 
  • Secondly, IVR provides self-service opportunities for clients, and the modern trends state that most buyers would like to operate self-service instruments instead of contacting live agents. 
  • Thirdly, IVR plays a great role in call transferring as it collects customer info and routes clients to suitable operators. It works simply: the menu is divided into sections, and when the client is in one of them and decides to be linked with an agent, the call will be connected depending on the section’s specialization - the incoming callers from “technical issues” will be linked to the IT department, while those who are in “payment issues”, for a sample, troubles with a credit card,  will contact the financial business department - and this functions with all relevant departments as well. 
  • Finally, IVR helps in doing market research and updating customer data. As IVR takes all calls before the agents, it can easily collect customer information for further use and provide personalized service. IVR is also ideal for market research as it has feature of sending pre-recorded messages to provide customer surveys, feedback collection, and so on. 

IVR edges

IVR has become an extremely popular, almost irreplaceable part of any contact center. You face IVRs everywhere - in e-commerce, government structures, educational institutions, shipping companies, financial companies, medical institutions, and so on. It helps you handle high call volumes, and allows customers to get fast and qualitative assistance or self-service. Thanks to it, most queries and issues may be solved in a few clicks. But to say the truth, it is crucial to describe all edges of this system to make sure that you comprehend its value and influence on client experience and satisfaction. 

Total automation: as IVR allows consumers to fix their problems and find answers for their queries on their own, agents are much less unloaded with unnecessary, low-valuable, and routine tasks. The customer support staff can get only really complicated requests that need their assistance, while clients are no longer forced to remain in lines and wait for support. In addition, IVR allows agents to handle calls that relate to specialization and skills unlike it is without it.

FCR rate growth: as the contacts are linked according to the operators’ relevance, qualification, and knowledge, the chance to tackle the issues during the first contact raises. Gratefully to this feature, the FCR score boosts, and you should keep in mind that this metric is extremely vital for any customer support unit. 

Personalization opportunities: communicating with a robot does not mean that the interaction can’t be personalized. Operate prerecorded greetings and other specified messages that may please the client during his journey and enhance interaction quality.

No terms or unload limits: while operators bear shifts and needs in breaks, sleep, and personal life, IVR may work without any buts. Around-the-clock, international, and almost impossible to break down assistance is available for everyone - what can be better?

Happy clients: it is not a secret that people are less willing to contact agents now. Overload of customer service on the market, as well as customer weariness from similarly poor service provided by some firms, make buyers find new solutions for resolving their problems. IVR is the solution of this type - no live communication, no annoying queues, no waiting times, no transfers - solve all issues on your own! 

Tactics to boost the IVR performance

Even though IVR may be called one of the truly essential contact center tools, its performance depends only on the quality of its implementation, maintenance, and improvements. We have a few recommendations for boosting its productivity and providing adorable customer service:

  • Discover customer wants and needs: before you will start designing the IVR for customer service, allocate time for audience research. You have to find out the expectations of the audience and discover what they want to see in the IVR menu and what they don’t
  • Don’t do it complicated: the fewer options you have in the IVR menu, the more comfortable it will be for clients. This statement may sound confusing, but people sometimes get lost in endless menu sections, and as a result, they can hang up the call and never come back. Develop a simpler interface to ensure that everyone might have zero trouble with it.
  • Collect reviews: let clients evaluate the IVR service by providing feedback via after-call surveys. Thus, it is an irreplaceable source of data for further improvements.
  • Operate the voice recognition tool: this option should be available in your IVR, as it eases the clients’ trying to find the relevant information and tackle the concern. 

ACD definition

Currently, we have moved to the farther half of our story. When we are already done with IVR, it is time to learn more about its colleague, the automatic call distribution system. In short, it is the tool that routes an inbound caller to the most relevant agent based on various parameters, such as IVR selections or the longest available agent. ACD works based on specified conditions and some factors, such as IVR trips, the volume of calls, agents queue positions, and so on.

As we have already mentioned, ACD functions in collaboration with IVR, as it uses clients' choices in IVR sections to select the operator for routing. If no free operators exist, ACD moves a client to a row, where he will be waiting for the sooner ready-to-assist agent. 

ACD has no competitors in dealing with tonnes of incoming calls, request overload, and other situations when managing the flow of inbound calls is vital. 

In this way, ACD is a must-have option for every contact center, especially if hiring remote employees, and we are going to explain why. 

ACD algorithms’ essence

The operations utilized by an automatic call distributor are pretty simple: it furnishes automatic call routing by identifying the clients' necessities and linking their phone calls to agents. Solely three automatic call distributor procedures are necessary to comprehend:

  • Identification: utilizing the IVR clients’ actions, the call center ACD uncovers the essence of clients’ requests. Such factors as clients’ area, language, and the qualities of the appeal are operated to select the most appropriate department and qualified agents to fix the issue.
  • Rowing: behind the request is identified, the client is put into the queue. Now he is waiting for his turn, but some customers may achieve service out of the line - especially VIP and high-net-worth clients.
  • Linkage: the final phase, when a client is connected to an operator. By constructing the routing logic on your own, relying on business user essentials and client wishes.

ACD is outstanding for improving agent performance and agent productivity as it furnishes workers with appropriate requests and fills their working time with real tasks.

ACD objectives

Call center ACD is developed to deal with peak hours, and call center overloads, and just to provide adorable and personalized client service. As it routes clients to more qualified and experienced agents by utilizing skills-based routing, they get a higher quality of service, while their troubles are fixed faster. ACD assists in constructing the universal queue model, where special routing rules are utilized to decrease lingering terms and furnish assistance quickly. One additional objective is to deal with non-business hours calls, which are also required to be managed.

Additionally, ACD boosts the First Call Resolution rate, decreases the call abandonment rate, improves customer satisfaction, and reduces your operational costs. 

ACD edges

As you could guess, ACD bears multiple advantages to offer for any company and any industry. The main edges born by the call center ACD technique are:

Top customers recognition: as the call center ACD operates with the assistance of artificial intelligence for the easiest identification of the VIP leads by their digits or interactions history, they achieve the highest response and as a result, stay confident in the company's special attitude and respect to them.

Excellent client assistance: ACD  deals with call peak hours, while firms that don’t operate this tool fail to provide service to all clients who are lingering in the row. As a consequence, they lose potential buyers or achieve a decrease in client happiness. 

ACD beats the trouble and contrastively offers such options as a callback - if the queue is unduly lengthy, or routing voice calls to voicemail or a separate support department if there is a need in doing so. 

Better staff performance: thanks to intelligent linkage rules, operators come into conversation with a clear comprehension of the issue. Thus, they have more chances to unravel the case during the foremost call, while having their working time filled with relevant requests. It also works great for in-house agents who will definitely get enough conversations to fill their shifts. 

ACD reporting

It is vital to have performance data if you want to improve the overall productivity of the entire department. Call center ACD provides this data through up-to-minute analytics and customer reports, that contain all valuable ACD metrics: queue time, IVR time, SL (Service Level) metric, FCR (First Call Resolution), AHT (Average Handle Time), and, of course, the information about every single call within the daytime. ACD also offers real-time interaction management features.

Kinds of ACD call routing

Even though the ACD system may be considered an easy tool, it has some distinct types that are operated for unlike purposes and goals. So, the three most commonly used sorts of ACD call routing:

The cycle method: this routing algorithm is quite simple - for a sample, you have five operators who are working at the same time. When the fifth operator picks up, the subsequent contact will be linked with operator number one - and the cycle repeats as many times as clients reach the department.

The longest available operator: this routing path is likewise clear - the dials are linked to the customer service agents based on their idle time, so it is a time-based routing. Thus, when the contact arrives, it connects to the operator who has the most extended idling term in the row. 

Priority-focused: this method of service is a kind of skill-based routing, such as their qualification, experience, or performance - the tool will link calls depending on the hallmark selected by the managers. This hallmark exists as a score, and it determines which calls would be linked to the operator. 

There exist also two additional kinds of ACD - ranked and concurrent. The ordered type works according to the previously constructed list of operators, who handle the calls based on their position in the list. For a sample, then the second agent on the list can start a conversation only when his predecessor is busy. 

The second type is comprehended as the least effective one, so it is rarely operated in serious firms. It works chaotically - the call is handled by the agent who has caught it first. So, as you could guess, it's actually a battle between everyone for every call.

The difference between ACD and IVR systems

Even though we have already told you all the features, options, and specifics of both systems, it is better to put all necessary information into one place. To make it easier for you to understand the main dissimilarities between these two instruments, we have constructed a sheet that describes them in short. Use it to ensure that you have already comprehended all differences between these two systems.




Data origin

Worker info, such as unit, skills, availability, and so on.

Caller info, such as ID, location, time zone, language, and so on.

Self-servicing features

No self-service features are available. 

Includes many self-service opportunities, such as IVR call deflection, callback, navigation between menu sections, and so on.

Goals and objectives

Routing calls to the most appropriate agents, constructing queues, identifying VIP customers, etc.  

Assists in dealing with elementary issues, provides self-service options, decreases agents’ unload with routine tasks, collects feedback, etc.


Reports and analytics options, higher employees’ productivity, dealing with peak hours and overloads, and better caller experience. 

Operations automation, 24/7 service, higher customer satisfaction, higher FCR, and service personalization opportunities.

Agents' participation

Needed, calls are linked to agents.

Not needed, if the call is routed, then the ACD comes into play.

What to select (and a little conclusion)?

We can bet that while you have been reading this article, you have already discovered the answer to this query. There is no answer to say what is more vital or just better for a contact center - IVR or ACD. The trick is that they have been developed to perform together, not one instead of another. While IVR deals with easy appeals and helps customers to resolve their easy issues on their own, ACD starts to work when the IVR can’t help to solve the problem and routes the call to the real agents.

To tell the truth, these two tools can't be utilized independently, because even the best IVRs can’t solve all the problems and they often need to connect a client with the customer support department. And to make sure that issue will be tackled, you have to operate the greatly developed routing system, and here ACD has no competitors. 

The great news is that ACD and IVR are often included in one cloud call center solution, such as ours. As a call center owner, you definitely need these two systems to be confident that your customers achieve the highest level of service and stay satisfied, while the workers are dealing with relevant requests and can furnish personalized service. If so, we invite you to use this link and discover more about our complex and all-in-one contact center solution!

Interested in ultimate call center software with IVR and ACD tools?

Contact us to discuss your needs and see Voiptime Contact Center in action!

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