Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) Software: Meaning, Benefits, and Features

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We have many times written about the IVR systems as they are one of the most important components of call routing software used in your contact center. But what about another solution that is also vital for call routing and call queue management - an automatic call distribution system, often referred to as ACD? 

An automatic call distribution system is a solution that takes all call routing processes under control and works in pairs with the IVR software, so the model “IVR-ACD” is the most beneficial if you need to set up intelligent call routing algorithms. 

We have already discovered that the ACD acronym in a call center means “automatic call distribution” and this refers us to call routing. Nonetheless, if you think that that’s all you have to know about automatic call distribution systems, you are wrong - and we will explain why. 

So, why do you need a call center ACD (Automatic Call Distributor)? What is the automatic call distributor, or ACD meaning? What are the types of automatic call distribution systems? What are the main benefits and advantages of automatic call distribution systems? What are the main ACD operations? What is meant by ACD distribution? And finally - what does ACD stand for in call center?

Let’s discover one of the most advanced call center technologies together!

What is ACD call center technology?

An automatic call distribution system is a feature of contact center software that provides call routing, which means that all incoming calls are going through the ACD system before being connected to the human agent. In other words, an automatic call distribution system is a technology that is responsible for intelligent call routing - linking calls to the most relevant agent based on the nature of customer requests. 

As it follows from the ACD definition, the main purpose of the ACD system is to reduce average gold time, increase first call resolution rate, avoid unnecessary call transfers, and improve overall customer experience. 

It is also necessary to mention that the ACD system has to work with the IVR system. But why? First of all, the ACD system has to get information about the nature of customer requests and the purpose of their calls to provide relevant call routing. This information can be taken from the IVR software only, and that’s why an IVR solution is needed for smart call routing. But let’s learn more about the difference between IVR and ACD systems. 

IVR vs ACD: what is better?

First of all, we would like to say that such a connotation as “What’s better - IVR or ACD?” is wrong. IVR and ACD systems are diametrically opposite, and this means that each of these solutions works differently and there is no sense to compare them one to another.

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) software is an interactive voice response system that allows customers to use its menu sections to get answers to their customer inquiries, ask for calling an agent, or get callback service. In other words, the IVR system is a kind of voice menu, where customers can choose different options according to their needs. 

IVR software works thanks to two dissimilar technologies: dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF) and NLP (Natural Language Processing). DTMF technology allows you to link each menu section to the button on the caller’s phone - for instance, button “1” can stand for the “1” section of the menu. Thus, when you press “1”, you can open a menu section called “Discounts” or “Account Details”, and so on. NLP (Natural Language Processing) technology is a wider term that gathers such technologies, as voice recognition, text-to-speech, voice synthesis, image-to-text, and so on. In the case of the IVR solution, we are mostly talking about speech recognition software and text-to-speech. This means that the caller can say their request, and the system will automatically understand it and send it to the ACD.

ACD system is a solution that starts working when IVR software’s mission is over. It means that when the customer has passed through a few IVR menu sections and asked for being linked to an agent, the ACD system gets all the information about customer choices during customer interaction with the IVR, and uses that information to provide relevant call routing. For example, a caller has been looking for a refund and using this information, ACD software routes the call to the customer service department and to the agent who works mostly with refund requests. 

So, IVR software and automatic call distribution systems are working together, never alone. IVR software is a self-service options tool and its role in call routing stands for gathering information about the purpose of a customer’s call, while the automatic call distribution system is responsible for call routing itself. 

How does call center ACD work?

As most experts state, the best classification of automatic call distribution algorithms is the three-step model, and we agree with it. Thus, all the ACD operations can be grouped into three main steps, which are going one by one. Let’s name them:

  1. Identification
  2. Queuing
  3. Routing

The first step - caller identification - is performed by the IVR software in most cases, as well as Caller ID is used to understand the caller’s personal information. The main information that is needed for caller identification includes location, language, and nature of the request. The first two criteria are taken from the Caller ID, and the nature of the request is processed by the IVR software. All this data is sent to the ACD in a call center for further processing. 

The second step - call queueing - is performed by the ACD call center tool, and it works in accordance with a few characteristics which can be different according to your needs. Such characteristics include: 

  • Customer status(VIP callers, permanent customers, etc.)
  • Customer queries nature
  • Current waiting time
  • Time of day
  • Agent availability

The third step - call routing - is also performed by the call center ACD system. In accordance with the selected call routing method, the call from the call queue is routed to the agent and the customer gets the needed service. 

Now, let’s deal with the types of call routing that can be performed by the ACD call center solution. 

Types of ACD distribution

Rotary call routing (or cycle routing)

The simplest type of call routing is rotary routing which is based on a continuous loop model of work. What does it mean? Well, if you want your agents to get the same workload and process a similar number of calls per day, rotary call distribution is the easiest solution. It works like that: when call number “1” is taken, it is routed to agent number “1”, while call number “2” is going to agent number “2”, and so on. 

Fixed-ordered call routing

This automatic call distributor method works like the previous one, but it isn’t the same - even though it can seem the same. In this case, you have a fixed list of agents, and their positions in the list never change, so they answer incoming phone calls in accordance with predefined rules. Thus, the call goes to an agent who is lower on the list only when agents who are higher are busy. This method is great if you have more experienced agents with high-performance rates and newbies who can’t provide the same seamless customer experience. 

Simultaneous call routing

This automatic call distributor method, sometimes called simultaneous call distribution, is perfect for those call center managers who are focusing on reducing average waiting time. It works simply: all agents are linked to all inbound calls that are coming to the call center, and the agent who takes the call first will process that call. 

Average talking time call routing

This is a more advanced type of rotary call routing strategy, as it is also focused on guaranteeing the same workload for all call center agents. This talk-time call distribution algorithm works in accordance with the average talking time of each agent: if the agent has a lower talking time per day than his or her colleagues, he or she will get higher priority and be more likely to get the next incoming call than others. Ideally, all agents have to get similar talk time while using this type of call distribution that’s why this type of call distribution is sometimes called uniform call distribution. 

Skills-based routing

Skill-based routing (sometimes called weighted call distribution) is one of the most advanced and popular call routing techniques because it is focused on providing a higher quality of customer service, excellent customer experience, and improved first-call resolution. Why is it the most advanced call routing technique?

First of all, skills-based call routing is all about the personalization of service. IVR software gathers customer data - nature of the request, language, and preferences, and gives info to the automatic call distribution feature, while the system chooses the most relevant agent based on agent score - the specific rate that is calculated based on summarizing the agent’s skills. Each skill can get a specific score, for instance, empathy can get a 5 score, while experience can get a 7, and in summary, we get a 12 score. For VIP customers or complex issues, call routing will choose agents with a higher score, while agents with a lower score will get easier customer calls. 

Priority-based call routing

Priory-based call routing is a kind of two-level call routing option - we will explain how it works. As it follows from its name, priority-based routing means you can set up the priorities for each agent or for each group of customer support agents. Thus, you can group agents and give one inbound call phone line to each group of customer service agents and set up the priorities for this group. Afterward, you can set priorities for each correct agent in the same way as you can do it in skill-based routing - so, agents with specific skills or language proficiency will get higher priority than others in processing calls. 

There are also a few different, but less efficient call routing strategies: time-based call distribution, data-based call distribution, predictive routing, and so on. 

Benefits of Automatic Call Distribution system

When we are already done with the automatic call distribution system definition and algorithms, we can move to a more pleasant part of the tale - to automatic call distribution system benefits. As you could guess, it has much to offer. 

Improved First Call Resolution rate

FCR rate is one of the most important components of customer experience (CX), and customer experience tracking is impossible without tracking the First Call Resolution Rate. Thus, focusing on boosting the FCR rate is synonymous with focusing on improving customer experience. 

Thanks to automatic call distribution software, you can set up any type of call routing you need. With priority-based or skills-based routing, your customers will be connected to the most relevant agents from the first call - and that’s why the first call resolution rate will grow. 

Lower average waiting time

What annoys customers the most about your call center? Long average wait times, and that’s what you should pay attention to. With the automatic call distribution system, call routing will become intelligent and, what’s more important, fast. No more customers will wait for 5 or more minutes in the call queue. 

Lower operational costs

Thanks to call volume optimization provided by the automatic call distribution system, you will save money on hiring new agents because there will be no need for it. Intelligent call routing reduces average wait times and improves customer satisfaction and customer service, as well as optimizes the volumes of calls and improves the customer satisfaction of inbound callers. 

Better agent occupancy

As automatic call distribution is an intelligent and advanced tool, it will never let agent idle time grow. All agents will be similarly loaded with real calls and tasks, so they will not only work more efficiently but gain new skills and become more engaged in work processes. With the automatic call distribution and IVR solution, agents will also be free from common questions (like “What are the business hours?”) and elementary customer inquiries that will be processed by the IVR software. 

Lower average resolution time

This works the same as the first-call resolution rate. As each call is distributed to a more experienced and skilled agent, thanks to the automatic call distribution system’s algorithms, it eliminates the need for call transfers or long on-hold times, and as a result, average resolution time also decreases. It is also vital to mention that average handle time, another similar to the average resolution time metric will also be lower because of suitable agent skill sets used to handle calls. 

Lower call abandonment rates

As follows from lowered waiting times, the number of abandoned calls will also decrease. People often abandon calls when they are staying in a call queue for too long, but thanks to the automatic call distribution system this problem can be solved. With decreased number of abandoned calls, you will be able to avoid losing new, or even current customers.

What features should your Automatic Call Distribution system include?

Callback feature

This feature is more about the IVR system, but as the IVR system works in tight connection with the automatic call distribution software, we have to mention it. Less than 40% of customers are willing to wait in call queues, and this means you have to offer them an alternative. The callback option is the best solution for such customers - no queues, but guaranteed contact with the company without any uncomfortable or effortful actions from the customer’s side. 

Сall monitoring features

Even with the automatic call distribution software, you still have to track the service level and quality of customer service provided by your contact center agents. Agent productivity, agent performance, and workflow management are impossible without a specific feature that will give you access to real-time calls. Such features include call monitoring and call recording - call monitoring allows you to listen to live calls, and call recording allows you to record calls and listen to customer records later, to track agent efficiency, or use such records for training or agent coaching. These features are especially useful for controlling remote agents in remote call centers and for overall quality management. 

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software integration

You have to integrate your automatic call distribution system to Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) technology to let agents get immediate access to customer data from the CRM system or help desk software. It is not enough to only route calls to agents, you have to route calls to agents and give them enough customer data and access to customer profiles via screen pops to let employees know with whom they are talking. 

Omnichannel communication

You have to offer omnichannel communication as well as omnichannel distribution. That is what is called advanced routing - routing of not only calls, but any other digital channels of communication. Your customers have different preferred channels - some want to communicate in live chats, while others prefer emails or social media. You have to offer them an ability to switch between channels, and that is the way advanced routing is provided, one of the key features for call center. 

This means that your intelligent routing should provide such options, as routing chat communication to calls, as well as switching from any other communication channel to call - no matter is it email or chatbot. 


As you can see, Automatic Call Distributor is a great tool for managing call queues, providing modern customer experience, efficient workforce management, automatic number identification, effective call routing, and so on.

Smart routing is impossible without automatic call distribution system, but there is no way to use all the features of automatic call routing systems without using cloud-based solutions for contact centers. If you want to provide consistent experience to your clients, and get wide range of advanced features that will improve your call center efficiency and performance, you need such a solution - and it is called VoipTime Cloud Contact Center Solution. 


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