What is Automatic Call Distribution?

“Automatic” is a magic word.

It almost doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. If you hear that something can be automated, it grabs your attention. Automation brings both cost and time savings. When you’ve got a full plate of work, every opportunity to automate seems like pure gold.

That’s why automatic call distribution (ACD) is a life saver for customer service leaders.

Defining ACD

An automatic call distribution system is a telephony system that receives and distributes incoming calls. It’s a routing system that uses predefined rules and criteria to distribute inbound phone calls appropriately.

ACD frequently gets confused with a few other related tools, so let’s take a minute to differentiate.

What ACD is not

ACD is frequently confused with two technologies: Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) Although these three technologies frequently work together to enable your call center, ACD is distinctly different from IVR and CTI.

Your IVR system is a menu that gathers information from callers regarding the nature of their call. When a customer calls your company and is presented with a menu that says things like, “Press 3 if your call is about a technical issue,” that’s IVR. The simplest way to remember this is to focus on the interactive in “interactive voice response.” When IVR is at work, there’s some kind of interaction or information shared.

ACD is also distinct from CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration. At its core, CTI is the technology that seamlessly connects telephones and computers so that your agents don’t need physical phones to do their jobs. It also provides functionality for manual call routing and is the backbone of IVR.

What ACD is

ACD is the tech that automatically routes your inbound calls according to rules and criteria you’ve set, such as department, shortest wait time, call center workload, and so on.

There’s a good reason virtually every call center uses automatic call distribution. ACD brings a host of benefits, including increased efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, and increased agent productivity.

Benefits of automatic call distribution

Improved customer experience

Most people have experienced getting tossed around from support agent to support agent. It makes you feel like an unwanted problem, and it’s a surefire way to give a customer a horrible experience.

A well-structured ACD can help ensure this never happens to your customers. Your ACD system uses several different inputs to route calls:

  • Back-end information (like the caller’s phone number)
  • Pre-set rules and criteria (like always routing to the first available agent or sending a caller straight to voicemail after business hours)
  • IVR interactions (like pressing 3 for support)

If you’ve set it up properly, your ACD and IVR should be able to route callers to the right agent, every time.  And because ACDs are highly customizable, that right agent can be any number of people across your company.

  • Want your caller to have the shortest possible wait time and go to the first available agent? Done.
  • Need your caller routed to a Spanish speaker? Done.
  • Want to expedite a VIP caller through the queue? Done!

Reducing customer effort is a key way to improve the customer experience and increase customer loyalty. A well-designed ACD can do all of the above and more, making it a foundational piece of a modern customer experience.

Better workload distribution

One easily overlooked benefit of an ACD is that it enables you to distribute calls across your entire customer service team.

To be sure, you often want calls to get answered as quickly as possible. There are also some situations where you want calls routed to specific teams or agents (like the examples above). While that’s true, sometimes those approaches can result in certain agents—perhaps those who are more experienced and quicker to finish calls—handling way more calls than the rest of your team.

While this is sometimes unavoidable, an ACD gives you the ability to integrate workload monitoring into your routing preferences, meaning the volume of calls handled by each agent will be a consideration in where future calls are sent.

Adding this to your ACD routing criteria means less stress on certain team members and an overall healthier team dynamic.

Call back option

Integrating your ACD and IVR systems allows you to offer customers a call back option, which means they don’t have to wait on hold for an agent to pickup. Call back options have been on the rise in recent years, and for good reason. Any time you can empower your customers to get the support experience they prefer, it’s usually worth pursuing.

While the concept might seem simple or common nowadays, an effective call back option can be a lifesaver for your customer if they’re calling on a busy day. From an agent’s perspective, a call back option enables your agent to use a personalized touch when calling the customer back.

Increased agent productivity

ACD allows you to customize your call distribution criteria, meaning it can have a huge impact on your team’s productivity.

What this looks like in practice depends on how you set up your ACD criteria. One example is if you’re prioritizing answering the phone quickly. By setting your ACD to always route calls to the next available agent, you’ll be able to reduce idle time between calls.

But if your priority is on creating a smooth experience, you might choose to only route calls to agents with specific skills. That might mean a customer sits on hold longer (while waiting for a skilled agent to become available), but it also means you won’t have less-skilled agents wasting time on issues they’re unequipped to handle. Your skilled agents will be able to deliver a great experience and resolve complex issues faster, increasing overall productivity despite the longer wait time.

Easier agent coaching

An ACD includes features like call monitoring, call whispering, and call barging:

  • Call monitoring – enables you to listen in on live calls with customers.
  • Call whispering – enables you to “whisper” to your agents during live calls without the customer hearing. Call whispering is like real-time agent coaching.
  • Call barging – enables you to join a live customer call with your an agent, similar to a conference call.

These three features are especially helpful when onboarding new customer service agents, as they allow a supervisor to closely monitor performance and provide feedback and support where necessary.

Many call centers use a quality assurance (QA) program to coach agents and improve the customer experience. QA programs are great and valuable, but QA reviews always happen retroactively. If an agent is struggling, your QA team can’t help them in that moment.

These three features of your ACD phone system solve that problem. While we would never suggest going without a formal QA program, regularly using ACD features like call whispering can expedite your agents’ growth and improve life for your customers.

Improved first call resolution

First Call Resolution (FCR) is one of the most important metrics in any contact center.

It’s a huge deal for customers. SQM Group found that customer satisfaction drops by an average of 15% every time a customer has to contact you an additional time to get a single issue resolved. That shouldn’t be surprising, because 69% of customer try to solve problems on their own before reaching out to customer support. If they’ve already taken the big step of contacting support, the last thing they want to do is contact you a second or third time.

Automatic call distribution helps improve FCR because of how intelligently it routes calls. When you’re able to get each customer to the right team or agent the first time, your odds of resolving their issue on the first contact go way up.

Leverage your ACD for a better call center experience

Automatic call distributors can be the unsung hero of modern call centers. They aren’t flashy. Your customer and agent’s don’t see them. But when your ACD isn’t working properly, everyone feels the impact.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve checked out your ACD rules and settings, today’s a great day to start.

And if you’re feeling like you could use a little help, contact us today. Our experienced customer operations team can help you figure out the right technology and customer support setup for your business.

Written By:

Peak Support