What is an Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)?

What is automatic call distribution, and why is it such a helpful tool to implement within your inbound call and contact centres? Let’s find out…

Being equipped to handle your calls as efficiently as possible is often the goal of any call or contact centre. Using automatic call distribution software can be one of the most useful tools to help alleviate the pressure of high call volumes for many business types across various industries. From skills-based routing to handling out-of-hours callers – there are a lot of things this system can help with.

In this guide, we’ll explain what we mean by ACD, how the process works, and the different routing options available to suit your customer support needs.

What is ACD?

Automatic call distribution is a phone system that can direct callers to an available agent. The concept itself is actually thought to be older than the idea of the call centres themselves. This technology was first used in the 1960s when public services and large businesses were searching for a more efficient way of handling large call volumes.

Now, it’s often used in call centres and contact centres for businesses around the world to handle all types of communications.

ACDs can be useful in a variety of situations, including:

  • High-volume caller traffic
  • When agents are offline
  • Handling out-of-hours calls
  • Automating responses to FAQs or common queries

How does automatic call distribution work?

There are three main steps involved in the automatic call distribution process. These are caller identification, call handling, and, finally, call routing.

Below, we’ll guide you through each step and what happens.

Caller Identification

The first step is to identify the purpose of the customer’s call, often through IVR or caller ID technology. These can offer a series of options to the caller that help identify important information that will help with the next step. For example, an online retailer might use IVR to offer a selection of broad categories that a customer’s call could fall under, such as shipping or returns.

Call Handling

The second step is to sort the callers into a queue based on factors such as status, wait times, and the query itself. The distribution system can be configured to prioritise callers in a way that best suits your business.

Call routing

The final step is to route the calls. How you choose to do this will often depend on your distribution method preferences.

For example, it can sometimes be useful to route each caller to the next available agent if your call centre is aiming to reduce AHT. However, you might also want to route your customer to the agent best equipped to help them – this is usually referred to as skills-based routing. Customising your routing options can help meet customer service KPIs, such as lowering AHT and increasing FCR.

infographic typing on a mobile

What does ACD mean in a call centre?

When multiple calls come through at the same time in a call centre, it can quickly overwhelm your agents and lead to disorganised, less-than-ideal customer support.

With ACD, the system can easily see who is available and route the call based on a pre-determined set of criteria. Therefore, they can take their time getting to the roots of any issues and answer queries more efficiently.

Although ACD was originally for use in call centres only, it has since developed a use within inbound contact centres. From routing social media messages to emails, modern ACD systems can do it all.

What call distribution types are available with ACD?

As we mentioned before, there are a few different routes you can take with your call distribution. Below, we’ll take you through each one and what it means.

What isn’t measured by ACD systems?

One aspect that must be considered before implementing ACD is that you’ll need to integrate it with other software and programmes to ensure it can run as effectively as possible.

For example, CRM integration will allow management to see how tickets are being raised and resolved through the system and make sure that customers are always receiving the right support within an adequate time frame.

Without the capabilities for these integrations, you could still find yourself with an overwhelmed call or contact centre and dissatisfied customers. Because of this, it’s important to choose an ACD system provider that provides third-party integrations as standard.

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