What Is Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)? + 4 Big Benefits

    High call volumes coupled with inefficient call routing can wreak havoc on your call center operations. This chaotic scenario often leads to frustrated customers, burnt-out agents, and missed opportunities for sales, ultimately harming your bottom line.

    Automatic call distribution (ACD) software streamlines call center operations by intelligently managing call volumes and ensuring calls are directed to the best agent available. It helps reduce wait times, balance workloads, and enhance the overall customer experience.

    Implementing an ACD system can transform your call center from a reactive, stressed environment to a proactive and efficient hub for communications.

    In this article, we’ll show you how ACD systems can impact call centers in various ways and how you can make the most of one within your call center.

    How does automatic call distribution work? Examples + systems

    Automatic call distribution tools are powerful telecommunication systems that manage incoming calls and distribute them to specific agents or departments within an organization.

    They’re widely used within call centers and customer service environments to ensure efficient call handling and improve overall customer satisfaction by routing calls and cutting down on lengthy wait times.

    Here’s a brief example of how customer calls are routed with an automatic call distributor:

    1. As soon as a call is received, the ACD system picks it up and collects information (such as the caller ID, the number they dialed, and any input from options menus).
    2. Next, the ACD system checks for free agents. If none are available, the caller is informed and (usually) given an estimated wait time.
      1. Additionally, many ACD systems offer a priority system to override the queue for emergency calls or VIP customers.
    3. Finally, the caller is connected to an agent based on the criteria of the ACD system.
      1. Routing can be handled in multiple ways, such as using skill-based routing to connect to specific agents, directing calls to whoever has been idle the longest, or distributing evenly to create a balanced workload.

    What Is Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)

    What does automatic call distribution do?

    At their core, ACD systems are designed to improve the general operations of a call center by managing the distribution of calls intelligently and efficiently. They accomplish this in a variety of ways, such as:

    Efficient call routing: One of the main functions of an ACD system is to direct inbound calls to the correct agent based on predefined criteria. Calls can be sorted by the purpose of the call (which can be set with an interactive voice response, or IVR, system) or by the skillset of the reps available. By ensuring that calls are routed to the person best equipped to handle them, call centers can resolve issues faster and more efficiently than a general call queue.

    Balancing workloads: ACD systems also help evenly distribute calls among the available agents, preventing any single one from becoming overwhelmed or overworked. This can be crucial for maintaining high morale and productivity while minimizing burnout. With efficient call routing, callers face shorter wait times, and agents have more time to structure their workloads effectively.

    Boosting customer experience: By reducing wait times and connecting customers with the appropriate agent, ACD systems can significantly improve the overall customer experience. Customers appreciate quick resolutions and personalized interactions, which are both handled by ACD systems.

    Integrating with quality assurance: Additionally, when integrated with effective quality assurance software, ACD systems can provide deeply insightful analytics. These analytics and data points help monitor call quality, agent performance, and customer satisfaction, fostering a culture of continuous improvement in service delivery.

    What is an example of ACD?

    Let’s go over a typical example of how an automatic call distributor works in a real environment.

    The customer, John Q., calls his bank to inquire about suspicious transactions on his account. Once connected, he is greeted by the IVR system. It prompts him to select one of four options:

    1. For account balance, he should press 1.
    2. For recent transactions, he should press 2.
    3. To report lost or stolen cards, it prompts him to press 3.
    4. Finally, as a catch-all, the IVR prompts him to press 4 for any other inquiries.

    John presses 4 for “Other Inquiries”, and is then prompted by the IVR system to enter the last four digits of his bank account number. This data will then be fed to the agent to help pull his account up once it is connected.

    The IVR then asks John to briefly describe the reason for him to call. IVR systems often list a few examples, such as “account issue”, “transaction question”, or “technical support” to give additional context, or place them in a specific queue. John answers with “Suspicious transaction”, which the IVR system interprets as a transaction issue, and passes this information to the automated call distributor.

    Finally, the ACD system captures the information from John’s responses and places him in the queue for agents trained in transaction issues. Once free, the next available agent is connected to John and has some basic information from the IVR system to help guide John through the next steps of handling his issue.

    8 types of ACD call routing

    Automatic call distribution systems can use a variety of different methods to route inbound calls efficiently. Let’s go over some of the most common ones used today.

    • Fixed/Rotary/Round Robin:The most common and basic method, this distributes calls evenly across contact center agents in a fixed order over and over again. It ensures an even distribution so that nobody becomes overloaded. This is best suited to smaller teams of equally skilled reps, such as a software company’s support team.
    • Skill-based: This method routes calls based on the specific skills or expertise needed to handle the call. By collecting information from the caller through an IVR system, it can assign them to an agent who is best suited to aid them. Large call centers with a variety of offerings use this method to ensure callers are connected to the right team or agent instead of being placed in a general queue.
    • Time-based: As the name suggests, this method distributes calls based on the time of day or agent shifts, such as rotating from a daytime shift to a night shift for off-hours. It’s best suited for large companies with distributed call centers across the globe for the most effective coverage based on the time of day.
    • Percentage-based: Instead of dividing calls per agent, the percentage-based method splits calls based on flat percentages. For example, 60% of calls may default to the core support team, while the remaining 40% are sent to a backup team. This is an excellent choice for busy call centers to manage overflow during peak times.
    • Geographic: Here, calls are routed based on the caller’s geographic location, using their area code or other location data to direct them to the nearest or most relevant regional team. This method is ideal for businesses with several locations all within one country, such as a bank with multiple branches in different states.
    • Longest idle: Simply put, calls are directed to whichever agent has been idle the longest. The ACD system tracks activity and routes the call to whoever has been waiting the longest since their last call. It’s a popular method within retail to help ensure reps have a balanced workload and that nobody is overwhelmed with calls.
    • Simultaneous/ring-all: This method routes the call to all agents in a given team or group, allowing any one of them to answer. It can ensure a faster response time, but is incredibly inefficient when scaled up to larger teams. Small teams that need fast response times, like real estate or critical issues, are best suited for this method.
    • Predictive/AI-powered: For more dynamic environments, this method of call distribution routes calls using predictive algorithms and artificial intelligence. It factors in historical data, current call center conditions, and agent performance to find the best routing strategy for each call.

    The 5 biggest benefits of automatic call distribution

    ACD systems are a cornerstone of modern call center operations, and they offer a plethora of benefits that help streamline operations and enhance performance overall. Here are the five biggest benefits you can expect from an automatic call distributor:

    #1. Efficiently manage high call volumes

    ACD systems excel at handling high call volumes, ensuring that each call is routed to the appropriate agent without overwhelming staff. By automating the distribution process, ACD systems reduce the chaos of peak times and maintain order, allowing call centers to serve more customers effectively.

    #2. Improve the customer experience

    A seamless customer experience is crucial for retention and satisfaction. ACD systems are pivotal in this because they quickly direct calls to the right agents. Whether through skill-based routing or integrating with IVR systems, ACD reduces wait times, lowers average handle time (AHT), and boosts first contact resolution (FCR) metrics. This all leads to improved customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, which means a better customer experience overall.

    #3. Increase agent productivity and satisfaction

    Your agents are the backbone of your call center, and keeping them motivated is key. ACD systems distribute calls, ensuring that no one wastes time on calls outside their skillset and isn’t overwhelmed by huge volumes of calls. This reduces the chance of agent burnout, churn, and attrition.

    #4. Enhance call center performance

    ACD systems offer real-time monitoring and detailed reporting capabilities. This data-driven approach allows you to track key performance indicators like call handling time, agent availability, and CSAT scores. By analyzing these metrics, teams can identify areas of improvement, adjust strategies, and optimize day-to-day operations.

    #5. Achieve significant cost savings

    By automatically distributing calls, teams reduce the need for manual intervention and minimize the risk of human error. Efficient call routing decreases AHT, allowing agents to handle more calls in less time. Plus, improved customer satisfaction reduces the chances of repeat calls and escalations, further cutting operational costs.

    Tips for finding the best automatic call distribution software for your call center

    The five most important factors to consider when looking for ACD software are:

    • The size of your organization. Different systems and distribution methods can affect call centers in different ways based on the size of their staff. Methods like ring-all can be incredibly useful for small teams that need immediate responses but won’t work well for large, distributed call centers.
    • The complexity of your call center operations. Centers that have low complexity, such as retail or sales, often don’t need many of the advanced features like skill-based or percentage-based distribution.
    • Your budget. Cost is always a factor when improving your business, and going with cost-effective vendors can make a big impact on your bottom line.
    • Your current tech stack. You’ll need to factor in what ACD software can be integrated into your current stack. More complicated integrations can be time-consuming and unreliable if they are not properly maintained.
    • Any must-have features. Depending on your call center’s needs, some features (like AI capabilities, omnichannel routing, or integrated IVR) can also factor into your final decision.

    Once you’ve finalized the criteria for your call center’s needs, you’ll need to partner with a vendor to find the solution. As you explore your options, there are seven essential questions you should ask them to ensure you find the right software for your call center.

    • Does your ACD support skill-based routing (or whatever your preferred routing style)? Ensuring your chosen software supports the routing style your call center needs is crucial to maintaining efficient operations in the long run.
    • Does your ACD integrate with [product]? (CRM, QA platform, any other call center software you use) Integration of your ACD with other software is essential if you want to maximize the effectiveness of your call center. Otherwise, you could be missing a significant chunk of information and features to improve workflows.
    • Does your platform offer reporting and analytics features? What about metrics tracking? Data analytics are incredibly important to making your operations more effective and efficient. Just like lacking integration, if you can’t capture and use data from your ACD system, you’re missing a significant portion of information about your call center.
    • How do you ensure customer data security and privacy? Depending on the industry you operate in, some regulations and data security policies are essential to protect your company from fines and audits.
    • What’s your pricing model? Does it cover all costs around implementation, training, support, etc.? Cost can be a significant factor, especially for high-volume call centers with several agents who need to be trained on the software and support it.
    • What’s your uptime guarantee? Is there a plan for outages or disruptions? Uptime is crucial for ACD systems. If it fails, your call center needs to know how to remain functional until service is restored.
    • Can you give me some references? (Preferably from organizations of a similar size in the same industry.) Vetting a potential vendor’s references is an excellent way to ensure their claims aren’t just marketing jargon and can give you a practical understanding of their operations in a real-life environment.


    Implementing an automatic call distribution system isn’t just a small upgrade—it makes a dramatic impact on call center operations by maximizing performance and enhancing customer experience. It’s a vital tool for any successful contact center that can be custom-fit to any organization, as long as you do your due diligence with vendors and the unique needs of your call center.

    To truly maximize your call center's potential, complement your ACD system with quality assurance software like Scorebuddy. Scorebuddy provides the tools you need to monitor, analyze, and improve agent performance, ensuring that your team consistently delivers top-notch service.

    Don’t wait to elevate your call center’s efficiency and effectiveness. Sign up for a demo today and discover how it can transform your call center quality assurance processes and drive your call center to new heights of success.


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      What is the difference between ACD and IVR?

      ACD routes incoming calls to the appropriate agent or department based on predefined criteria, enhancing efficiency and reducing wait times.

      IVR, on the other hand, interacts with callers through automated menus and voice prompts, collecting information and guiding them to the right service or rep.

      While ACD focuses on call distribution, IVR handles initial caller interactions and information gathering.

      What is not measured by automatic call distribution systems?

      While ACD systems efficiently route calls and track metrics like call volume, wait times, and agent availability, they do not assess performance or customer satisfaction. Evaluating these qualitative aspects requires additional tools, such as quality assurance software and customer feedback mechanisms, to ensure service excellence and identify areas for improvement.