An automatic call distributor (ACD) is a phone system feature that facilitates automatic call distribution, aka call routing, according to preset rules. It’s found in voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) and private branch exchange (PBX) systems. Businesses use ACD solutions to automate call routing for efficiency and to improve customer satisfaction and experiences.
How Automatic Call Distribution Works
As calls come into your business or contact center, automatic call distribution works in the background to automatically send callers to the right agent, department, or extension. ACD can also forward after-hours calls to voicemail or connect incoming callers to your interactive voice response (IVR) system’s menu.
An IVR greets callers and gives them phone menu options, such as a list of departments or choices based on their reason for calling. After the customer interacts with the IVR using voice commands or their keypad, the ACD transfers them according to the call routing rules associated with their menu selections.
On the agent’s end, systems with computer telephony integration (CTI) connect your phone technology with your help desk or customer relationship management (CRM) software. It uses caller ID to locate information about existing contacts and may provide those details to your reps as the ACD funnels calls to them.
The steps of an ACD process can differ, but typically are:
- A call comes in and is greeted by your call center’s IVR system
- The caller listens to the prompts and makes a selection
- Automatic call distribution uses that information to route the caller based on your routing algorithms
Types of Automatic Call Distribution Methods
The majority of consumers prefer to resolve customer service issues over the phone, as opposed to other service channels. However, customers can become frustrated if they are routed to an inexperienced agent or placed in a hold queue for an extended period. Luckily, many ACD systems can accommodate different routing strategies, depending on the needs of your team, which can address both of these issues. An effective call routing strategy can also improve both agent productivity and customer experiences, which can produce additional sales and lead to higher customer satisfaction.
Examples of call routing options found in many call center phone systems include:
- Time-based: ACD calls are routed to available agents only during a given time period. The time period can be set according to employee schedules or manually adjusted to reflect individual out-of-office hours.
- Round robin: This method directs calls using a loop, meaning it sends each call to the next agent on a list, and after every agent on the list has taken a call, it goes back to the first agent on the list.
- Skills-based: Calls are routed to agents with specific skill sets like information technology (IT) technicians or multilingual agents. In addition to IVR selections, skills-based routing may also consider a caller’s location or IVR entries.
- Weighted routing: Weighted call routing uses preassigned call volume percentages to send agents different call volumes, such as assigning more calls to experienced reps than new trainees.
- Least active: Also known as idle agent routing or uniform call distribution, this method sends calls to agents who’ve been inactive the longest between calls.
- Simultaneous: This method is the main one found on an auto attendant phone system. It rings all agents at once and whoever picks up first takes the call.
To increase your company’s efficiency and customer outcomes, the best business phone systems also include intelligent call routing. These tools review a caller’s previous history, demographics, or contact preferences detailed in your CRM or help desk integrations and then route calls based on this data.
3 Top Providers Delivering ACD Features
Although many VoIP providers offer IVR systems, not all come with automatic call distribution. In contrast, most cloud-based PBX phone systems and call center software provide ACD features. Explore three top business solutions with ACD functionality below.
1. Freshdesk Contact Center
|Variety of plans suitable for businesses with all budgets and the ability to scale up and add features as volume increases||IVR phone trees are only available on the upper-tier Pro and Enterprise plans|
|Subscriptions include from 2,000 to 5,000 minutes per agent||Phone numbers aren’t included with subscriptions|
|Enterprise packages support omnichannel routing and 5,000 voicebot sessions per month||Customer service not available via phone or chat on weekends|
Freshdesk Contact Center (formerly Freshcaller) features an automatic call distributor system that supports idle agent, holiday, and business hours call routing. It also has IVR capabilities and can update callers of their status in a queue. Like Cloudtalk, Freshdesk Contact Center allows callback requests.
Freshdesk Contact Center offers a pay-as-you-go plan for low-volume centers or monthly subscriptions that start at $18 per agent, per month, when billed monthly. Plus, you can test the software before buying by signing up for a 21-day free trial to see if it’s a good solution for your business.
|Every plan includes one free phone number||Individual plan pricing and feature comparisons aren’t available online|
|International numbers in more than 40 countries||Packages don’t include any minutes, so per-minute usage rates apply|
|Integrations with tools like Salesforce and ServiceNow come with all subscriptions||Talkdesk doesn’t have lower-priced entry-level plans|
Talkdesk provides artificial intelligence (AI)-powered call center software. All plans include 60 out-of-the-box integrations, ACD, and mood sentiment tools. Automatic call distribution routing algorithms consist of skills-based, business hours, IVR selections, and customer data options. Meanwhile, CRM integrations enable the ACD to identify and prioritize important calls.
Unlike Freshcaller, Talkdesk’s entry-level plans don’t include iOS or Android apps. It also starts at a much higher price point at $65 per seat, per month. Although Talkdesk doesn’t offer a free trial, you can explore the software during a demo.
|One local number comes free with all monthly plans||Starter plan doesn’t provide skills-based routing|
|Inbound and internal calls are free and not subject to per-minute charges||Customer service via phone is only available in more expensive Expert and Custom plans|
|Offers international numbers in more than 140 countries||Cloudtalk’s mobile app receives poor user ratings compared to other ACD providers|
All Cloudtalk plans include ACD with support for automatic call routing based on skills, business hours, or customer data. Like Talkdesk, it can route VIP customers to the next available agent instantly. Cloudtalk also offers the automatic callback feature and multiple call queues.
Android and iOS apps come with all versions, and it’s similar to Freshdesk Contact Center in that lower-priced plans include fewer routing options and integrations. Subscriptions start at $25 per agent, per month, but you can also explore Cloudtalk without a commitment during a 14-day free trial.
How Automatic Call Distribution Benefits Small Businesses
Automatic call distribution systems help small businesses improve caller experiences while optimizing operations and reducing costs. The combination of an ACD, effective call routing strategy, and skilled agents enables you to enhance your brand’s reputation and increase revenue and efficiency.
The advantages of automated call distribution services include:
- Ability to scale customer service: As call volume increases, an ACD manages and distributes calls effectively without overwhelming your agents. It supports overflow further routing by taking specified actions when queue-hold times surpass predefined wait-time limits.
- Faster responses and resolutions: ACD optimizes call routing so your agents answer calls quicker and calls are intelligently routed to the most appropriate agent. Most systems also include IVR features that deliver answers when reps aren’t available.
- Improve customer experiences: Efficient call routing strategies carried out by ACDs improve call handling and response times and even help agents personalize interactions. This leads to better experiences and higher customer satisfaction rates.
- Increase agent productivity: Automatic call distribution combined with call routing rules allows faster agents to take a higher call volume and lightens the load for new reps, helping teams work more efficiently.
- Boost data collection: Some ACD systems also provide speech analytics, call recordings, and call transcripts. These tools allow supervisors to analyze calls better and develop insights to improve agent and system performance.
- Increase revenue: Cost savings from efficiency and productivity gains, combined with sales growth from enhanced brand reputation and customer experiences result in improvements to your business’s bottom line.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between IVR and ACD?
IVR and ACD are different call center phone system features but work together to improve customer experiences. An IVR system lets callers make voice or keypad selections to get information or connect to the right extension or department without human intervention. Automatic call distribution technology relies on preset call routing rules to send callers to the best agent, department, or extension.
What is measured by automated call distribution systems?
Automatic call distribution systems provide details about usage, allowing you to measure agent performance and gauge customer experiences. It also supplies analytics such as the total number of calls, queue wait times, and call lengths. Also, some systems provide speech analytics, call recording, and call transcripts to help supervisors assess agent calls and identify areas for improvement.
What business types use automatic call distributor technology?
Regardless of whether teams are onsite or virtual, companies with teams handling high call volumes generally use ACD software for sales and customer service. It supports businesses in various industries including hospitality, ecommerce, healthcare, IT, financial services, and many others.
Automatic call distribution is ideal for managing incoming calls because it enables you to customize call routing strategies according to your call center’s problems and goals. In addition, most ACDs feature integrations with CRMs and helpdesk software, which help agents personalize interactions to further improve customer experiences and outcomes.
If you’re looking for a scalable solution with a variety of plans, consider Freshdesk Contact Center. It provides both ACD and IVR functionality. Check out its return on investment (ROI) calculator to see if it works for your budget and explore the software during a 21-day free trial.