automatic call distributor

ACD: What Is Automatic Call Distribution?

Max BaileyLast updated on February 23, 2023
9 min

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If customer service is important to your business (of course it is!), you’re probably well acquainted with agents being inundated with calls. With just a basic phone system in place, this is probably more than they can handle.

That’s where an automatic call distributor (ACD) system comes in.

Automatic call distribution systems, otherwise known as call routing systems, direct incoming calls to the appropriate representatives based on your business’ preferences and needs. ACDs work to close the gap between customer expectations and business resources.

The basic idea behind good customer service is simple: when a customer needs help, answer the phone and resolve their issue. But it isn’t always this easy. Customers don’t often stick to normal business hours or have much sympathy for call centers flooded with a high volume of calls.

That’s why more and more call centers are relying on ACDs to enable a smooth, efficient process by connecting the right caller with the right agent, as quickly as possible.

How ACD Works

So, what is ACD, and how does it turn a flood of incoming calls into an organized queue? An automatic call distributor system directs incoming calls to the most qualified agents. How that’s determined is based on the distribution method you choose.

The call routing algorithm for ACD can work in a few different ways. To direct calls appropriately, ACD systems can be configured to consider the incoming phone number, traffic volume, call queue wait times, time of day, and the skills or departments needed on the receiving end of a call. When callers indicate their issue, the ACD groups them according to the best department or agent to resolve the problem at hand.

Learn more about how an ACD phone system works.

Top call distribution methods

The best method for call distribution varies from call center to call center. Consider which of these popular options would work best for your business:

  • Fixed order: ACD calls go to agents in a preset order, with each call starting at the top of the list, ringing for a certain amount of time, and then routing to the next agent in the list until someone answers. This way Agent B will only receive the call if Agent A is busy. Use this method to prioritize particular agents over others.

  • Simultaneous distribution: With this distribution method, calls ring for every available agent at the same time. The first to pick up handles the call. Use this method if quick customer response time is most important to you.

  • Time-based routing: Rather than ringing all agents to determine availability, some ACDs allow teammates to set their own statuses and working hours. Layered with another distribution method, time-based routing can be a helpful way to reduce the time it takes to answer a call. Use this method to decrease wait times without disturbing busy agents.

  • Agent talk time: Calls go to the least-active agent—the person with the fewest calls or longest idle stretch between calls. Use this method to optimize employees’ working hours.

  • Weighted order: Each agent has a weighted score based on criteria such as language proficiency, experience, or skills. This method is often referred to as skills-based routing. Calls go to available agents based on the strength of their score. Use this method to identify the most suitable agent to handle a call.

automatic call distribution

Coaching support

Automatic call distribution systems facilitate employee training and manager support, primarily through call monitoring features. A supervisor can monitor calls, so new call center reps (or more experienced agents handling a tricky call or VIP client) can get hands-on support and instant coaching through call whispering functionality. If needed, ACDs also allow supervisors to jump on conference calls and speak with customers directly.

Some ACDs can even generate analytics reports and live feed information. When supervisors view call activity in real time and study data for patterns and trends, they surface useful information that helps them determine future call center coaching strategies.

Systems That Work With ACD

If you’re new to ACD telephony (or even if you’re not), the different tech involved can be difficult to keep straight. Here’s how systems work together to create the best ACD call center experience.


CTI, or computer telephony integration, allows call center agents to respond to calls directly from their computer or other connected device. A CTI uses desktop-based interactions to make call centers more efficient.

Callers don’t know (or care) whether their call comes through a CTI interface or a traditional telephone, but a convenient dashboard can make all the difference to an agent fielding calls all day. A CTI benefits call center employees by letting them access all the information they need in just a few clicks.


IVR, or interactive voice response, is what powers the menu options callers hear when their call connects. An IVR consists of a greeting, audio instructions from a virtual operator, and the ability to interpret and respond to key-press selections or voice responses from callers. An ACD usually includes an IVR baked right into the system itself.


An ACD routes calls to agents who can actually resolve the callers’ issues. This includes:

  • Identifying callers based on their phone number

  • Greeting them using IVR

  • Prompting callers to provide information about the services they need

  • Selecting an appropriate call routing method based on area code, time of day, and other preset factors

  • Facilitating smooth transfers between automated systems and live agents

An automatic call distribution system steers this process, guiding callers from the IVR menu to the right agent able to help them. It streamlines the entire call routing process and minimizes wasted time.

What an Effective ACD Means for Your Business

Busy businesses often find that they have more incoming calls than their agents can handle without the proper tech in place. Either they find a software system that can keep the call center organized, or they end up scrambling to climb a mountain of backlogged calls and frustrated customers.

At its simplest, an ACD phone system helps you respond to customer calls faster. That’s the day-to-day job the tech is designed to do. If you look at ACD as a system that integrates to your larger CRM strategy, you’ll find that, as with any great assistant, answering phone calls is only a small part of the job. Setting up an ACD call center can lead to the following benefits.

Improved customer experience

There’s no hold music compelling enough to make a customer say, “Wait! Put me back on hold. I’ve got to hear the end of this song!” They want a real person to solve their problem right away. Some VIP customers may even require extra attention to ensure they get through to their rep ASAP. Advanced ACD algorithms can prioritize VIP numbers as well as handle high-volume traffic so no one spends too much time listening to hold music.

Customers might not think about consistency as much as hold time, but it matters. Using ACD contact center software means that no matter where customers are in the world, which call center they reach, or whether they call at noon or 3:00 a.m., they’ll connect to a consistent system they can depend on and, ultimately, get their issues resolved.

Metrics for data-based strategy

Analyzing metrics gives you a way to score how well your call center is performing. Crunching numbers related to missed calls, call volume, and wait time is made possible by reports from your ACD phone system. Use patterns you notice as your blueprint to build a more responsive and productive call center.

A live feed is also a great tool to keep your finger on the pulse of day-to-day operations. A live feed gives managers up-to-the-moment context to shift resources as needed so calls keep connecting smoothly.

Improved call coaching and mentoring

Role-playing a call in training and fielding a real (and rather irritated) customer in real life don’t always compare. Without an ACD system, new agents may resort to transferring calls to supervisors, increasing hold time and making customers repeat their problems multiple times. Instead, advanced ACDs allow for whisper coaching, enabling supervisors to give their agents support without clueing the caller in that there’s someone else on the line.

The bottom line? Automatic call distributor software offers features that add up to a cohesive, dependable customer experience, an easy-to-use system for agents, and data that managers can use to boost call center performance.

Want more information about how Aircall can help? Give us a try for free.

The Best Automatic Call Distribution Software Features

An ACD can supercharge your ability to serve customers quickly and professionally. In order to get the best results from your ACD phone system, look for options with these helpful features:

1. Customizable call routing

As mentioned earlier, there are multiple ways to direct calls through an ACD system and various reasons why companies might prefer one method over another. The ability to customize your ring strategy gives you power to create the most intuitive and convenient system for your business.

2. IVR with smart directory

An IVR is the first response your callers hear when they dial in. Make customers’ first interaction with you a positive one by taking advantage of a smart directory. Tailor your IVR to funnel callers to distinct, specialized teams with the specific skills to handle unique customer issues. Sorting calls by language (“press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish…”) or department will help route callers to the right resource.

3. Call queuing

Don’t subject customers to calls that time out before someone answers. Make waiting on hold as painless as possible with customizable messaging and options for how callers can get in touch with an agent through an alternate method, if necessary.

4. Queue callback

Make sure you provide a way for customers who don’t want to leave a message or can’t continue to hold any longer. Offering an option to have the next available representative call back gives customers control over their preferred way to get in touch with someone who can solve their problem.

5. VIP callers and blacklist numbers

Skip the queue for your VIP clients by configuring their numbers to go directly to the ACD agent you’ve assigned to them. Meanwhile, blacklist specific numbers to eliminate bots and spam callers, and help your real customers get through queues faster.

6. CRM integration

Integrating your ACD system with other critical business software, such as your CRM, will help tie your call center into a larger customer service strategy. This will decrease the amount of time your agents spend on data entry, with call notes and recordings automatically synced from the ACD phone system directly to your CRM. Integrating with other tools your agents use every day, such as chat bots and eCommerce platforms, will streamline your work processes and help your team reach more customers.

7. Convenient interface

Don’t overlook the value of making software easy for your employees. The more confident call center agents feel in using your ACD, the more productive they’ll be. An intuitive interface will help your reps pull up customer information and take action in just a few clicks. Your virtual call center dashboard will give your team a centralized home for all their numbers, users, and even international teams.

Your customers and call center agents both want the same thing: to resolve callers’ needs as quickly and professionally as possible. A robust ACD helps you make the best impression possible and earn the trust of every customer that calls your business.

Are you ready to implement an advanced ACD that empowers your agents to work smarter? Try out Aircall’s ACD phone system for free today!

Published on November 8, 2019.

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