Automatic Call Distribution

Learn more about automatic call distribution technology used in inbound contact centers, and how it can help streamline your inbound call assignment efficiently.

Pradeep Vasudev
May 5, 2022
5 min read

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What is automatic call distribution?

Automatic call distribution (ACD) is a call center technology used to automate and streamline inbound call routing and assignment to specific agents within or across your customer support teams.

ACD routing is based on pre-configured assignment rules and algorithms that match phone calls to the right agents with the most appropriate skill set to resolve a query. With ACD, your call assignment is optimized in a way to reduce call waiting times and improve customer satisfaction (CSAT) and the customer experience.

How does ACD work?

As with all call routing systems, an automatic call distributor functions on three basic actions — caller identification, queuing and routing, and call connection and distribution. Let’s learn what happens in each of these steps:

Caller identification

Contact details from inbound calls are checked with customer data in a CRM to identify the caller and their purpose, and route them to the right agent. If this is a first-time caller, interactive voice response (IVR) systems collect their details and intent via user inputs and feed them into the CRM in real time. For organizations that don’t have a lot of sophisticated phone systems in place, caller IDs are widely preferred to identify the caller.

Queueing and routing

Once intent has been established, the automated call distributor puts the caller on hold and routes the call to a suitable call queue. This can be a general call queue from which any agent can pick up phone calls, or it can be an agent-specific queue where calls are directly assigned to the best available agent.

Assignment is determined by the ACD based on several factors: the team or department an agent belongs to, the agent’s current queue length and availability, and the caller’s potential wait time. In some cases, even advanced criteria such as the agent’s skill level can be used in ACD to improve routing.

Learn more: How AI can make your contact center’s routing strategy more efficient

Call connection and distribution

Once a caller has been connected with an agent, it’s the agent’s job to answer the caller’s questions, resolve any issues, and end the call. ACD does not intervene much after a call has been connected — except when it has to monitor and store call logs to continuously analyze and optimize the assignment process.

But if an agent is occupied for longer than usual, or is not able to pick up the call for some reason, then the call will be quickly reassigned to another available agent. ACDs also offer better alternatives for call waiting such as callback requests, which let callers request that an agent call them back when available, rather than wait on hold for extended periods of time. In instances where a customer calls after business hours, ACD can automatically direct them to voicemail.

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What technologies are included in an ACD system?

For this call distribution mechanism to work seamlessly, various pieces of technology need to be integrated together. Here are a few examples of the technologies that make ACD possible:

Automatic call distributor

An automatic call distributor is the backbone of the ACD system as it helps route incoming calls to suitable agents. This component is fully customizable and you can set rules and workflows to control how calls get assigned to agents on your customer service team.

Computer telephony integration (CTI) solutions

Computer telephony integrations (CTI) are used to connect your phone systems and equipment to the computers that control and govern your ACD system. Once done, your agents can answer calls directly from their computers instead of having to use telephones like regular calls.

Interactive voice response (IVR)

IVR acts as the foundation for implementing automatic call distribution systems in your contact center. IVR handles the pre-recorded messages, user input, and menu navigation aspects of the ACD system.

Learn more: Press none for great customer experience

Automatic number identification

Automatic number identification is an advanced version of caller ID systems, where the system quickly looks up details of the phone number from the company’s existing contact database and provides caller information to the agent. This is primarily used to identify callers with a special intent, such as VIP customers.

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What are the types of ACD routing and distribution methods?

ACD routing strategies can be configured to follow certain routing flows or distribution methods whenever a call needs to be assigned to call center agents on your team. The most frequently used methods in call assignment are as follows:

  • Fixed order routing (also known as linear routing): a fixed order routing strategy is the most basic form of distribution, where calls are assigned to agents based on a preconfigured order. If any of the agents in this order are busy, the calls get added to the next agent’s queue until it is answered.
    For example, if there’s an incoming call and the first three of your five agents are busy, the call gets directly assigned to the fourth agent. With the next call, the order is restarted and the first three agents’ availability is checked again before assigning it to any of the other two agents.

  • Round robin: the round robin method is very similar to linear routing, except that the assignment of a new call starts from the next agent instead of the start of the order.
    For example, if there are five agents on your team and the last call was assigned to the third agent, round robin tries to assign the next call directly to the fourth agent, instead of starting over with the first.

  • Uniform distribution: uniform distribution uses call logs to analyze which agents have been the least occupied, and tries to assign them new incoming calls in order to evenly distribute the amount of time and workload among agents.

  • Simultaneous call distribution: simultaneous distribution rings all available agents at the same time, and whoever picks up first is assigned the call. This method is especially useful for high-priority calls such as with VIP customers.

  • Weighted call distribution: in weighted call distribution, incoming calls are assigned to agents based on a preconfigured weighting system. For example, if an agent is given a weighting of 30, they will be assigned 30% of all incoming calls.

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How can call centers benefit from ACD?

Employing automated call distribution capabilities in your call center can help you improve your operational efficiency in several ways.

  1. Increased agent productivity: by routing calls to the agents with the most relevant skills, you can improve first contact resolution rates and ensure that your team functions at maximum productivity. Through an ACD system’s call monitoring feature, you can also identify skill gaps in your agents and enable them to perform better with personalized trainings and learning resources.

    Learn more: How to Turn Your Agents Into Advocates

  2. Optimized call wait times: ACD helps reduce call waiting times by intelligently routing calls based on existing queues and agent availability. Shorter wait times translate to quicker response times, higher customer satisfaction scores, and a better customer experience.

    Learn more: Your customers don’t want to call you, and other hard customer care truths

  3. Quicker responses to high-priority callers: when VIP customers call your care team, they need to skip ahead of your regular queue and be treated as a high priority. ACD allows you to quickly identify important callers and move them to the top of the queue, or even bypass the queue entirely and directly assign them to an available agent for a quicker response.

  4. Omnichannel routing: ACD, paired with omnichannel routing, can be used to provide seamless conversations with your customers across their preferred channels like social media, chat, and email. Since today’s customers use multiple channels to get in touch with your care team, this approach can help move them between channels as required, without losing context or consistency.

    New independent study finds customer service organizations can achieve up to 210% ROI with Sprinklr Service

Optimize your call center operations with Sprinklr’s Automatic Call Distribution system

To be competitive, businesses need to deliver exceptional customer service and maintain good customer satisfaction and retention rates. Sprinklr Service’s Automatic Call Distribution helps you optimize call routing and distribution, and bridge gaps in call assignment mechanisms, so you can ensure the most efficient inbound operations for your call center. Its features and functionalities include:

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