As customers, we all know what it feels like to be kept on hold for long periods of time and bounced around to different customer service representatives. When you call a company for customer service, sales, or other reasons, you expect — or at least hope for — quick and efficient service. Many companies can provide that through the use of an Automatic Call Distribution system (ACD).

So what is Automatic Call Distribution? An ACD system has become standard technology in most industries, as many different kinds of companies use it To handle their incoming calls and ensure that customers get the experience they deserve. Automatically distributing calls might sound like a sophisticated process, but it is quite simple at the user level, and it offers all kinds of business benefits. Modern ACD systems can also be integrated with other business platforms to create a unified communications solution.

What Is ACD, Exactly?

As with other types of business automation, an ACD handles mundane tasks that used to be performed by human receptionists or phone operators. The system uses voice recognition and computer technologies to analyze each call and direct it appropriately.

You might associate this technology with call centers, but all types of businesses can benefit from what an ACD is. For example, a large electronics store could use an ACD to direct calls about appliances, cameras, televisions, and other devices to the appropriate department based on responses provided by individual callers. 

If an ACD is being used in conjunction with customer service representatives, the system can automatically direct incoming calls based on predetermined criteria. For example, the system could be set up to send calls to the next available agent or to an agent who has had the lightest workload for the day so far.

By directing calls to the correct destinations and distributing them smartly among our customer service team, an ACD helps companies provide better customer service over the phone. Callers reach the appropriate agent or department in a quick fashion. They also experience fewer transfers and lower call times. The result is higher customer satisfaction scores.

It’s important to point out that ACDs often get confused with interactive voice response (IVR) systems. The latter system can be the first point of contact for an incoming caller. If you’ve ever been asked to provide voice prompts to an automated system or use your touch-tone keypad to input options, then you have interacted with an IVR. This system can process, and route calls based on the inputs you’ve provided — as part of an ACD.

How Does ACD Work?

Now that you understand the basics of Automatic Call Distribution, it’s time to find out how it works. An ACD receives, handles, and distributes incoming phone calls in three stages: classification, queueing, and routing.


When a call comes in, an ACD system picks up the phone and interacts with the caller to identify their needs and classify the call, which is typically done with an IVR. The system typically gives callers several options and asks them to respond with voice prompts and/or touch-tone inputs. The information a caller provides can then be used to identify the nature of the call and the type of assistance the caller needs.


In smaller companies, an IVR might directly route classified calls to the appropriate department or customer-facing associate. The high volume of calls that large companies and call centers receive is typically handled by queuing calls until they can be handled by a representative.

The second stage of automated call distribution involves sorting incoming calls and placing them into the appropriate queues. The system sets the order of the queue based on factors like customer status, wait time, and type of service needed. While VIP customers are typically placed at the front of the queue, an ACD can also be programmed to prioritize urgent calls, which is necessary in healthcare and other high-stakes industries.


The final stage of automated call distribution is perhaps the most critical. An ACD can be set up to route calls based on customer service and business objectives. Routing methods typically fall into a handful of different approaches, including:

  • Rotational. This is a popular routing approach for call centers looking to distribute the workload equally among a group of representatives. It involves available representatives taking turns in answering calls. While this approach can seem equitable, it doesn’t take into account call times, which can be a more accurate indicator of workload.
  • Fixed-order. This approach involves agents being arranged in a ranked order and agents receiving calls based on their rank. So, if the No. 1 agent is available, they will take an incoming call, regardless of whether agents further down the list have yet to take a call. If the No. 1 agent is on a call, incoming calls are sent to subsequent agents on the list based on rank. This approach isn’t as equitable as the rotational approach, but it is a better option for companies with more experienced agents who can resolve issues much faster than newer agents. It’s also a good choice for companies that don’t have a team of dedicated agents because representatives lower down the list can focus on other duties.
  • Simultaneous. This routing system involves all agent phones ringing simultaneously. The first person to pick up the phone has the responsibility of providing customer service. This is the preferred method if you would like to minimize customer waiting time and prevent calls from going to voicemail. It’s also best for small teams to experience a relatively small volume of calls.
  • Talk Time. This approach attempts to partition the workload fairly among representatives by sending each incoming call to the available agent with the least amount of talk time. This approach works well with large teams of agents with similar skill sets. It’s less ideal for companies or departments that need to provide a wide range of support skills or teams that have an uneven distribution of very new agents and very experienced agents.
  • Skills-Based. This approach prioritizes agents based on aptitude in one or more particular skills. This approach is best to handle a wide range of customer issues. Some of the common abilities used to rate employees in this system are proficiency in a second language, technical expertise, listening comprehension, and response time.
  • Availability. This system involves each inbound call being routed to the agent who has been available the longest. This approach is ideal for teams that have low average handle times.
  • Weighted. This approach involves each agent taking a different percentage of incoming calls, and it’s best for onboarding new workers. Trainers and more experienced agents can take a higher percentage of incoming calls while new employees get up to speed.

Each approach to routing has its advantages and disadvantages. If your company is looking to minimize average wait time, then your VIP customers may not be getting priority service. If you want to route calls based on employee skill sets, then certain employees might be overwhelmed while other employees twiddle their thumbs. It’s important to consider organizational structure before committing to any one approach.

What Benefits Does ACD Offer?

When companies implement the use of an ACD system, they immediately gain several key features and begin to see several business benefits. Consider the following ways that the features of an ACD can benefit an organization.

Superior Customer Service

Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of people expect their issues to be resolved when they call customer support. Surveys have also shown customer satisfaction scores drop significantly when customers have to make multiple calls to resolve the same issue.

Given these expectations, it is critical for organizations to provide the best customer service possible. An ACD supports superior customer service by streamlining customer interactions and quickly directing calls to the best possible locations.

Better Organization and Productivity

By automatically organizing and directing calls, an ACD helps make customer service more organized for an organization. This helps to define employee roles and ensure that any issues can be dealt with in a targeted and orderly manner. In addition, an ACD can ensure that representatives spend more time helping the right customers and less time directing calls to their colleagues.

Better Allocation of Resources

Many organizations experience peaks and troughs and the demand for customer support. An ACD can help companies manage these shifts in demand by synchronizing automated call directing with changes in staffing levels. Reporting tools can also help companies make sure they are getting the most out of their customer support investments.

Better Insights

Modern businesses collect all kinds of data on various business functions, including customer service. An ACD is capable of collecting all kinds of call data, and provides reports on wait times, call volumes, customer satisfaction scores, average call length and more. Companies can analyze this data to refine their processes, or they can use it to help with employee training.

Better Training

In addition to having more training data, an ACD also offers call monitoring and recording so that trainers can better coach new representatives. Call monitoring helps trainers go beyond cold hard data and get a better understanding of how new representatives interact with customers over the phone. Recorded calls can then be reviewed along with new employees to identify their strengths and help them work on their weaknesses.

Greater Scalability and Flexibility

Because ACD technology is based in the cloud, it can easily be scaled or altered based on changing business needs. It’s also easy to create new rules for routing that can accommodate restructuring or changes in staffing.

Common ACD Integrations

As we’re looking at ACD and how it benefits businesses, we also need to discuss how this technology can integrate with other platforms. Through integrations with other business software platforms, modern ACD systems can do a lot more than receive and direct calls.

Call overflow tools are one critical type of integration that companies use to handle surges in calls. When every customer service representative is busy, a call center should be able to handle additional calls and channel them in an appropriate way. Placing customers on hold for prolonged periods just isn’t acceptable by today’s standards. Call overflow tools like voicemail and automatic callback technologies can keep customers engaged and satisfied.

An ACD can also be integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Many organizations use a CRM to track all of their interactions with customers and potential customers. CRM integrations allow agents to pull up a customer’s information while they are on the phone with them. Service agents can review call history, social media interactions, purchase history, previous online chats, and more.

Taylored Systems Can Be the VOIP Provider Your Business Needs

Hopefully, we’ve answered your questions about ACD and provided you with some reasons why your company should adopt this industry-standard technology. At Taylored Systems, an ACD is just one aspect of our comprehensive VoIP services.

If your organization is still relying on a legacy phone system, it might be time to switch to a hosted VoIP system. These systems provide several benefits for businesses of any size. Setting up a VoIP system is relatively simple and requires very little, if any, additional hardware. 

In addition to calling and ACD functionality, a hosted VoIP system can also provide advanced features like group calls, SMS messaging, a mobile app, video calling, and more. The VoIP solutions are also more flexible and scalable than legacy phone systems, making them ideal for growing companies. We also back up all of our VoIP services with first-in-class support.

If you would like to know more about how Taylored Systems can provide you with modern voice services and solutions, contact us today.