Automatic Call Distributor Systems
What It Is
An Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) is a computerized telephony system that analyzes incoming calls and distributes them based on specific instructions that define how the calls are to be handled. It has both a hardware and software component. It is considered the hub of a contact center and the most critical technology component. An ACD can range from a few lines for a small system to hundreds of lines, such as systems used in large contact centers.
How It Works
When the ACD receives a call, it will recognize certain information transmitted along with the call:
- The phone number that was dialed (Direct Number Identification Service–DNIS), or
- The phone number the call was made from (Automatic Number Identification–ANI)
The ACD can also categorize calls based on the callers’ responses to questions in the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The ACD looks for specific rule or skills–based routing instructions stored in the ACD’s database for that DNIS or ANI to determine how the call is to be handled.
There are many routing options, including:
- Routing the call to a recorded message or an IVR system
- Routing to the next available agent with a specific skill set
- Placing the call on hold until an agent with a specific skill set is available to receive the call.
Other ACD Functions
In addition to routing calls and interacting with other systems such as IVR, voice messaging, and database systems to facilitate call handling, the ACD continuously tracks, displays, and reports on call activities. By tracking statistics such as the number of incoming calls, calls in queue, call abandons, and talk time on a monitor display in real time, managers can recognize developing problems and quickly take corrective actions to maintain optimum operating efficiency.
Some contact centers perform both inbound and outbound work. An ACD can provide call blending to allow agents to be dynamically allocated to either inbound or outbound functions. Such an arrangement can allow a contact center to maintain acceptable service level by routing incoming calls to outbound agents during peak hours. Other ACD features such as announcement of anticipated hold time, voicemail, and automatic callback, can also be used to improve service level and overall contact center performance.
With the emergence of email and web chat services over the past few years, ACD systems have evolved to integrate the traditional phone–based ACD system with email distribution systems and websites. The latest ACD systems can distribute calls, email, and web chats to universal agents who are trained to handle inquiries through all three channels.