What is ACD (Automatic Call Distributor System)?


In telephony, ACD stands for Automatic call distributor. It is a system that receives incoming calls, assorts them based on preset conditions and transfers the call to the right agent, team, or IVR menu.

What is an ACD in a call center?

In a call center, an ACD system helps manage call traffic and distribute calls in the following scenarios:

  • When the call traffic is too high
  • When your call center agents are offline
  • When you want to handle after-business hours inbound calls
  • When you want to automate responses for FAQs/repetitive queries

Wait, but isn’t that the same as what IVR does?

An automatic call distribution system has some advanced features that make it more advanced than an IVR. In fact, an IVR is usually part of an Automatic Call Distributor system.

The difference between Automatic Call distributor systems and IVR

ACD (Automatic call distributor)IVR (Interactive voice response)
A programmed call routing system that routes incoming calls to skill-based agents, teams or menus based on rules like area code of telephone number, time of the day, etc.

Example: Identify premium customers based on calling number and connect them in less than 3 rings/15 seconds/directly to specialists.
A keypress triggered response system that renders information to callers without the assistance of an operator, usually for instant information retrieval.

Example: Thank you for calling Stark Industries. If you know Tony’s extension, you can enter it at any time.
For Iron Man suits, press 1.
For Palladium replacement, press 9.
To speak with Pepper Potts, press 0.

How does an automatic call distributor system work?

So, how does ACD bring all these benefits to a call center? How does it work from the insides? What is the function of an automated call distribution system?

The function of an automatic call distribution system is to distribute calls programmatically. ACD routing is the process that takes distributing calls programmatically to the right agent in the shortest time span possible. The routing is determined based on several factors like time of the day, call traffic, the origin of the phone number, the skills required to solve the query, etc.

Here is a brief take on how ACD systems implement call routing in a call center.

Programmed distribution

The call center determines the order in which the calls are to be distributed to the agents. This could be based on the experience of the agent, their language proficiency, etc.

Round-robin distribution

Calls are distributed evenly with all agents in the team in an orderly manner. The loop begins from the first agent when the last agent has also taken a call. It ensures that no agent is burdened with too many calls.

Idle-agent distribution

The systems determine the agent who has been idle or has been serving lesser call handling time. This method ensures the optimum use of all agent’s working hours.

Weighted call distribution

Each agent in the team will be assigned a specific weight. The weight could be based on the skills or experience of handling calls. The calls will be routed to agents based on the individual weight assigned to each of their IDs. Facilitates assigning the right calls to the right agents.

ACD features that elevate call center performance

An automatic call distributor software helps in improving your call center performance with features like:


Here is a real-world example to understand ACD distribution and its features better.

Freida was on a Europe tour when she found she has lost her wallet along with her international credit card. Adding to her misery, she does not have the time to go on a search mission. But, what Freida still has is her bank’s global customer care number which she dials right away.

Here is how the bank’s Automatic call distribution system would help Freida reach out to its support team, report her lost credit card instance and also raise a ticket for the same.

Call queuing

It is not possible for a call center to connect callers to agents on the first go.

“The inbound call traffic is usually skewed against the number of agents. And, when inbound call traffic increase substantially, callers must be put on hold.”

For callers like Freida who have grave concerns that need immediate attention, being put on hold can be quite a harrowing experience.

To appease such callers you need a smart system that will make them wait without making them feel like they’re waiting. That’s where call queuing comes in.

Call queueing is a sort of ‘Virtual-Waiting- Room’ where your callers can be made to wait or put on hold until they can be connected with the right agent or team.

ACD systems facilitate call queue management wherein callers can be greeted with custom greetings or wait time music until the call can be automatically transferred to an available agent or team. If the phone system has multiple extensions and teams, you can always configure multiple call queues – each one for a specific team, purpose, etc. For example, separate call queues for business service, finance, marketing, cancellation, sales, etc.

Now, when Freida calls her bank, instead of an engaged tone, the ACD will present her with a custom greeting or a hold time music that will keep her engaged until the call can be connected to the right agent.

Freida’s call is a sensitive one. It needs quick action and also some amount of empathy to understand her situation. Hence, the call should be connected to a specialist who is trained and experienced in handling such situations. An automatic call distribution system’s smart call routing helps with that.

Smart call routing

In a call center environment, an automatic call distributor system facilitates smart call routing by directing incoming calls based on preset conditions programmed in the phone system. ACIS, which stands for Automatic Customer/Caller Identification System enables ACD to perform this smart routing of calls.

Some examples of how smart call routing in ACD works:

  • All calls coming after 10 PM will be routed to IVR
  • All calls originating from +86 will be routed to Chinese speaking agents/teams

In our example, when Freida calls from her personal number, the Automatic call distribution will pick up the cue based on the configured rules and connect her directly to her country’s support team. Also, depending on the time of the call she will be connected to an IVR or an agent.

An automatic call distributor software also allows for routing Freida’s call based on the call flows set by the routing automation. Routing automation is the custom routing rules based on the data from CRM or helpdesk. It enables delivering a personalized customer experience to your callers.

In Freida’s case, once she selects the credit card loss option from the IVR, she will be directed to a team of credit card experts. Experts, who know what needs to be done immediately to put Freida feel at peace and also get the lost credit card blocked from any misuse.

What if Freida’s call gets routed to the right agent but, what if the agent is unavailable to take the call? Enter, voicemail.

Forward to Voicemail

Customers expect your business to be available for support round the clock. They are not bothered by the constraints of time zones, business hours, weekends, etc. In other words, the call center must function 24*7*365. But, that’s almost impossible, right?

Not so if your Automatic call distributor telephone system is voicemail-enabled. Voicemail allows your callers to leave a voice recording for your agents. ACD allows you to configure custom voicemail greetings and instructions that tell your callers how to record their messages. Like, “please leave a message after the beep.” Also, the system can inform the caller which extension to be used to ensure that the voicemail reaches a specific agent or team with whom they want to interact with.

Agents who receive the voicemail can act upon it or forward the voicemail to their peers or even with superiors for seeking assistance. Voicemail ensures that both your callers and agents are able to have a win-win situation. Rest assured, ACD and its voicemail functionality will keep your call center running without any breaks. Like 24/7/365.

In Freida’s case, when she is unable to speak to an agent, ACD lets her record and leave a voicemail to report the credit card loss. She can explain her situation in her own words and also give any other additional information that she thinks that the bank should consider while processing her request. Like facilitating the replacement from a nearby branch or sending it to her home address.

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Voicemail which enables Freida to explain her problem in her own words is great. But, what if Freida wants to talk to an agent directly? Enter, Automatic call back.

Automatic call back

An ACD phone system gives callers the facility to request a call back from an agent whom they wanted to talk with. While Freida is hopping from one destination to another she may not be able to keep calling the call center until the call gets through. Instead, she can ask the bank to call her back by raising an automatic call-back request.  

Agents will be notified on their dashboard when a new request for a call back is created. Once their ongoing calls are completed, they can choose to return the calls.

Call centers get all types of calls. Good, bad, and the ugly. Call center supervisors always need to have a pulse of agents call handling abilities so that they can reduce the number of bad and ugly ones and make all calls the good ones. Apart from monitoring the call center performance by looking at the real-time call center dashboard, admins can also monitor the service quality of agents. Call monitoring helps them with it.

Call monitoring

ACD equips supervisors with the capability to listen to caller-agent conversations discreetly. They can use call conferencing, call barging, or whisper coaching to train an agent during live conversations with a caller. The supervisor’s voice is muted and made inaudible to the caller. Thus, it serves the dual purpose of serving the caller as well as giving hands-on training for the agent.

Let’s assume that Freida’s call is made by an agent who has just joined. Call monitoring will help the agent’s supervisor monitor how the agent is conversing with Freida and suggest corrective measures while the call is happening. If at any point the agent is unable to address Freida’s query, s/he can loop in the supervisor through call conferencing to take over the call for successful issue resolution.

Most often, all customer queries cannot be solved over a call. A support ticket needs to be raised. Integrating an ACD with CRM, ticketing system, etc. can help here.

Integrations with CRM, ticketing system, etc.

Your call center’s ability to meet customer queries does not end with handling calls alone. Sometimes you have to connect it to CRM systems to raise customer support tickets that will see the issue resolved until the end. Automatic call distributor systems allow for such integration with CRM and other third-party systems.

For instance, as soon as Freida’s call gets over, the call center can raise a ticket to block the current credit card and issue a replacement. The helpdesk ticketing system can help extend its utility from being just a call center to being a 360-degree customer care portal.

Benefits of an Automatic call distributor system

Now that you know what automatic call distribution is and how it works, here is a quick glance at how an ACD can benefit your call center.

Now that you know what automatic call distribution is and how it works, here is a quick glance at how an ACD can benefit your call center.

  1. Programmed call routing
    Route inbound calls to specific call queues, teams, agents, or extensions. Set rules to direct calls based on priorities, purpose, business hour restrictions, etc.
  2. Optimized agent productivity
    Maximize agent productivity by routing calls that are specific to their area of expertise, skills, training, experience, and so on.
  3. Rapid response to priority calls
    Provide rapid response to calls that need immediate attention. Connect callers to DIY menus or expert agents who can resolve the issue without much delay.
  4. The right agent for the right call
    Connect callers to native language-speaking agents, technicians for advanced queries, sales personnel for giving demos to inquiries, and much more.
  5. Connect agents across geographies
    All your call center agents may not be located in the same office. Sometimes not even in the same city or even country. ACD can help connect a globally scattered call center team.
  6. Reduced call wait times
    ACD can help drive your callers straight to their solutions with nested menus and call queues thereby reducing their wait times to connect with the agent.

You can be a startup that is setting up the first call center or an enterprise with call centers across all the continents, an ACD phone system can turn around your call center’s efficiency in connecting callers to the right agents. The end result is an improved brand image of your organization, reduce call wait times, and maximize resolution rates.

Illustrations by Nikhil Kanda. Animation by Vinoth Krishnan.

Disclaimer: Freshdesk Contact Center may not have all the features described in the blog above. Please talk to us to get information on the available features.

About Freshdesk Contact Center

Freshdesk Contact Center is a plug-n-play cloud phone system for every type of business and helps augment customer engagement and collaboration within internal teams. Users can purchase local and toll-free numbers, get real-time visibility into call queues and ongoing conversations, route calls to specific agent groups, set up custom business hours for each department, and more.

If you want to find out more about what we do, check out www.freshcaller.com.

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