Understanding Automatic Call Distribution to Optimize Customers Journey

The customers’ preference for resolving their concerns on their first call to you is not surprising. Additionally, nobody wants to endure lengthy periods on hold or be passed around to multiple call center agents.

One of the most effective ways to address this is by implementing an automatic call distribution (ACD). This phone system feature enables your agents to manage each incoming call more efficiently, leading to an improved customer satisfaction rate. Let’s explore what an automatic call distribution is and how it works.

What is an Automatic Call Distribution System?

An automatic call distribution (ACD) is a call management feature embedded in a company’s telephone system. It effectively handles incoming calls by promptly answering them and directing them to an available agent.

By leveraging ACD, you have the capability to distribute calls based on various criteria such as caller ID, business hours, support level, and interactive voice response (IVR) selections. This ensures that incoming calls are swiftly routed to the appropriate agent or department, eliminating the need for callers to dial a different number.

Skill-based routing or other distribution methods in an automatic call distribution system (ACD) actively guide inbound calls to the most suitable agent, thereby avoiding unnecessary transfers. This proactive approach ensures that the right agent is promptly reached, leading to reduced handle times and an enhanced level of customer satisfaction.

What is the difference between IVR and ACD?

Sometimes, there is confusion between an automatic call distribution (ACD) system and an interactive voice response (IVR). While an IVR involves a series of menu choices or prompts presented to incoming callers to reach a specific department, an ACD is responsible for routing the call to the appropriate agent.

For instance, an IVR may instruct callers to “Press 1 for Customer Support” or “Press 2 for Complaints.” Callers respond by pressing the corresponding key on their phone. Once a key is pressed, the automatic call distribution routing feature automatically connects the call to the agent best suited to handle it.

To summarize the distinction between IVR and ACD, the IVR determines the purpose or intent of the incoming call, while the ACD’s role is to direct the call to the most suitable agent based on their skill set.

How Does the Automatic Call Distribution Work?

ACD performs a series of steps to ensure proper call routing. Here are the steps involved:

Step 1: Determining the call purpose

Identifying the purpose of the incoming call is crucial in order to direct it to the right agent. This is accomplished through one of the following methods:

  • IVR: Callers can indicate the reason for their call by pressing the corresponding number on their phone, as provided by the IVR menu.
  • Dialed Number Identity Service (DNIS): This call center feature allows contact center agents to view the phone number dialed by the incoming call, which can be helpful for automatic call distribution routing purposes.

Step 2: Managing the call queue

Subsequently, an automatic call distribution system effectively handles the call queue by organizing each phone call into the appropriate queue. A call queue serves as a waiting area where calls reside until the next available agent answers them. When customers are placed on hold, they enter the queue.

The automatic call distribution system determines the order of the call queues based on various factors, including:

  • Agent availability (also referred to as CTI status)
  • Caller wait time
  • Agent skills
  • Customer data obtained from CRM integration

Sometimes, a contact center agent may need to expedite a call to another department without transferring it to the bottom of the call queue. In such cases, call conferencing is employed to place the call at the top of the queue.

Moreover, the automatic call distribution system utilizes active call monitoring to anticipate the availability of customer support agents throughout the day. It keeps track of computer telephony integration (CTI) states such as available, after-call work, idle, or unavailable.

Step 3: Connecting calls

The final stage of the automatic call distribution routing process involves handling and establishing the connection between the caller and a live agent.

However, if the agent is currently unavailable, the phone system may offer a callback option. This feature allows the caller to retain their position in the call queue while carrying on with other tasks. When an agent becomes available to accept incoming calls, the ACD initiates an outbound callback to connect with the caller.

While configuring an automatic call distribution algorithm may initially seem challenging, setting up ACD is actually a straightforward process. Furthermore, you have the flexibility to customize your routing strategy based on your specific business requirements.

With a hosted contact center, your calls are directed according to your defined rules and criteria. In the next section, we will explore the different types of incoming call routing options that can be utilized with an automatic call distribution.

Types of ACD Distribution Options

The optimal ACD routing option for your business is determined by three key factors:

Capabilities of your call center software provider: The available features and functionalities of your call center software provider play a significant role in determining the routing options. Different software providers offer varying routing capabilities, so it’s essential to assess what options are supported by your provider.

Importance of customer experience for your business: Consider the specific customer experience goals and priorities of your business. Some routing options may prioritize minimizing wait times, while others may focus on matching callers with agents who have the necessary skills or providing personalized routing based on customer preferences. Understanding your customer experience objectives will help you select the most suitable routing option.

Number of available agents and time of day: The number of agents available in your call center and the time of day can impact the choice of routing option. For example, if you have a limited number of agents, you may opt for strategies like overflow routing or prioritizing high-value customers during peak hours. The time of day can also influence the routing strategy, such as adjusting routing rules based on business hours or agent availability.

There are five common automatic call distribution methods that you can choose from based on your specific needs and requirements.

Round-robin call routing

Round-robin call routing is a method where incoming calls are distributed equally among available agents in a cyclical manner. Each agent receives the next call in line, ensuring a fair distribution of workload.

For example, let’s say you have three agents: Agent A, Agent B, and Agent C. Calls come in one after another. The first call goes to Agent A, the second call goes to Agent B, and the third call goes to Agent C. The cycle continues, with each agent receiving the next call in sequence. This rotation ensures that calls are evenly distributed among all agents, preventing any single agent from being overwhelmed with calls while maintaining fairness in handling customer inquiries.

Talk time-based call routing

Talk-time based call routing distributes calls among agents based on their current or historical talk-time. Agents with lower talk-time or available capacity are prioritized to receive incoming calls, ensuring workload balance. For example, if Agent C has the lowest talk-time among Agent A, Agent B, and Agent C, a new call will be routed to Agent C. This method optimizes call handling efficiency and prevents agent overload.

Fixed order call routing

Fixed order call routing assigns incoming calls to agents in a predetermined sequence that remains constant over time. For example, if you have four agents (A, B, C, and D) in a fixed order, the first call goes to Agent A, the second call goes to Agent B, the third call goes to Agent C, and so on. This fixed sequence continues for subsequent calls, regardless of factors like agent availability or call volume. Fixed order call routing ensures consistency in call distribution among agents but does not consider factors such as agent skills or workload.

Uniform call routing

Uniform call routing distributes incoming calls to the agent who has been available for the longest duration. Once an agent accepts a call, they rejoin the queue until they have the longest available time again. This method ensures a more equitable distribution of call volume among team members, particularly benefiting those with a lower average handle time.

For example, suppose you have five agents in your team. Agent one took a call seven minutes ago, and agent two received a call 16 minutes ago. In the next incoming call, it will be directed to agent two based on their longer availability duration.

Simultaneous call routing

Simultaneous call distribution involves ringing all available agents’ phones simultaneously, reducing the length of the call queue. This routing method is suitable when speed is crucial for your business, as it aims to minimize the chances of calls going to voicemail. For instance, if you have a call group consisting of three members, when a new call arrives, all three members’ phones will ring simultaneously. The agent who answers the call first will handle it. By utilizing simultaneous call distribution, you ensure prompt response times and increase the likelihood of calls being answered by an available agent, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction.

How ACD Enhances the Caller Experience: Key Advantages

ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) can significantly improve a caller’s experience in several ways:

  • Efficient call routing: ACD ensures that incoming calls are directed to the most appropriate agent or department based on predefined criteria such as skills, caller ID, or IVR selections. This eliminates the need for callers to be transferred multiple times or repeat their inquiries, leading to faster issue resolution.
  • Reduced wait times: ACD helps minimize the time callers spend in the call queue by efficiently distributing calls among available agents. It ensures that calls are answered promptly, reducing wait times and increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Personalized service: ACD can integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, providing agents with access to relevant customer information before they answer the call. This enables agents to provide personalized and tailored assistance, making the caller feel valued and understood.
  • Improved call handling: ACD can optimize call distribution based on agent availability, skills, or workload. This ensures that calls are routed to agents who are best equipped to handle specific issues, resulting in more efficient and effective call resolutions.
  • Callback options:  Automatic call distribution systems can offer features like call-back queues, allowing callers to request a callback instead of waiting on hold. This option gives callers the flexibility to continue with their activities while maintaining their place in the queue, enhancing convenience and reducing frustration.