Delivering exceptional customer service requires everything to go right. It’s not about doing one thing well. It requires countless little things working together in unison as we have learned in midst of the covid-19 pandemic as call center agents shifted to work from home call centers.

Businesses not only need to have a system in place to efficiently address customer questions or concerns, they also need a mechanism to ensure contact center agents have sufficient bandwidth and knowledge to help them as quickly as possible, which means having the right tools at their fingertips.

Luckily, there are call center technologies purpose-built to address this challenge.


What is an automatic call distributor?

An automatic call distributor (ACD) is a telephony system that receives incoming calls, categorizes those calls based on preset conditions, and transfers the call to the most qualified agent, or team, to handle the issue. Typically, an ACD system is used by businesses with a large volume of phone calls, like those specializing in sales or support roles.

The primary purpose of an ACD is to ensure calls are dispersed to the right agent or customer experience staff with the skills to help each caller based on their specific needs. ACD automation sifts through omnichannel call centers to pair the right agent to the right query.

How does an ACD work?

1. A support center chooses a call distribution method

The first step in establishing a call routing system is to determine how calls will be assigned. Popular distribution methods include fixed order (routing to the next available agent until someone answers), simultaneous distribution (ringing every available agent at the same time), time-based routing (team members set their own working hours), and agent talk time (calls go to the least active agent).

2. Incoming calls come in

Once a call center chooses their routing strategy and phone lines are active, inbound calls will start coming through. Using the designated routing algorithm, the ACD will consider the phone number, traffic volume, queue wait times, time of day, and the essential department on the receiving end of the call.

3. A caller is given options for what they need

With interactive voice response (IVR) technology baked into the ACD, callers can obtain information from a phone system without the help of a traditional operator. The IVR uses voice prompts to provide callers with instructions and menu options, and then using a combination of touch tones and voice inputs, callers can indicate what it is they need.

4. The ACD sends the call to the agent that fits best for the chosen model

After the caller has indicated what they need help with, the ACD works with the IVR to guide the call to the appropriate agent. Based on the call center’s chosen model, the caller may ring every available agent at the same time, or possibly be connected to the person with the longest idle stretch between calls.

5. The correct agent takes the call and resolves the issue

With the call transferred, the agent will answer and work with the customer until the issue is resolved. In this use case, the automated call distributor serves as the intermediary between the customer and the business, matching customer intent with available resources to deliver the best and most efficient customer service experience possible.


How ACD systems help businesses scale support

For companies with ambitious growth goals and a desire to operate at peak performance, an ACD system is a valuable resource to take you to the next level. Incorporating an ACD into daily operations can provide a number of operational efficiencies and help CX leaders achieve greater results in call center customer support and beyond. Below are some of the most common benefits.

Better distributed call volumes

By using an ACD, companies can instantly transform an overwhelming number of calls into a well-organized queue. The ACD system can manage large call volumes and distribute those calls much more effectively than any team has the capacity to do, helping customer service soar rather than sink under the weight of so many inquiries.

Automated answers for many callers

Thanks to IVR, not only will callers receive a greeting and audio instructions from the virtual operator, but they may be able to access automated answers, as well. Especially for questions about business hours or an account balance, an IVR can easily assist customers without having to connect with an agent for a response.

Quicker resolution times

When you combine well-distributed calls with automated answers, you’ll reap the benefits of quicker resolution times, too. An ACD system makes the entire phone process so seamless, you’ll likely see improvements across the board. And speedier solutions inevitably translate to greater customer satisfaction and a stronger, more in sync support team.

Why call centers and other businesses commonly need ACD systems

The basic philosophy of customer service is simple — answer the phone, and solve the problem. But when customers don’t stick to business hours or flood the call center all at once, providing excellent service becomes a bit more challenging. Fortunately, an ACD can help your company meet these needs and more.

High call traffic

An ACD helps with high call traffic because it ensures the call is connected correctly the first time, rather than being shuffled around between multiple people before the right agent is found. High call traffic can cause customers to get frustrated, but since ACDs aid in a faster process, they lessen that frustration and allow callers to get on with their day.

Agents are not around (off-work hours)

While some contact centers operate around the clock, many do not. If a customer calls when no one is around, the ACD (via the IVR) can offer certain automated answers right away, rather than making them wait to call back on the next business day.

Multiple contact center locations

For companies overseeing multiple call centers, an ACD system is an incredibly important asset. Whether your contact center locations are domestic, international, or both, the ACD can make sure customers reach the best representative to resolve their issue.

5 features you get with an ACD system

If customer service is a priority to your company, then investing in an automated call distributor should be prioritized, as well. With only a basic phone system in place, your team won’t be able to handle near the volume of calls, and at a significantly slower pace. But with an ACD, fielding numerous calls and tackling a variety of concerns can happen without a hitch.

1. Call routing

As previously mentioned, there are a number of ways to route calls through an ACD system, and just as many reasons why a company might prefer one distribution method over another. The ability to fully customize your routing strategy makes it possible for your business to create the most intuitive, powerful platform to meet your specific needs.

2. Automated call-backs

Whenever you’re utilizing an ACD, be sure to provide an alternative for customers who don’t want to leave a message or can’t stay on hold any longer. By offering automated call-backs from the next available agent, callers can feel in control over their preferred way to get in touch.

3. Call queuing

All ACDs have the potential to organize call queuing, and some can even estimate the length of queue wait times. And to make waiting on hold even less painful, you can incorporate personalized options for how to get in touch with an agent another way, if necessary.

4. IVR with smart directory

Since the IVR is the first voice your callers hear, make their initial impression a positive one by using a smart directory. With this feature, you can channel callers to specialized teams with the right skills to tackle their issues. Phone calls can be sorted by language (English, Spanish, etc) or by individual departments.

5. Integration with CRM

Another great feature of ACD systems is the opportunity for integration with other business software, like customer relationship management (CRM). This integration ties your call center in with a greater customer service strategy, and will also save ample time on data entry, thanks to call notes and recordings being automatically linked between the ACD and CRM.

Who benefits from ACD systems?

As detailed in this 2018 report, complexity and confusion within call centers not only affects the overall customer experience, but it negatively impacts your bottom line, as well. But by including an ACD in your business model, there are countless people and processes that will benefit.

1. Call centers

Call centers may be the most obvious beneficiaries of automatic call distributors, since they’re where the calls are actually being fielded. These systems take the heavy lifting out of routing, to create a smoother, more enjoyable experience for those working on the phones.

2. Sales departments

Similarly, sales departments recognize the positive impact of ACDs and their amazing ability to serve customers quickly and professionally. ACD systems keep things organized rather than overwhelmed, avoiding the traps of backlogged calls and unhappy customers.

3. Customers

Speaking of customers, they also benefit greatly from companies using an ACD system. Customers save time, energy, and effort when searching for an answer to their question or a solution to their problem, and pocketing those things is truly invaluable.


Too often, businesses find they have more incoming calls than their agents can handle, and they lack applicable technology to remedy the situation. But with automatic call distribution, companies can take care of the phones and their customers with ease.

Our cloud contact center solution, CxEngage, provides a comprehensive suite of contact center technologies, including ACD, IVR, telephony integration (CTI), auto dialer and reporting functionalities, enabling customer experience leaders to deliver a high level of service quality while also streamlining workflows and improving agent productivity. To learn more about how CxEngage can support your business goals, contact us today to schedule a personalized demo.

Automated Call Distributor FAQs

What does ACD stand for?

The acronym ACD stands for an automated call distribution system, commonly referred to as an automatic call distributor. ACDs fall under the telephony field of technology, and are designed to answer and distribute inbound calls to the proper agents and teams.

Is an ACD system the same as an IVR system?

While these two systems differ, they do work together. When a customer reaches a call center by phone, the IVR will intercept the call and present a handful of options or instructions to them. Sometimes, these prompts will be enough to answer the caller’s question, and they won’t need to speak with a live agent. If they do need to talk to someone, the ACD will kick in and connect the caller with the right department.

Do ACD systems work?

Yes! These systems work very well in call centers across the country and around the world. ACDs assist with customer inquiries in a timely, cost-effective, and satisfying way, and when they’re cloud-based, there are really no limits to the dialer’s capacity or the number of lines a call center can host.