Automatic Call Distribution System: How to Leverage it for a Contact Center?

This blog explains Automatic Call Distribution Systems, how they can improve customer experience, and top ACD software providers.

November 12, 2020
10 mins read
Last Updated October 10, 2023
ACD System

Automatic Call Distribution System: How to Leverage it for a Contact Center?

Businesses in the U.S. lose an estimated $62 billion yearly due to bad customer experiences. The primary reason is that customers abandon brands after negative experiences.

In fact, research shows that about 33% of Americans switch companies after a single instance of poor service. This constant shift of customers affects sales and brand value as a whole. Additionally, the effort it takes to bring in new customers is much higher than providing better service to existing customers. Thus, top-notch customer service is crucial to achieve continued growth in the business.

Setting up a contact center is a surefire way to provide customers with a platform to connect with you. Cloud-based centers, for one, are platform-agnostic and scalable as per your demands. So, your agents will handle a sudden increase in calls without call drops or latency.

Furthermore, with an omnichannel platform and optimization of API integrations into your software, customers can connect through digital channels. APIs like in-app messaging, chat, and video calling gives customers the power to choose their preferred channel to interact with agents.

So, if your telephone lines are occupied, the customers can simply leave a callback request on chat. In addition to this, they could also select time-slots to connect with your help agents depending on their work and daily schedules.

“But, is it possible to connect customers with the right agent every time?”, you may ask.

Why, yes! That’s where the Automatic Call Distribution system steps in. As the term suggests, this software is deployed to ensure even distribution of calls between agents. Collaborating with an IVR system, this call management system places the control in your hands to manage inbound calls.

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What is Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)?

Automatic call distribution, or ACD, is a digital telephonic system that receives incoming calls, filters them based on predefined distribution rules, and directs them to suitable call center agents, departments, or IVR menus.

An automated call distribution system eliminates needless call transfers and matches phone calls to suitable agents with the skills to resolve a query. Also, it optimizes call assignments to decrease call waiting times and increase customer satisfaction.

How ACD works?

An ACD call routing system performs three essential functions: caller identification, queuing and routing, and call connection and distribution.

1. Caller identification

Firstly, ACD checks the contact details from inbound calls against customer data in a CRM to identify the caller and their purpose using Caller ID, Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS), or Automatic Number Identification (ANI). Then, it routes those calls to the appropriate agent.

Suppose the caller contacts the organization for the first time. In that case, interactive voice response (IVR) systems gather their details and intent through user input and instantly input this information into the CRM. Organizations commonly use caller IDs when advanced phone systems cannot identify the caller.

2. Queuing and routing

Once the automated call distribution software establishes the caller’s intent, it places the caller on hold and directs the call to an appropriate queue. This queue can either be a general one, where any available agent can answer incoming calls, or it can be specific to a particular agent, ensuring that calls are directly assigned to the most suitable available agent.

The assignment process is determined by the ACD using various factors, including the agent’s team or department affiliation, the agent’s current queue workload and availability, and the estimated wait time for the caller. In some instances, advanced criteria, such as the agent’s skill level, may also be employed within the ACD to enhance the routing process.

3. Call routing

When a caller is connected with an agent, the agent is responsible for answering the caller’s queries and fixing any essential concerns. After a call is connected, ACD does not interfere much. It only does so when it has to monitor and keep call records to analyze and optimize the assignment process in real-time.

However, if an agent is engaged for an extended period or cannot pick up the phone, the call will be swiftly routed to another agent. ACDs also provide improved call waiting options, such as callback requests, which allow callers to request that an agent call them back when available rather than waiting on hold. When a consumer calls after business hours, ACD might route them to voicemail.

Types of Automatic Call Distribution

Types of Automatic Call Distribution

ACD routing strategies determine how calls are assigned to call center agents. Common methods of distributing calls by using the ACD system in call center are:

1. Linear distribution routing

In linear distribution routing, the virtual automatic call distribution center assigns calls to agents based on a predetermined order. If any agent in this order is occupied, incoming calls are queued until the next available agent can answer.

For instance, if the first four out of six agents are busy, the call is directed to the fifth agent. The order restarts with each new call, rechecking the availability of the first four agents before considering the other two.

2. Circular routing

Circular routing is similar to linear routing but slightly different. Instead of always starting from the beginning of the agent list, a new call is assigned to the following agent in line.

For example, if there are five agents, and the last call is assigned to the third agent, the next call would be directed to the fourth agent, avoiding the need to cycle through all agents.

3. Uniform distribution

Uniform distribution relies on call logs to assess which agents have had the least workload or idle time. It aims to evenly distribute incoming calls among agents to ensure a balanced distribution of both workload and time. Agents who have been less occupied are given priority in receiving new calls.

4. Simultaneous distribution

If you want to minimize customer wait times, simultaneous call distribution works best for you. In this approach, the automated call system notifies all available agents simultaneously when a call comes in. The agent who answers the call first will assist the customer promptly.

5. Weighted distribution

In weighted distribution, incoming calls are assigned to agents based on a predetermined weighting system. Agents are allocated a specific weight, determining the percentage of incoming calls they receive.

For example, suppose an agent has a weighting of thirty. In that case, they will be assigned 30% of all incoming calls, allowing for a customized allocation of calls based on agent capabilities or specialization.

Understanding the Architectures of ACD and IVR systems

The primary feature of an ACD system is to route customer calls to specific agents assigned by managers based on their availability and skills. This way, customers get quick solutions without waiting on calls for longer time spans. Moreover, it assures callers that customer service is a priority for your organization and builds a lasting relationship with them.

A proficiently designed automatic call distribution (ACD) system is crucial in efficiently routing incoming calls. It ensures that callers with support-related inquiries are directed to the appropriate technicians, those with pricing questions are directed to the sales team, and urgent calls receive priority placement in the queue or immediate assistance.

We already saw some common call distribution methods used by call and contact centers to optimize their agent productivity.

In addition to those, we have IVR (Interactive Voice Response) that works in coordination with the automatic call distributor. For example, the welcome greetings at the beginning of calls or the music played during the waiting periods are functions of the IVR system. Thus, the IVR system works as a gateway to the ACD system. Together they allow agents to provide more personalized customer services.

Therefore, if your contact center uses an IVR system for customer service, an ACD system provides enhanced functionality to improve customer experience.

ACD vs IVR – How are they different?

It’s easy to confuse the roles and benefits of ACD and IVR systems in a contact center. In fact, the internet is filled with CTOs and managers looking for alternatives to improve their customer service.

Let’s take a real-life example to understand how the systems function –

Samuel is a working professional looking for Mutual Fund investment options on the Internet. He finds suitable plans on ABC Bank’s website and calls the contact center to learn more about his options. The IVR system greets him with, “Welcome to ABC Bank. We are happy to help you. If you are an existing customer please press 1, if not press 2.” Thereafter, the system plays, “Please select a service you would like to opt for.” The IVR provides options- banking, Mutual Funds, other investments, credit card applications, or other services. Samuel selects Mutual Fund and other investments through his dial-pad. The IVR plays a hold ringtone till the call is transferred to an agent.

At this point, the ACD system joins the call. It collects the data that Samuel is a new customer and is interested in investing in mutual funds. The ACD matches the agent data available in the system with the information required by Samuel. Agent Ralph has expertise in investments, especially in mutual funds, and is highly-rated by customers for being polite and friendly. The call is, then routed to Agent Ralph in less than a minute along with a list of likely investment plans.

A year after investing in a plan with ABC Bank, Samuel calls the contact center to know his account balance. After the initial welcome greeting, Samuel selects the existing customer option. He is then given a list of services – know your account balance, find our nearest branch, apply for a new debit card or other services. He picks the first option, and the IVR system retrieves the information from the database and provides an automated response. This saved the time it normally takes to route the call to an agent, yet the information is conveyed.

How can ACD systems improve customer experience?

Research shows that 42% of agents fail to resolve their customer issues due to disconnected systems and archaic user interfaces. Therefore, the main objective of adopting a call management system is to make the service effortless for both, customers and agents. This starts with finding the right agent for every customer without long waiting periods. An ACD system is equipped with features more than just call routing.
Here’s an infographic to highlight the features of an ACD system-

Features of ACD system

Let us understand how the ACD system helps contact centers achieve their business goals-

#1 Maximum Agent Productivity

With an automated call routing system, rest assured that your customer calls are equally distributed, and agents work to their maximum potential. Additionally, automated call distribution systems can measure agents’ performance and give feedback with call monitoring.

Furthermore, analytics gives you an insight into the average call durations, calls attended in a day, queries resolved, etc. This helps you chart customer service strategies.

What’s more, cloud-based automatic call distributor software enables teams to work from any corner of the world with continued performance even in difficult situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

#2 Faster and Personalized Services

Call recording and CRM integration let agents resolve issues based on the caller data saved in the database. As a result, customers spend less time explaining the context to their questions and complaints. Say, your contact center offers customer service for laptops and PCs. Your database contains information about users’ PC models, warranty details, last date of service, and other related specifics. So, when you receive a call from a customer, the agent has all the details to come up with a quick and personalized solution.

To complement this, the call queuing feature lists callers waiting to interact with agents. The list is further bifurcated to prioritize VIP or privileged customers over other callers. This helps achieve 100% customer satisfaction and retention of loyal customers.

#3 Real-time Training for Agents

Call barging and whisper coaching are methods to train agents while they are on call with customers. Managers can join calls midway if they think the agents are unable to solve customer queries. Similarly, if agents have difficulty providing information, managers can prompt them over calls. What’s more, the call continues without the customer realizing that the manager is part of the call.

#4 Improved First Call Resolution (FCR)

FCR is a crucial parameter to determine the success of contact centers. Research suggests 66% of customers feel that valuing their time is an important part of a good customer experience. Customers value brands that straighten out their problems in the first go without them having to follow-up with multiple calls. Some ways to go about this is by connecting customers per their preferred language, cutting the waiting time, giving clear instructions, automating call routing, among others. These improvements go a long way in customer satisfaction.

#5 24/7 Customer Service

Yes, you read that right! It’s possible to engage with your customers 24/7 without hiring extra agents for your contact centers. When IVR and ACD systems work in collaboration, you can offer round-the-clock services to customers. In case a live agent is unavailable to take a customer call, the IVR welcomes and records their message. In fact, with automatic callback, customers are notified of the estimated call-back time and scheduled for a call as soon as an agent is available.

In some cases, pre-recorded messages independently assist customers, eliminating the need to speak to a representative.

Top 5 Automatic Call Distribution system providers

With a fair understanding of the functions and uses of an ACD system, let’s move ahead with choosing the best option for your business. There are three aspects you need to consider before adopting an ACD system –

Does it integrate with your CRM software?

Is it secure and scalable?

Does it support multi-channel routing?

Contact centers today are no longer restricted to the telephone-based model. They include various digital and social media channels along with voice calls for better customer reach. Therefore, it is imperative to choose a system that fulfills your service needs in the long run.

Here is a compiled list of software providers offering assorted services and features. We have included their respective case studies to give you all-round information.


Talkdesk is a leading CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) provider that offers comprehensive ACD systems for contact centers. Depending on the size of your business, you can choose from a curated list of plans specially designed for small businesses and contact centers with remote staff.

If you’re a larger contact center looking for a tailored solution, TalkDesk lets you customize your subscriptions to match your requirement. Besides the conventional call routing services, you get call monitoring, conferencing, and barging facilities. What’s more, it generates retrospective and instant data to give managers an understanding of their representatives’ performance.

The online mattress company Tuft & Needle improved its agent performance with real-time reporting and analytics. With an omnichannel approach, the company handled more customer interactions through different communication channels without bringing in more staff.

Similarly, PaySimple, a payment platform, witnessed a drop of 6.5% in its call abandonment rate. With customizable call routing management, the company saved an average of 30 minutes per agent every day.


Five9 GeniusTM offers an intelligent Cloud Contact Center and handles interaction routing via both voice and digital channels like call, email, chat, video. Through this omnichannel platform, even remote agents can interact with customers hassle-free.

The company offers a self-service, call routing tool called the Engagement Workflow. This tool places the control right into your hands, so you can optimize its functions to plan your customer service. Pennsylvania-based Penn Foster deployed the Engagement Workflow tool to maintain its contact centers across the US. With effective call routing, better data collection, and reporting, the organization saw a decline of 6.7% in the inbound call abandon rate. Moreover, despite an increase in the number of calls, they observed an 18% improvement in their service.

To top this off, the “screen pops” feature sends agents basic information about customers before the interaction begins. This can be easily achieved by connecting the ACD system with the company’s CRM software.


Vonage is a Premier Partner on Salesforce AppExchange, which means Vonage’s contact centers and the ACD systems are designed to seamlessly integrate with Salesforce CTIs. This integration enables contact centers to use dynamic call routing that enables agents to access data and set priority for customer lists.

Sure Petcare, a pet care products company, set-up and integrated an in-house contact center with Salesforce integration. The company also leveraged call routing to offer multilingual services to its customers across Europe. With Vonage’s affordable pay-per-month solutions, the company handles 30,000 calls every year, even remotely.

Vonage’s ACD systems also prioritize agents in queues based on their skills. Furthermore, customers can select the preferred channel, say, voice, chat, SMS, email, or social media they want to be routed to.


Avoxi offers a 7-day free trial of its Automatic Call Distribution software with customizable auto call routing options that provide an automatic call back, analytics, and CRM integration.

The everyday communication of Grace Bay Resorts depended on a local telephone provider. But, with features like call recording, analytics, and welcome greeting, not only did they improve the customer experience they also cut phone costs by 75-80%.

NICE inContact

NICE inContact CXone Automatic Call Distribution offers skill-based routing through its omnichannel engine. This software provides a single universal queue for 30+ channels that are handled by agents all at the same time via the omnichannel interface. This means your agents will answer calls, reply to emails, offer solutions through live-chat, and much more, simultaneously.

The CXone ACD systems also provide a combined integration of AI and analytics for call routing. NextGear Capital deployed the CXone call routing software for its in-house contact center. With around 55,000 calls attended by 55 agents every month, a scalable skill-based call routing system was a necessity. The company achieved a 10% increase in customer satisfaction with efficient call management. In addition to this, the fully-functional contact center saw a 16% growth without hiring extra 10 agents. This saves the company about $100,000 per year.

Empowering ACD systems with Contact Center APIs

Having chosen the right ACD system for your contact center, it’s time for you to modernize it. Whether you are updating your current system or building a new one, APIs are an essential element. An Application Programming Interface (API) links your ACD system to third-party applications to improve the overall functionality of the system and extend its technical capacities.

Therefore, if customers want to reach you over a channel other than a voice call, they can do so with video, messages, or social media. This way, interacting with a customer service agent through Whatsapp or Messenger will be as simple as texting a friend. Consequently, your organization becomes more customer-friendly, especially with the Millennials.

Here is a list of 4 APIs to transform your services for the customers –

Video API

By integrating Video API into your ACD software, customers can choose to interact over a video call with your agents. This ensures an uninterrupted, real-time conversation between your customers and agents.

Suppose, you are a camera repair service provider. You can introduce video calling for issues that can be resolved by customers themselves. This reduces the time spent by customers in finding and traveling to service centers. It is equally beneficial to your agents as it eliminates the need to constantly update the progress in the system.

How to choose the best Video APIs? Let’s take the example of Sinch Video Calling API. The cloud communications provider facilitates cross-platform integration, enabling customers to connect with your platform via an internet connection. Similarly, MirrorFly Video Calling API enables a live video recording feature that lets customers record conversations with an agent and use it as a guide when similar issues arise.

Messages API

With messaging channels, customers experience the ease of communicating with service agents while on the go. For instance, Tom is facing issues while making payments through his credit card. Rather than calling the contact center, he can simply chat with the agent to fix this problem. So, if it’s a minor issue like servers failing to respond, the information is communicated within a few minutes.

What to look for in a Messages API? Vonage’s Messages API enables you to add Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Viber Service Messages, SMS, and MMS to your system.

They come with JWT (JSON Web Token) authentication that certifies the user’s identity, securing platforms for transferring sensitive information like bank account details.

Email API

A major segment of customer service depends on emails. The main benefit of the platform is sending transactional emails like account creation, welcome emails, payment receipts, among others. But, more importantly, agents leverage emails to provide timely customer updates.

For example, Rachel ordered a dress from an e-commerce website. However, the website canceled the delivery, and no refunds were initiated after 15 days of cancellation. So when she connects with agent Roger, he initially raises a ticket with the merchandising team about the order cancellation. Thereafter, the accounts department initiates the refund process, and the sales team creates a compensatory offer for the customer. Instead of calling or sending lengthy messages, agent Roger sends a consolidated email with updates to Rachel that acts as a complete service.

How to choose an all-inclusive Email API? Twilio’s SendGrid offers simple templates and a customizable API to suit your business needs. It also has an intuitive user interface for data analysis and a scalable platform. Moreover, it ensures complete data protection, the systematic categorization of users, and access permissions to ensure zero data breaches.

Co-browsing API

This is an important feature while helping a customer resolve an issue. By integrating the co-browsing your agents can see what the customers are viewing on their screens. With this feature, agents can help customers book flight tickets, make payments, run software and so much more. They can communicate via voice and video calls or messages.

While many video calling platforms make screen-sharing available, low internet connectivity can pixelate the images. This makes it difficult for agents to read the information on the screen. With co-browsing, they get clear and real-time visuals of the customer screens. Upscope API allows agents to draw patterns like arrows and circles on the screen to help customers understand better. Surfly API can also be integrated with your video chats and CRM for improved co-browsing.


The ultimate aim of any organization is customer engagement and satisfaction. Agents will have a systematic work structure by integrating new and modern technologies like ACD and APIs into their contact centers. They can focus on providing services rather than dealing with technical challenges.

A survey conducted by Oracle shows that 89% of customers opt for a competitor brand after a poor customer experience. Therefore, top-notch customer service forms the backbone of business growth and development.

Simform is an API Integration Partner to Vonage. Together, the two companies are set to transform the world of customer services. Let us know in the comments your views on improving contact center services.

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Working from last 10+ years into consumer and enterprise mobility, Hardik leads large scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization and best practices.

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