Known as automatic call distribution, or ACD switch is the heart of call center system, answering incoming calls and then figuring out what to do next. 

Some examples of ACD actions include:

  • Identifying callers based on their phone number, dialed line, or other information
  • Greeting customers using a recorded message (often through an IVR)
  • Asking callers to provide details about what they are looking for help with
  • Choosing the best call routing path based on the information provided, time of day, call queue status, IVR selections, customer attributes, and a range of other factors
  • Creating a smooth flow between automated systems and live agents

How does the ACD know where to send the calls, to get them to the right places?

That is determined by following rules setup by the user. The algorithm for routing ACD calls can work in a few different ways. ACD systems can consider the incoming phone number or line, traffic volume, wait or hold times, time of day/day of week, special customer details, and the skills or departments needed to handle the call. The ACD (or the virtual ACD) takes all of this information into consideration, scans it against the rules that have been configured, and makes an educated decision about where the call should be directed.

6 Common Strategies For An Automatic Call Distribution System

There are several methods for call distribution. Which one is best can vary by call center, department, or even by campaign. We’ll discuss some of the more common ACD routing tactics:

Fixed Routing:

ACD calls go to agents in a standard order, with each call starting at the top of the group, ringing for a specified time, and then passing to the next agent until someone answers. With this method, agents further down the line will receive fewer calls than those at the front. That may be good to funnel calls to your faster agents, but it is not very efficient, runs the risk of under-utilizing some agents, and does not necessarily ensure that the person receiving the call is qualified to assist the customer.

Simultaneous Routing:

With this approach, calls ring for every available agent at the same time. The first to pick up handles the call. Use this method if quick customer response time is most important to you, or if you want to keep your agents on their toes and reward them for answering the most calls. But if you want to reduce customer transfers and subsequent hold times, resolve customer issues more quickly, and make the best use of all of your agent resources, you may want to choose another method.

Average Talk Time Routing:

In this tactic, calls go to the agent with the fewest calls or longest idle time between calls. Using talk time to determine routing can help balance the work load by distributing calls more equitably, but again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the agent who gets the call is going to be able to help the customer effectively or efficiently, potentially extending resolution times and customer frustrations.

Priority Routing:

This strategy lets you assign a higher priority or value to certain accounts – such as VIPs, repeat customers, higher dollar value accounts, etc. This is great for making the big fish happy, by pushing them to the front of the line for service when they call. But making your other customers wait longer might end up costing you more in attrition.

Skills-based Routing:

This advanced approach is a more tailored method, with the goal of matching every call to the best resource to handle it quickly and correctly. Agents are assigned rankings in skilled areas (language proficiency, product knowledge, customer service skills, certifications, etc.) Once a caller’s issue is identified, the ACD picks the agent that is the most suitable match. Proficiency levels can help choose between similarly skilled agents. SBR can result in better first-call resolution rates and happier, more loyal customers, but it can also result in longer hold times, as customers wait for the right agents to become available.

Time-based Routing:

This option can be used in conjunction with any of the above. The ACD uses scheduling data to skip over agents who aren’t working or who are busy when a call comes in. This can be a helpful way to reduce the time it takes to answer a call. Use this method to decrease wait times without disturbing busy agents.


7 Benefits of an ACD System

1. With the right configuration and tools, an effective ACD streamlines the entire call routing process and minimizes wasted time, for agents and for customers.

2. Connect customers with the right agent, right away – First-call resolution and customer satisfaction are very important metrics for a call center. They can directly impact your company’s ability to hold retain your customers for the long haul. If you can get your callers to the right agent to solve their problem – and if you can get them there quickly – they are less likely to leave.

3. Treat every customer with a personal touch – Having to talk to multiple people and having to repeat their name and problem for each new person at your office is tedious and frustrating for your customers. Integrating your ACD with your CRM, ticketing, order entry, or other system, puts all of the information in one place. Your customers don’t have to repeat themselves and your agents can quickly access their data – not only from this call, but from previous ones as well – for faster service and a better experience.

4. Manage customer queues, even during busy periods or after-hours – Customers today expect 24/7 access to your business, and an ACD can provide a warm and welcoming experience any time of day. Within business hours, calls can be managed more efficiently to help reduce long wait queues – extended hold times can be harmful to your business – using tools like self-service and voicemail. Try giving your callers regular updates about their place in line, or giving them the option of hanging up and getting a call back when the next agent becomes available, so they don’t lose their spot, or even at a time that is more convenient for them. After-hours, you can set a rule on your system to send calls to voicemail during off hours, or even to an emergency phone line.

5. Evaluate and improve agent performance – The ACD can let you listen to live agent calls and record them to review later. You can also use coaching and barge modes to listen to conversations and help guide agents, or even to take over a call and speak directly with the customer. Call scoring lets you evaluate performance to route calls to more successful agents, and to help provide training where there may be gaps.

6. Route more than just phone calls – Today’s consumers use a range of channels for contacting companies, such as email, text, web chats, and social media. Modern ACD systems support omnichannel routing, so even non-voice contacts get answered by the best person, and all interactions can be measured.

7. Monitor and support your call center – ACDs collect all kinds of real-time and historical data about what is going on in the call center, including call volume on a given day or time, average call lengths, agent performance, customer satisfaction, and so much more. Live dashboards that give you up-to-the-second views of what is happening and in-depth reporting are vital to providing you with the business data you need to make informed decisions that can help your company succeed.

Maximize efficiency and reduce costs – When calls are sent to the right agents the first time and aren’t bouncing from desk to desk in search of a place to land, your agents can handle more calls more quickly. Your team can improve productivity and even take on new programs, while using fewer resources. This helps you save overhead costs and reduce operating expenses.

Learn how to increase the productivity of your Inbound call center campaigns.


Alvaria is the world leader in enterprise-scale customer experience (CX) and workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions. Our name is derived from Latin for “hives” – nature’s perfect form for millions of years – bringing you call center solutions that are scalable, resilient and secure, with efficiency, speed and pinpoint accuracy.