ACD, aka Automatic Call Distribution, is a telephony software tool that automates incoming call distribution amongst your staff. A business can define rules for how this distribution takes place, based on their needs.
Generally, an ACD works with your call routing parameters to connect callers to the right department; and then follows another set of rules to determine how these calls are distributed amongst your workforce.
First, Understand Call Routing
There are two steps to distributing your calls perfectly amongst your workforce. The first step is call routing. Call Routing is a set of rules that determine which agent, or group of agents, should answer your call, at which time.
This could be based on agent skills, timings, or customer priority.
Suppose, your customer needs to speak with someone who has a particular expertise; this system will route their call to this expert agent. Or, if someone needs a person who speaks their language, the call routing system helps them connect with the apt person. (Also Read: Skill Routing.)
You can even ensure that a customer is routed to the same agent every single time.
Apart from this, you have multiple ways to route calls as per customer priority or customer category. (Also Read: How to make your customer feel like a VIP)
Second, Decode ACD
At Ozonetel, we consider ACD or Automatic Call Distribution, as the second feature that comes into play when routing calls.
Let’s say your call has routed to the correct department, based on your routing rules. Now, how do you distribute these calls amongst all the agents qualified to take the call? That’s where you use your ACD, or automatic call distributor, to take care of things. Here are the two different ways in which you can set up your ACD:
Idle Agent First
In this kind of call distribution, the system sends the call to the agent who has handled the least duration of calls so far.
How does your system calculate this? Simple. Every agent logs in to receive calls, so the system keeps track of both talk time and idle times for each agent. Based on this, it sends calls to the agent with the maximum idle time. This means that, suppose Agent 1 has answered three calls so far, totaling 20 minutes; and Agent 2 has answered two calls totaling 30 minutes, the call goes to Agent 1. In other words, work is not distributed based on the number of calls, but on total call duration.
Result: Total talk time is evenly distributed amongst your workforce.
The other way to distribute calls is via Round Robin. In this system, we have a fixed sequence for distributing calls. Let’s say you have assigned a sequence: Agent 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. When a call comes in, if Agent 1 does not answer, it passes on to Agent 2, and so on, until the call is finally answered. Let’s say Agent 3 answers this call. Then the next call that comes in automatically routes to Agent 4. You can specify after how many rings the call should move from one agent to the next within your settings to ensure that customers’ calls are answered on time.
This system does not consider how long your agent spends on the call. If s/he is next in line, that’s whom the call goes to. So the total number of calls is evenly distributed amongst the agents, although they may not spend the same amount of talk time on each call.
Result: Calls are distributed evenly amongst your workforce.
Third, determine which ACD is best for your business
What type of ACD is right for your business? To answer this, you need to consider your call volumes, call purpose, and the number of agents. If you have a large workforce with dedicated agents, we generally advise the idle agent first. This system of ACD is particularly popular for customer support centers. Or for large call centers that are dedicated to answering inbound sales calls.
For businesses where staff are multitasking; and answering calls is just one of their duties, the round-robin system works better. We often advise clients to use this system when they have inbound sales calls, especially when their sales force also has other tasks to attend to, such as meeting clients, attending networking events, etc.
Fourth, enable fallbacks
When used correctly, ACD along with skill routing can help you improve agent efficiency drastically. But more importantly, by moving calls faster, it ensures that there are shorter queues, and customers don’t have to wait in long queues when they call your business.
But even with the best processes in place, at times, call queues can get longer than expected. How can you rescue the customer experience at such times? Setting up fallback rules is the answer.
A fallback rule essentially tells the system what to do if a customer waits in queue for more than a certain amount of time. Some fallback rules you could set are: IVR callback, IVR self-service, Multi-Skill Divert, or Voice Mail.
An IVR callback feature allows customers to opt for a callback when call queues are high. A similar auto callback can be created for all calls abandoned in the queue. IVR self-service allows customers to complete simple tasks such as checking their complaint/delivery status, canceling orders, or even answering simple FAQ’s. Multi-Skill Divert sends calls to another skill group when all the agents in one skill group are busy. Voice Mail fallback allows a customer to leave a message rather than waiting in queue.
Finally, learn which features enhance your ACD
Certain features are essential to complement your Automatic Call Distributor. This includes:
Live Monitoring & Reports.
ACD automates how you distribute your calls. But for good workforce management you need live monitoring tools and reporting. A Live Dashboard lets supervisors keep a watch on call queues across all your skills or departments. It allows supervisors to “barge-in” or “whisper” to help their agents resolve calls that are escalating. Reports allow them to answer questions like “what are my peak hours?”, and view their abandoned call lists.
IVR. Modern IVRs can improve customer experience and automate many inbound and outbound processes including self-service options. (Learn more here.)
CRM Integrations. Your ACD can use CRM data to personalize every call. For example, you may want to divert some callers to self-service and others to live agents. Or you may want specialized agents to handle open tickets. You can also categorize and prioritize some customers using your ACD-CRM integration. (Also Read: How to use ACD to prioritize your VIP customers)
Dialers. Although we typically think of dialers as an outbound calling tool, they can assist your inbound campaigns by acting as a fallback for abandoned calls. This is by auto assigning the abandoned calls to an outbound campaign. Whenever the system detects that an agent is free, your auto-dialers will automatically dial and connect these numbers to this idle agent. (Also Read: Related Case Study)
The more automation you use, the easier the work gets. ACD can help you better manage your inbound customer support as well as inbound sales calls. We have clients who use our systems to answer tens of thousands of calls daily with only a few hundred agents. Or at a smaller scale, thousands of calls with only 15-20 agents. But more importantly, using automated call routing and ACD helps deliver stellar customer experience metrics and fair workforce management practices.