ACD vs IVR: How do contact center technologies enhance customer service?

Inidvidual sitting in home office with headset representing the world of contact center technology.


The world of contact center technology is awash with potentially confusing terminology. Anyone who works in a contact center or with contact center systems will be familiar with the terms Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR). But how well do you understand their capabilities? How do they enhance contact center performance? And what difference do they make to the caller experience?

In a previous blog, we looked in detail at the benefits of IVR. Here I’d like to focus on ACD, and how it works in harmony with IVR to deliver an efficient, streamlined, and professional service to anyone calling your contact center.

What is Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)?

The job of ACD is to distribute incoming calls to available agents. It helps busy call centers to organize large call volumes and ensure callers get through to an appropriate agent as quickly as possible.

ACD can use skill-based routing to direct certain calls to customer service agents with specific knowledge or expertise. It ensures callers with particular requirements always get through to the right person to help them. However, before callers can be routed according to their requirements, the call first needs to go through an IVR system.

ACD vs IVR – what’s the difference?

IVR is the first system a customer encounters when they call a contact center. It provides an automated menu of options, asking the caller to select the reason for their call. For example, callers may be asked to press 1 for sales, press 2 for customer service, and so on. IVR collects this data and passes it on to the ACD system. ACD then distributes the call to an available agent in the relevant department, according to a set of pre-defined rules.

How does ACD work?

Once the caller has selected their reason for calling, using IVR, they are placed in a queue. The ACD system is programmed to sort callers into queues based on certain criteria. Some calls may be prioritized due to their urgency, while others may require expert support from a specially qualified advisor. ACD routes all calls accordingly, depending on the criteria set — whether that means simply directing calls to the first available agent, or placing callers in a queue for a specific agent or team.

What are the benefits of IVR and ACD?

IVR and ACD work hand-in-hand in a cloud contact center system — helping to improve customer service. When customers call your contact center, you want to ensure they get through to the right person quickly, with minimal queuing. IVR caller identification and ACD call routing help to achieve those goals. They also provide information to agents about each caller, before they answer, helping them to respond appropriately.

The two systems eliminate the need for a front-desk employee to field calls and manually route callers to the right agents. This creates a more efficient and professional customer service experience for every caller.

Together, IVR and ACD support optimal call resolution, reduce waiting times, and enable more callers to talk to a live agent, instead of reaching a voicemail. They help to prevent logjams in the system at peak times, and empower agents to answer more calls.

Advanced contact center capabilities for SMBs

ACD and IVR are just two of the systems found in Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions, helping to deliver efficiencies, cost savings, and service improvements. Modern, cloud-based CCaaS solutions bring the benefits of enterprise-grade contact-center technology to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). Take a look at our blog to find out more about the benefits of contact center technology for SMBs.

With CCaaS, you get much more than just caller identification and routing. You get queue call-back services, enabling callers to avoid queuing by requesting a call back. You get multichannel capabilities, enabling callers to contact you via chat, SMS, and even social media. Whichever option customers choose, IVR and ACD help to direct calls and chats to the most appropriate available agent. CCaaS solutions also give managers access to real-time data on queue size, resolution times, agent performance, and abandoned calls — helping to continuously optimize contact center performance.

Find out how CCaaS technology – including ACD and IVR – can drastically improve your customer service capabilities.