Since the introduction by Rockwell Electronic Commerce Ltd of the first Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) switch in the 1970’s, it has become the staple piece of equipment within a contact center. Fundamentally, the purpose of the ACD in its early days was to take a call, route it according to rules, ensure that it didn’t fall through the cracks (utilizing a "push" vs, pull mechanism and continually searching for an available user to take the interaction), and provide detailed reporting.
As contact center technologies evolved, supervisors could take advantage of a host of other activities surrounding ACD routed interactions: real time monitoring, recording, scoring for quality purposes, scheduling people based upon ACD activity, surveying for customer satisfaction ratings, and historical reporting for an understanding of what transpired.
To some, even in 2009, the acronym "ACD" still means a system that just routes calls and nothing else. Here at Interactive Intelligence, we feel that ACD has come of age, and that intelligent ACD routing, as well as recording, quality assurance, scheduling, surveying, and reporting can be applied to all interaction types as well as work items. Call it ACD 2.0, if you will.
Despite the initial name of Automatic "Call" Distributor, ACD 2.0 is now used to route non-voice interactions, such as email, web chat, SMS, faxes, voicemail, callback requests, work items and more. Today’s ACD 2.0 provides intelligent routing not just as first in/first out, but can also look at customer-based criteria such as the email sender’s address, or IP address, their customer ranking (e.g. gold, silver bronze), past purchasing patterns; and user-based criteria such as their presence "status", skills, cost, customer satisfaction ranking, and location, as well as whether the user has worked with that particular customer in the past. Interactions can route based upon desired service level goals to ensure the best possible coverage by the highest skilled person in the subject area selected by the customer, or predicted by the customer’s profile.
We think ACD 2.0 is alive and well, and that ACD routing will continue to evolve in the future, providing unique routing patterns for high-value customers based upon their profile. Have they bought certain products, or are they more knowledgeable about them? They may want to hear a different menu of IVR options, or want to see different responses during a web chat. Have they indicated that they absolutely hate IVRs? Companies dedicated to customer service may decide to route those customers directly to agents, rather than forcing the caller to listen to an IVR and eventually "zero" out in frustration.
At the same time, ACD systems will continue to evolve in their handling of multichannel interactions and work tasks, providing better tools to ensure compliance with targeted service level goals, and to reduce the cost and human latency in business processes. We’ve come a long way with the ACD, but there’s still a lot more we can do to improve it, and some of the most exciting changes are just reaching the market this year.
The world has evolved quite a bit since the 1970’s and the initial introduction of the Rockwell ACD. We’d only just gotten to the moon. The PC industry hadn’t really begun. Arpanet was underway, but a publicly usable Internet was years away. We didn’t even have VHS yet! Just as we’ve changed over the years, it’s pretty clear that ACDs have, too. What I’m trying to say is that ACD 2.0 isn’t your grandfather’s old Rockwell any longer, and the best is yet to come.
What’s your opinion on the ACD? We’d love to hear from you.