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What’s the Difference Between Call Center ACD and an IVR?

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Author: TCN

The call center ACD, or automatic call distribution system, is used widely across industries, nearly as frequently as the very popular interactive voice response (IVR) system.

Thanks to advances in cloud contact center tech, these two are frequently paired together for maximum effect. We’ll show you how and why these integrations work at the end of this post.

Before we get to that, we need to understand precisely what call center ACD and IVR systems are, as well as their benefits and differences.

Let’s start with ACD.

What Is Call Center ACD?

A call center ACD system routes incoming calls to the appropriate agent based on a number of factors and configurations that vary between contact centers.

An ACD can work with call centers and contact centers that employ in-house agents or rely on remote agents, especially if they use a cloud solution that doesn’t require hardware or phone lines.

When callers are being routed, they’re not always immediately connected to an agent. But instead of leaving the caller in silence, call centers can choose the hold music they listen to, any “whisper messages” they may need to hear, estimated wait time notifications, and the position in line the caller occupies.

There are also a few different ways an ACD system can route agents.

Probably the most beneficial is routing calls to agents who are best-suited to satisfy the caller’s needs. Meaning, the agent has the skills, expertise, and experience to help customers solve their problems the first time.

Another way to route calls is by using pre-defined criteria, such as language. If a customer from Mexico calls the customer service line, or a customer chooses the Spanish-speaking option from the IVR menu, the ACD system will route the caller to a Spanish-speaking agent.

ACD systems can also provide call monitoring and call barging (someone jumping into the call), so if a manager needs to step into the middle of a conversation as it’s happening, they can.

What Is an IVR System?

An interactive voice response (IVR) system is automated software that provides pre-recorded messages and responses to caller queries.

Callers are greeted by the IVR system and given a set of options. They can then interact with IVR using voice commands or the keypad on their phone.

When a caller chooses an option, the IVR system navigates them to another set of options or connects them with the customer service agent or department they need to reach.

Callers may also perform tasks with the IVR system and never have to interact with a live person for activities like paying bills, using checking accounts, verifying an address, changing a password, etc. This frees up agents to focus on more complex issues with other customers.

IVR systems can deliver real-time statistics and benchmarks, providing managers with much-needed data for tracking KPIs. This allows them to see if they’re progressing toward their goals and helps to forecast future needs.

IVR systems also save a lot of money on staff since it enables customers to solve many of their own issues without ever spending time with an agent. Normally, call centers would have to resort to hiring extra agents if routine processes aren’t automated in this way.

Adding to the savings, when an IVR is deployed in the cloud, managers don’t need to install expensive hardware to get the show up and running.

What Is the Difference Between Call Center ACD and IVR?

Now that we know what call center ACD and IVR systems are, let’s break down exactly how they’re different.

When a customer reaches a call center by phone, it’s the IVR system that intercepts them. From here, customers choose the options presented to them. Sometimes this will be enough and the customer calling won’t need to speak to a live agent. But if they do, the ACD system will kick in.

The ACD system is responsible for leading callers to the right department or agents. Where the ACD system directs them is dependent upon the options the customer chose when interacting with the IVR.

So, while they may perform different functions, they work very well together.

How a Call Center ACD System Integrates with an IVR System Through Cloud Technology

Let’s stop focusing on the differences between call center ACD and IVR systems, and let’s start talking about how they complement each other.

Cloud contact center technology is able to bring both of these outstanding systems together to create an automated customer service solution that satisfies everyone.

IVR systems automatically enable customers to solve their own problems – which is what they want to do anyway; 67% of consumers prefer self-service over interacting with a customer service representative.

ACD systems route calls to agents who are able to deliver what the customer needs.

These services work hand-in-hand to handle calls in a timely, cost-effective and satisfying manner. And when they’re cloud-based, there are virtually no limits on the dialer’s capacity or the number of lines a contact center can have.

But there are even more benefits than these. That’s why we’ve put together a free e-book that walks through it all.

Discover the 6 major reasons why many call center executives are switching to the cloud today.

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About the Author: TCN


TCN is a leading provider of cloud-based call center technology for enterprises, contact centers, BPOs, and collection agencies worldwide. Founded in 1999, TCN combines a deep understanding of the needs of call center users with a highly affordable delivery model, ensuring immediate access to robust call center technology, such as predictive dialer, IVR, call recording, and business analytics required to optimize operations and adhere to TCPA regulations. Its “always-on” cloud-based delivery model provides customers with immediate access to the latest version of the ClearTouch solution, as well as the ability to quickly and easily scale and adjust to evolving business needs. ClearTouch serves various Fortune 500 companies and enterprises in multiple industries, including newspaper, collection, education, healthcare, automotive, political, customer service, and marketing.