contact centerThe ACD has been around since the 1970s but grew into a key technology for the call center during the 80’s and 90’s.

In those early days the customer service world was usually very simple with many separate call centers set up for geographies or service types e.g. billing, product support etc.  However, the demands on the call center have changed rapidly in the last 10 years:

  • It’s now a contact center which handles more than just calls
  • Calls are not just handled within the business but partners and outsourcers have been introduced
  • Geographies have been broken down and service knowledge distributed across teams in-order to drive better service and reduce cost

The ACD has been a key technology to support this change but in-order to support it, the contact center operations team has had to develop complex routing strategies and business processes to manage the skill changes to match the resources to the call arrival pattern.

This approach is not efficient for the organization and also it doesn’t make the experience better for the customer – the math just doesn’t add up! Let me explain…

ACDs tend to be based on queues and even those that talk about skill based routing usually use queues to represent skills.  This means that for each skill combination there has to be a queue which can rapidly grow: one skill equals one queue, two skills could require three queues (a, b & a+b), three skills could require seven queues (a, b, c, a+b, a+c, b+c, a+b+c) , and so on!

Here is a simple example with three skills; one competency skill in (a) Customer Service  and two languages in (b) English and (c) Spanish the combination of queues needed would be:

  • Customer Service in  English (a+b)
  • Customer Service in Spanish (a+c)
  • Customer Service with both languages (a+b+c)

Now let’s add one more  competency skill; (d) Billing to make it four skill types and now we need:

  • Customer Service in English (a+b)
  • Customer Service in Spanish (a+c)
  • Customer Service with both languages (a+b+c)
  • Billing in  English (d+b)
  • Billing in Spanish (d+c)
  • Billing with both languages (d+b+c)
  • Both Service skills in  English (a+d+b)
  • Both Service skills in Spanish (a+d+c)
  • Both Service skills in both languages (a+b+c+d)

That is nine queues to manage four skill types and so it grows, I know of an ACD user who has 5000 agents across 5 outsource partners and has over 400 queues to manage the various skill combinations.

Do you know how many queues you have to manage and the impact of this?  The amount of time and effort needed to manage this is massive and the chance of errors leading to associates either not getting calls or the wrong ones is huge.  At the same time customers are not being routed to the associate with the best available skills and this will impact their customer experience.

The ACD has institutionalized the misconception that skills are an attribute of the queues – they’re not, skills are an attribute of a person and thus should be managed against their personal competency model.

By managing skills as an attribute of the associate, the number of queues is significantly reduced. In-fact it could be that you only need one universal queue with each call routed to the associate whose skills profile best matches the needs of the caller.

Ultimately, skill profiles can be set up for anyone in the organization who is competent to handle a call regardless if they are in the contact center, at outsourcers, in the back office or in branch offices and retail outlets.

People have skills not ACDs, it’s time to link calls to people with skills and not the other way around to reduce the support overhead, increase accuracy of routing, use the best associate available and ultimately improve the customer experience.

Brendan Dykes

Brendan Dykes

Brendan has over 25 years of experience in the customer service industry, in both business and technical roles. This broad experience has allowed him to see first-hand the importance for both customers and organizations of delivering consistent omnichannel customer experiences....