Contact centres are littered with distinct vocabulary, abbreviations, and acronyms, such as BPO, POC and CLI.
With this in mind, we have compiled a glossary of all the key call centre terminologies, with an explanation for each term and buzzword.
Also called a “Lost Call”. The caller hangs up before reaching an agent.
An account code is a series of characters used to identify a client, which might be an individual customer or a corporate entity.
ACD Automatic Call Distributor
The telephone system that takes all the calls either coming into (or going out of) a centre and directs each call to the right person or team to answer, queuing the calls where necessary.
The ACD system can handle multiple telephone numbers coming into the centre, and produces a range of management information reports about the call traffic and the agents handling those calls.
See Wrap-Up Codes.
ACW – After-Call Work
A period of time immediately after contact with the customer is completed when any supplementary work is undertaken by the agent. This is also called “Wrap-up” and “Post-Call Processing (PCP)”.
Work that is necessitated by and immediately follows an inbound transaction. Often this includes entering data, filling out forms and making outbound calls necessary to complete the transaction. The agent is unavailable to receive another inbound call while in this mode.
Adherence or Adherence to Schedule
A general term that refers to how well agents adhere to their schedules. Can include both:
a) How much time they were available to take calls during their shifts, including the time spent handling calls and the time spent waiting for calls to arrive (also called Availability)
The person who receives and makes customer telephone calls. May also deal with customer correspondence and customer emails.
Agents are also commonly known as customer advisors or customer representatives.
Also called Split, Gate, Queue or Skills Group. A collection of agents that share a common set of skills, such as being able to handle customer complaints.
Agent Out Call
An outbound call placed by an agent.
Occupancy, also known as Utilisation Rate, is the period of logged-in time agents spend on call-related activity.
The agent’s status at a particular point in time – e.g. wait, talk, wrap, idle, unavailable.
Agent Status Codes
Also known as ‘reason’ or ‘activity’ codes, status codes enable agents to signal their availability for calls to the ACD.
AHOD – All Hands On Deck
The situation that exists when a contact centre gets super-busy. Customer wait times go up and service levels start to drop. This is often as a result of external activity, such as a marketing campaign, system outage or the weather.
Typically during AHOD, training gets cancelled, all team leaders and managers start taking calls and overtime is offered to help clear the backlog.
Aritifical Intelligence (AI)
Otherwise known as “machine intelligence”, AI refers to machines simulating or bettering human intelligence.
All Trunks Busy (ATB)
When all trunks are busy in a specified trunk group. Generally, reports indicate how many times all trunks were busy, and how much total time all trunks were busy. What they don’t reveal is how many callers got busy signals when all trunks were busy.
Telephone transmission or switching that is not digital. Signals are analogous to the original signal.
ANI – Automatic Number Identification
A feature of the telephony network to capture a caller’s identifying telephony number. Known in the UK as Calling Line Identity (CLI).
A recorded verbal message played to callers.
The signal sent by the ACD or other device to the local or long-distance carrier to accept a call. That is when billing for either the caller or the call centre will begin if long-distance charges apply.
When referring to an agent group, a call counted as answered when it reaches an agent.
Application-Based Routing and Reporting
The ACD capability to route and track transactions by type of call or application (e.g. sales, service), versus the traditional method of routing and tracking by trunk group and agent group.
The basic design of a system. Determines how the components work together, system capacity, upgradability, and the ability to integrate with other systems.
This involves the integration of messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and Messenger with automation, so advisors can respond to customers in exactly the same way, no matter which app they choose.
ATA – Average Time to Abandon
Average Time to Abandon (ATA) is also known as the Average Patience of the caller.
This is the average length of time that a caller will stay in a queue before they abandon (or hang up the call). While a significant number of people will stay on the line for very long periods of time, others will simply hang up. Some will redial, but many will not.
Attrition is the rate at which members of staff voluntarily leave the workforce over a given period of time. It is also known as ‘staff turnover’, or ‘staff churn’, although in the contact centre industry ‘churn’ tends to refer to the flow of customers rather than staff.
An Auto Attendant (AA) is a system that routes calls based on choices selected by the caller from a menu. The system prompts callers to respond to choices (e.g. press one for this, two for that?”) and then coordinates with the ACD to send callers to specific destinations. This function can reside in an on-site system or in the network.
An ACD feature whereby the ACD is programmed to automatically put agents into Available mode after they finish Talk Time and disconnect a call. If they need to go into After-Call Work, they have to manually put themselves there.
Agent’s pre-recorded greeting that plays automatically when a call arrives.
An ACD feature whereby the ACD is programmed to automatically put agents into After-Call Work after they finish Talk Time and disconnect calls. When they have completed any After-Call Work required, they put themselves back into Available.
Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)
An ACD is a specialised telephone system that is used in inbound call centres. It is a programmable device that automatically answers calls, queues calls, distributes calls to agents, plays delay announcements to callers and provides real-time and historical reports on these activities. May be a stand-alone system, or ACD capability built into a CO, network or PBX.
Automated Speech Recognition
A solution to automate some or all parts of a customer call. It allows the caller to interact with your call centre using their natural language, without the involvement of an agent.
Speech recognition can be applied to some or even all parts of a call, particularly where the information that you collect is in a standard form.
Auxiliary Work State
An auxiliary work state is one type of ‘unavailable’ state. While an agent is in an auxiliary state, the ACD will not route calls to them.
When an agents is signed on to the ACD and waiting for calls to arrive.
Also known as idle time, available time is time spent by agents ready and waiting to take calls. If an agent is logged into the ACD and is not engaged in another task like talking to a customer or in after-call wrap (ACW), they are available.
Average Delay of Delayed Calls
The average delay of calls that are delayed. It is the total Delay for all calls divided by the number of calls that had to wait in queue. See Average Speed of Answer.
Average Handling Time (AHT)
The amount of time it takes an agent to deal with all aspects of a call – includes talk time plus After-Call Work (ACW).
Average Holding Time on Trunks (AHT)
The average time inbound transactions occupy the trunks. It is: (Talk Time + Delay Time)/Calls Received. AHT is also an acronym for Average Handling Time, which has a different meaning.
Average Number of Agents
The average number of agents logged into a group for a specified time period.
Average Speed of Answer
Average Speed of Answer (ASA) is a metric calculating the amount of time it takes to answer a typical call once it has been routed to the contact centre.
Average Talk Time
Average Talk Time (ATT) is, quite simply, the amount of time an agent spends talking to customers.
Average Time to Abandonment
The average time that callers wait in queue before abandoning. The calculation considers only the calls that abandon.
Back-Office Optimisation (BOO)
Being able to shift resources from the contact centre to the back office during the low-contact-volume parts of the day, and shifting resources from the back office to the contact centre during contact volume peaks, makes sense and should provide an increased efficiency.
Here are some additional articles on improving the back office:
- 12 Guaranteed Ways to Ruin Your Integration With the Back Office
- 5 Ways to Reconnect Your Back and Front Office
A scorecard that shows a range of measures – typically based around graphs or traffic lights – on a single sheet of paper about how a call centre is performing.
Also called Seated Agents. The minimum number of agents required to achieve service level and response time objectives for a given period of time.
Seated agent calculations assume that agents will be in their seats for the entire period. Therefore, schedules need to add in extra people to accommodate breaks, absenteeism and other factors that will keep agents from the phones. See Rostered Staff Factor.
Basic Rate Interface (BRI)
One of two basic levels of ISDN service. A BRI line provides two bearer channels for voice and data and one channel for signalling (commonly expressed as 2B+D). See Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and Integrated Services Digital Network.
An audible notification that a call has arrived (also called “Zip Tone”). Beep tone can also refer to the audible notification that a call is being monitored.
Historically, the term referred to a standardised task to test the capabilities of devices against each other. In quality terms, benchmarking is comparing products, services and processes with those of other organisations, to identify new ideas and improvement opportunities.
Best in Class
A benchmarking term to identify organisations that outperform all others in a specified category.
Blended agents are trained to handle both incoming and outgoing calls.
This refers to the combination of both human intelligence and Artificial Intelligence to help better the customer experience.
Callers blocked from entering a queue.
A call that cannot be connected immediately because A) no circuit is available at the time the call arrives, or B) the ACD is programmed to block calls from entering the queue when the queue backs up beyond a defined threshold.
Bluetooth is a low-energy data-transfer technology which replaces conventional wires with short-range radio signals. It is the technology that fuels the ‘hands-free’ function.
Networking means connecting with other professionals for mutual benefit. This is usually undertaken to meet service providers, generate leads and keep abreast of industry best practice.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
Taking a business task and getting another company to deliver it. This term is typically used to mean moving call centres and other business functions to India and other lower-cost countries.
Business to Consumer (B2C)
The Business to Consumer (B2C) model involves companies making sales directly to individual consumers rather than to other commercial enterprises.
It could just as easily be shortened to just “Consumer – so “B2C Sales” could become “Consumer Sales”.
A telephone traffic engineering term, referring to the hour in which a trunk group carries the most traffic during the day. The average busy hour reflects the average over a number of days such as two weeks. Busy Hour has little use for incoming call centres, which require more specific resource calculation methodologies.
B2B (Business to Business)
B2B is a short version of Business to Business. In effect it generally involves one company trying to do business with another company- for example Dell selling to ICI.
It could just as easily be shortened to Business – so “B2B Sales” could become “Business Sales”.
A proactive strategy to reduce the number of unwanted or low-value calls – for example, failure avoidance by eliminating repeat calls; or call automation through self-service.
A technique to mix inbound and outbound calls for specific agents. Smooths out the peak demand for inbound call patterns by feeding outbound calls of a similar call type to agents during quiet periods.
A call centre is a department or an office in which incoming and outgoing telephone and voice calls from new and existing customers are handled by a team of advisors or agents.
Call Centre Manager
The person responsible for the management of the budget, operation and business performance of the call centre.
Here are some articles on how to be a great call centre manager:
- Do You Want to Be a Manager or a Leader?
- 6 Steps to Becoming a Confident Call Centre Manager
- Five phrases a Call Centre Manager should never use
Call Control Variables
The set of criteria the ACD uses to process calls. Examples include routing criteria, overflow parameters, recorded announcements and timing thresholds.
Call Detail Recording
Data on each call, captured and stored by the ACD. Can include trunk used, time in queue, call duration, agent who handled the call, number dialled (for outgoing), and other information.
An ACD feature that automatically delivers calls to agents who are available and ready to take calls. They hear a notification that the call has arrived (e.g. a beep tone), but do not have to press a button to answer the call.
Call Handling Analysis
An approach to monitor the effectiveness and quality of the handling of calls by the agents.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Call Handling and Answering
Calls In Queue
A real-time report that refers to the number of calls received by the ACD system but not yet connected to an agent.
Calling Line Identity (CLI or CLID)
These days the telephone number of the caller travels ahead of most calls. This is known as Calling Line Identity (CLI) or by BT as Caller ID.
You will probably most often see this when someone calls your mobile phone. This is also known in the USA as Automatic Number Identification or ANI.
This number can be used by CTI software to match up to a computer record for that caller.
Call Riding is a term that means instead of just transferring a call in a contact centre – to a supervisor, or another advisor, for example – the advisor conferences in the other employee and stays on the call listening to both the other employee and the customer.
Call riding can be done for valid reasons, such as for training purposes to learn how someone else can handle this type of call, but it can also be used as a way of avoiding having to do any work.
The ACD stats would show the agent as on a call communicating with the customer, whereas they could be just waiting for their lunch break or checking something on their mobile phone. It is hard to spot this type of trick.
A solution to implement an effective call handling quality process. Can involve the recording and storage of calls and data relating to financial or legal transactions. See the Call Recording and Speech Analytics Reference Guide
Call Centre Helper Directory – Call Recording
Call routing is the process whereby incoming calls are routed to certain advisors in a process that is based on pre-established criteria.
A ‘carrier’ is a telecommunications service provider (TSP) that enables the public to connect to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) or mobile networks. Examples of carriers include BT, AT&T, Sprint, T Mobile and Vodafone.
CEM – Customer Experience Management
The appliance of an over-riding theme, company ethos or approach, irrespective of the means of contact.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Customer Experience
Central Office (CO)
Can refer to either a telephone company switching centre or the type of telephone switch used in a telephone company switching centre. The local central office receives calls from within the local area and either routes them locally or passes them to an inter-exchange carrier (IXC). On the receiving end, the local central office receives calls that originated in other areas from the IXC.
Provision of a (centralised) process or interaction route, irrespective of the interaction channel.
Otherwise known as “virtual assistants”, chatbots are self-service systems which provide automated responses to customer messages.
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
A typical title for the highest ranking executive responsible for an organisation’s information systems.
Churn rate refers to the percentage of customers who end their relationship with a business within a given period.
A remote means of offering a system, service or solution utilising a Wide Area Network (WAN) or, more locally, across a Local Area Network (LAN).
Call Centre Helper Directory – Cloud Solutions
Cloud Contact Centre
Cloud call centres are an evolution of the on-site call centre system to a cloud-based system.
The person who provides additional support and technical knowledge to agents (in addition to the Team Leader). Also known as a buddy.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Training
Cold calls are unsolicited calls placed by contact centres to prospective customers, usually with the intention of making a sale or introducing a product.
Compliance is the ability to adhere to an order or a set of rules. These rules may be internal to the company or external to it, set by a regulatory body. See Adherence to Schedule.
A computer technique to predict the outcome of various events in the future, given many variables. When there are many variables, simulation is often the only way to reasonably predict the outcome.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)
A method of connecting your telephone system to your database. Most commonly this will allow you to pop the caller’s details up on to the agent’s screen when the call connects (Screen Pop). CTI can be used for a variety of applications such as call routing. Despite huge business advantages, it often requires quite complex integration and its deployment has been limited.
Conditional routing allows an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) to route calls intelligently by factoring in contextual and performance information.
A contact centre handles all forms of communication, not only voice calls but email, letters, social media, and instant messaging.
Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS)
A cloud-based contact centre solution that enables companies to use the provider’s software.
Contact Centre Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance (QA) is a business process that ensures products and services meet an internally agreed standard.
Cost Per Call
Total costs (fixed and variable) divided by total calls for a given period of time.
Customer touchpoints are the services and resources that bring the public into contact with a brand.
CSR (Customer Service Representative)
A person employed in a call centre to answer the phone. Another name for this is agent or advisor. Care should be taken using this term as it also can be used as
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
This term is widespread in business and means “the ethics of a company” e.g. do they pollute the environment etc. It is also confused with CSR describing an agent in the call centre.
CTI (Computer Telephony Integration)
The ability to automatically combine voice and data (PC or legacy application) at the agent desktop. Also known as screen pop, when a customer’s details appear automatically on an agent’s screen when the call is answered.
Customer Experience Management (CEM)
CEM means managing and improving customer journeys to create better customer experiences and more satisfied customers.
Customer Journey Map
A Customer Journey Maps is a type of infographic intended to communicate important details of the average customer’s relationship with a brand.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Customer Relationship Management has lots of theoretical definitions.
Community definitions of Customer Relationship Management include:
- A lasting customer relationship
- Knowing what drives your customers
- Knowing what your customers are like
Customer service is the service provided to the customer throughout their interaction with an organisation.
Customer Service Representative (CSR)
A Customer Service Representative is a person employed to answer the customer, either by phone or by instant messaging, social media or by email.
Database Call Handling
A CTI application whereby the ACD works in sync with the database computer to process calls, based on information in the database.
For example, a caller inputs digits into a voice processing system, the database retrieves information on that customer and then issues instructions to the ACD on how to handle the call (e.g. where to route the call, what priority the call should be given in queue, the announcements to play).
Day of Week Routing
A network service that routes calls to alternative locations based on the day of the week. There are also options for day of year and time of day routing.
DDI, Direct Dial Inward
A direct inbound number to the switch.
Recorded announcements that encourage callers to wait for an agent to become available, remind them to have their account number ready, and provide information on access alternatives. In some systems, delay announcements are provided through recorded announcement routes (RANs).
Also called Queue Time. The time a caller spends in queue waiting for an agent to become available. Average Delay is the same thing as Average Speed of Answer. See Average Delay of Delayed Calls.
A call which cannot be answered immediately and is placed in queue.
Dialled Number (DN)
The number that the caller dialled to initiate the call.
Dialled Number Identification Service (DNIS)
A string of digits that the telephone network passes to the ACD, VRU or other device, to indicate which number the caller dialled. The ACD can then process and report on that type of call according to user-defined criteria. One trunk group can have many DNIS numbers.
The use of a binary code (1s and 0s) to represent information.
A dashboard is an at-a-glance report of important statistics relating to contact centre performance.
Digital Access Signalling System (DASS 2)
This is a type of digital telephone line that connects between the call centre and the telephone exchange in the UK.
It is sometimes called ISDN 30 and it allows 30 telephone calls to be carried on one set of lines.
DMS (Document Management System)
Many call centres handle large amounts of incoming mail, which is opened and scanned by a DMS for electronic distribution as part of a workflow process for managing correspondence.
DNIS – Dialled Number Identification Service
A feature of the telephony network to re-present a caller’s telephony number to the called party. – Known in the UK as DDI.
Dual-Tone Multifrequency (DTMF)
A signalling system that sends pairs of audio frequencies to represent digits on a telephone keypad. It is often used interchangeably with the term Touchtone (an AT&T trademark).
An ACD feature that automatically reconfigures the number of rings before the system answers calls based on real-time queue information.
Since costs don’t begin until the ACD answers calls, this feature can save callers or the call centre money when long-distance charges apply.
Electronic mail (email). Electronic text mail.
Emoji or Emoticon
Emojis and emoticons are pictorial representations of faces used in text-based communication to express emotion.
Emotional Intelligence (EI), also known as ‘EQ’ (to parallel IQ), describes a person’s ability to empathise, communicate and influence.
Developed by A K Erlang. Used to determine the number of trunks required to handle a known calling load during a one-hour period.
Used to calculate waiting times, based on the number of agents available, the number of callers and the average time it takes to handle a call.
Description of How the Erlang C Formula works
This is a simple Excel spreadsheet tool that allows you to work out how many agents you will need.
You just need to enter your call volume and the service level that you would like to achieve.
The calculator then looks at the agent capacity you would need to achieve the service level.
The ability for an agent to put themselves into the customer’s shoes. Many call centres lack empathy. The caller is just another caller, although the agent deals with the call as best as they can. With empathy, the agent feels the same concerns as the caller: “I know how you are feeling because I too….” would be a common phrase that perhaps shows empathy. It is also commonly confused with sympathy, which is more of an “I hear what you are saying…” type of communication, but perhaps without the shared experience of what it is like to go through this condition. Empathy was a concept developed by the psychologist Carl Rogers (1902-1987).
The difference between empathy and sympathy is perhaps demonstrated by the expression of pity or sorrow to the distress of another.
“I offered my sympathy when I learned that Jane’s father died.”
Empathy, on the other hand, is usually meant to indicate that the person who is empathising knows what the other person is going through and can identify with that person.
“I can empathise with how Jane is grieving over her father’s death. I know exactly how she felt, because I went through the same thing when my father died.”
To me, the big difference between empathy and sympathy is that the person who empathises can feel the distress on a personal level, whereas sympathy is less personal.
ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning
The means of determining staffing and occupancy levels for front- and back-office staff.
A plan that specifies actions to be taken when the queue begins to build beyond acceptable levels.
Fast Clear Down
A caller who hangs up immediately when they hear a delay announcement.
FCR – First Call (Contact) Resolution
A measure of relative success for an individual interaction. Usually defined in terms of a single customer or account, a single issue or order and a predefined time range for a response to have taken place.
Example: If a customer chooses a set of particular options on an IVR or an agent appends a particular result code to an account and the customer contacts the supplier/provider regarding the same criteria within (7) days, then that interaction would have failed FCR. Usually expressed as a percentage of the overall interaction volume.
Flushing Out the Queue
Changing system thresholds so that calls waiting for an agent group are redirected to another group with a shorter queue or available agents.
FTE – Full Time Equivalent
The equivalent headcount for one person working full time.
So 1 FTE = Somebody who works Monday – Friday
or 1 FTE = Two people who work half a day
In terms of the number of hours, then one FTE could be either 37.5 hours or 40 hours per week, depending on the number of hours per week that you work in your organisation.
Gamification is a method of turning everyday work or life into a game, to apply the excitement and rewards of gaming to common work tasks.
Great Customer Service
What is the definition of Great Customer Service and how does it compare with Good Customer Service?
The 3 key themes are:
- “Great customer service is all about exceeding customer expectations.”
- “It doesn’t matter who you speak to in in organisation, you get a consistently good experience or problem resolution.”
- “The best service is no service.”
Grade of Service
The probability that a call will not be connected to a system because all trunks are busy. Grade of service is often expressed as “p.01” meaning 1% of calls will be “blocked.”
Sometimes, grade of service is used interchangeably with service level, but the two terms have different meanings. See Service Level.
The number of calls received and handled by agents or peripheral equipment. Handled calls does not include calls that abandon or receive busy signals.
The time an agent spends in Talk Time and After-Call Work handling a transaction. Handling Time can also refer to the time it takes for a machine to process a transaction.
A term that generally refers to a call centre set up to handle queries about product installation, usage or problems. The term is most often used in the context of computer software and hardware support centres.
Reports that track call centre and agent performance over a period of time. Historical reports are generated by ACDs, third-party ACD software packages, and peripherals such as VRUs and Call Detail Recording Systems. The amount of history that a system can store varies by system.
The ‘hot desk’ model is a method of managing office resources in which workspaces are not allocated to specific members of staff. Rather than be assigned a desk which they use exclusively, staff members can use any available workstation.
ICR (Intelligent Call Router)
The brand name for a specific intelligent telecommunications network service that takes real-time information from the ACD in the call centre to provide details on queuing and agent availability across a virtual call centre network.
IMS stands for IP Multimedia Subsystem.
IMS enables the convergence of data, speech and network technology over an IP-based infrastructure. It is the operator choice of control and service logic for IP/packet based person-to-person communication.
For users, IMS-based services will enable communications in a variety of modes – including voice, text, pictures and video.
It is not quite clear how this could be used in a call centre environment. Does anyone have any ideas?
A law of nature that is fundamental and not changeable (e.g. the law of gravity). In an inbound call centre, the fact that occupancy goes up when service level goes down is an immutable law.
Incoming Call Centre Management
The art of having the right number of skilled people and supporting resources in place at the right times to handle an accurately forecast workload, at service level and with quality.
Incremental Revenue (Value) Analysis
A methodology that estimates the value (cost and revenue) of adding or subtracting an agent.
In forecasting, a proportion used as a multiplier to adjust another number.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
A telephone system that lets callers interact with your company through either touchtone or speech recognition.
The IVR will ask the customer to press a button on their telephone keypad to select which service they want. The technology then routes the call to the most appropriate agent to handle the enquiry. Or it can ask customers to use their own telephone keypad to key information that will help the agent to validate who they are, e.g. account numbers.
While most systems are only programmed to give callers menus (press one for sales, two for support…) they can also be programmed to interact with a database to provide status information or to give the caller their account balance.
INS (Intelligent Network Service)
Facilitates the distribution of calls to multiple destinations across a virtual call centre network.
Internal Help Desk
A group that supports other internal agent groups, e.g. for complex or escalated calls.
Internal Response Time
The time it takes an agent group that supports other internal groups (e.g. for complex or escalated tasks) to respond to transactions that do not have to be handled when they arrive (e.g. correspondence or email). See Response Time and Service Level.
Internet “Call Me” Transaction
A transaction that allows a user to request a callback from the call centre when exploring a web page. Requires interconnection of the ACD system and the internet by means of an Internet Gateway.
Internet “Call Through” Transaction
The ability for callers to click a button on a website and be directly connected to an agent while viewing the site. Standards and technologies that provide this capability are in development.
Technology that enables users of the internet to place voice telephone calls through the internet, thus by-passing the long-distance network.
Intra Day Statistics
Reports that provide details of what is happening in the call centre at particular times of the day – often broken down into thirty-minute periods.
An intranet is a private network based on internet protocols, owned by an institution for the benefit of its members.
An Invisible Queue is a call centre queue where the caller is not made aware of how they are progressing – typically in a call centre.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
A digital network providing 64kbit and 2 Mbit bandwidth voice and data circuits. A set of international standards for telephone transmission.
ISDN provides an end-to-end digital network, out-of-band signalling, and greater bandwidth than older telephone services. The two standard levels of ISDN are Basic Rate Interface (BRI) and Primary Rate Interface (PRI). See Basic Rate Interface and Primary Rate Interface.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
IVR (interactive voice response) is a computerised telephone system commonly used when a customer rings a call centre.
Goes beyond purely statistical techniques and encompasses what people believe is going to happen. It is in the realm of intuition, interdepartmental committees, market research and executive opinion.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are also referred to as metrics.
Key performance indicators are measurements of various aspects of how businesses and processes perform. They fulfil two main objectives in the short and long term.
Knowledge Management System
A desktop application that agents use as source of information to provide the answers to customer enquiries. As the range of enquiries that an agent may have to handle is large, or the responses may change regularly, then the Knowledge Management System acts as a single source of content for the centre to use.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Knowledge Management
LAN (Local Area Network)
A network located in one building that links terminals, PCs and common equipment, e.g. printers, so that computers can share information and applications.
Law of Diminishing Returns
The declining marginal improvements in service level that can be attributed to each additional agent, as successive agents are added.
In order for the agent to transact business with the customer they may have to use ‘old’ computer systems that the company has had for many years.
Typically these systems are not as user friendly as more modern ones as they may require the agent to remember codes, use lots of screens and do not have a logical flow.
Link Line (UK)
Non-geographic 0800, 0345, 0370 number charged at various rates, normally directed to a DDI number.
Balancing traffic between two or more destinations.
Local Area Network (LAN)
The connection of multiple computers within a building, so that they can share information, applications and peripherals. See Wide Area Network.
Local Exchange Carrier (LEC)
Telephone companies responsible for providing local connections and services.
A state in which agents have signed on to a system (made their presence known), but may or may not be ready to receive calls.
For staffing calculations and traffic engineering purposes, calls that approach or exceed thirty minutes.
Longest Waiting Agent
A method of distributing calls to the agent who has been sitting idle the longest. With a queue, Longest Available Agent becomes next Available Agent.
Longest Delay (Oldest Call)
The longest time a caller has waited in queue before abandoning or reaching an agent.
Look Ahead Queuing
The ability for a system or network to examine a secondary queue and evaluate the conditions, before overflowing calls from the primary queue.
Look Back Queuing
The ability for a system or network to look back to the primary queue after the call has been overflowed to a secondary queue, and evaluate the conditions. If the congestion clears, the call can be sent back to the initial queue.
Lost calls are any inbound calls that do not result in the caller being connected to either an advisor or an answering service.
UK-specific discount bulk mail service provided by the Royal Mail. Mailsort3 guarantees delivery within 10 working days, Mailsort2 within 3 working days and Mailsort1 on a given day.
Software that mediates between different types of hardware and software on a network, so that they can function together.
MIS (Management Information Systems)
Reports that enable the Call Centre Manager to monitor the call centre’s performance through wallboards, real-time displays, reporting, forecasting and staff allocation.
Also called Position Monitoring or Service Observing. The process of listening to agents’ telephone calls for the purpose of maintaining quality. Monitoring can be:
A) Silent, where agents don’t know when they are being monitored
B) Side by side, where the person monitoring sits next to the agent and observes calls
C) Record and review, where calls are recorded and then later played back and assessed.
Agents that are skilled in handling calls in more than one language.
Multi-site networking is the practice of re-routing calls to external locations based on the availability of resources.
An agent who can handle several different types of call, e.g. sales and service.
If anything can go wrong, it will. Not a good perspective to live by, but worth considering when designing agent groups, routing configurations and disaster-recovery plans.
Network Control Centre
Also called Traffic Control Centre. In a networked call centre environment, where people and equipment monitor real-time conditions across sites, change routing thresholds as necessary, and coordinate events that will impact base staffing levels.
A technology used in multi-site call centre environments to create a more efficient distribution of calls between sites. Through integration of sites using network circuits (such as T1 circuits) and ACD software, calls routed to one site may be queued simultaneously for agent groups in remote sites. See Call Routing and Percent Allocation.
Next Available Agent
A call distribution method that sends calls to the next agent who becomes available. The method seeks to maintain an equal load across skill groups or services. When there is no queue, Next Available Agent reverts to Longest Waiting Agent.
Non ACD In Calls
Inbound calls which are directed to an agent’s extension rather than to a general group. These may be personal calls or calls from customers who dial the agent’s extension number.
Headsets equipped with technology that reduces background noise.
A nuisance call is an unwelcome or unwanted call which bothers the recipient.
Also referred to as agent utilisation, occupancy is the percentage of time agents are handling calls versus waiting for calls to arrive.
For a half-hour, the calculation is: (call volume x average handling time in seconds) / (number of agents x 1800 seconds). See Adherence to Schedule.
Off The Shelf
Hardware or software programs that are commercially available and ready for use “as is”.
All of the attempts callers make to reach the call centre. There are three possibilities for offered calls:
1) they can get busy signals
2) they can be answered by the system, but hang up before reaching a rep
3) they can be answered by a rep
Offered call reports in ACDs usually refer only to the calls that the system receives.
Periods of time other than the call centre’s busiest periods. Also a term to describe periods of time when long-distance carriers provide lower rates.
One and Done
The ability for the customer transaction to be completed by the agent in a single call.
This approach helps to improve First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates in contact centres.
A customer contact (transaction) that has not yet been completed or resolved (closed).
Outbound calls are those made by a contact centre to a third party, usually a customer or partner organisation.
Outbound Dialling Campaign
An outbound dialling campaign involves tasking agents to place calls with the intention of making sales, generating leads, marketing a brand, or performing research.
The sharing of call centre activities, e.g. peak call loads or certain call types, with a third-party specialist company who can manage the calls on your behalf.
Outsourcers can provide both inbound response and outbound campaign services across a range of call types – telemarketing, customer service, technical helpdesk, debt management and many more.
Calls that flow from one group or site to another. More specifically, Intraflow happens when calls flow between agent groups and Interflow is when calls flow out of the ACD to another site.
A bar chart that arranges events in order of frequency. Named after 19th-century economist Vilfredo Pareto.
PBX (Private Branch Exchange)
An office telephone system located in one building that provides voice communications.
Also known in the UK as a PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchange).
Peaked Call Arrival
A surge of traffic beyond random variation. It is a spike within a short period of time.
A call routing strategy sometimes used in multi-site call centre environments. Calls received in the network are allocated across sites based on user-defined percentages. See Call Routing.
A formula sometimes used for calculating trunks – A variant of Poisson is used in the Erlang Formula. Assumes that if callers get busy signals, they keep trying until they successfully get through. Since some callers won’t keep retrying, Poisson can overestimate trunks required. See Erlang B and Retrial Tables.
The Pooling Principle states: Any movement in the direction of consolidation of resources will result in improved traffic-carrying efficiency. Conversely, any movement away from consolidation of resources will result in reduced traffic-carrying efficiency.
See After-Call Work.
Specialist telephony equipment for managing outbound calls. The term predictive means that the dialler will phone the telephone number of the customers you want to contact, and only when the phone is answered by a person will the call then be directed to an agent to answer.
Here an algorithm is used to predict when an agent is likely to become free and dials in anticipation of this so that the non-productive time that an agent spends between calls is minimised. Such equipment can also be used in preview mode, where the systems allocates the contact to an agent for them to preview prior to physically dialling the number.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Predictive Dialler
Primary Rate Interface (PRI)
One of two levels of ISDN service. In North America, PRI typically provides 23 bearer channels for voice and data and one channel for signalling information (commonly expressed as 23B+D).
Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX)
See Private Branch Exchange (below).
Private Branch Exchange (PBX)
A telephone system located at a customer’s site that handles incoming and outgoing calls. ACD software can provide PBXs with ACD functionality. Also called private automatic branch exchange (PABX).
A network made up of circuits for the exclusive use of an organisation or group of affiliated organisations. Can be regional, national or international in scope and are common in large organisations.
A system of causes.
An accounting term that refers to a department or function in the organisation that does not generate profit.
Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)
The public telephone network which provides the capability of interconnecting any home or office with any other.
Using statistical techniques to forecast future events. The major categories of quantitative forecasting include Time Series and Explanatory approaches.
Time Series techniques use past trends to forecast future events. Explanatory techniques attempt to reveal linkages between two or more variables. See Judgemental Forecasting.
The ability to prioritise and handle callers when there is no agent available.
Random Call Arrival
The normal, random variation in how incoming calls arrive. See Peaked Call Arrival.
Also called display boards or wall displays. A visual display, usually mounted on the wall or ceiling, that provides real-time and historical information on queue conditions, agent status and call centre performance.
Real-Time Adherence Software
Software that tracks how closely agents conform to their schedules. See Adherence to Schedule.
Information on current conditions. Some “real-time” information is real time in the strictest sense (e.g. calls in queue and current longest wait). Some real-time reports require some history (e.g. the last x calls or x minutes) in order to make a calculation (e.g. service level and average speed of answer).
Making adjustments to staffing and thresholds in the systems and network in response to current queue conditions.
A call detected and seized by a trunk. Received calls will either abandon or be answered by an agent.
Record and Review Monitoring
Recorded Announcement Route (RAN)
See Delay Announcement.
A term popularised by management consultant Michael Hammer, which refers to radically redesigning processes to improve efficiency and service.
A remote agent works from a location other than the traditional contact centre, usually their own home.
The time it takes the call centre to respond to transactions that do not have to be handled when they arrive (e.g. correspondence or email). See Service Level.
Sometimes used to calculate trunks and other system resources required. They assume that some callers will make additional attempts to reach the call centre if they get a busy signal. See Erlang B and Poisson.
A caller who “retries” when they get a busy signal.
Rostered Staff Factor (RSF)
Alternatively called an Overlay, Shrink Factor or Shrinkage. RSF is a numerical factor that leads to the minimum staff needed on schedule over and above base staff required to achieve your service level and response time objectives.
RSF is calculated after base staffing is determined and before schedules are organised, and accounts for things like breaks, absenteeism and ongoing training.
Round Robin Distribution
SaaS – software as a service
The (remote) delivery of an item of software or a system by a provider to a subscriber or user base.
Satellite Call Centre
A satellite call centre is not up in space. It is a smaller contact centre at another location – perhaps across the other side of town.
It typically comes about when a company outgrows its main building in the town centre and needs to expand. Instead of moving everyone out of the old building, it acquires a new building out of town. The two call centres are joined together, so they typically take the same calls, but are physically in tow different locations.
A chart that graphically depicts the relationship between two variables.
When an agent is involved in an activity outside of the normal, planned schedule.
A system capability that enables a supervisor or manager to remotely monitor the activity on agents’ computer terminals.
Screen pop describes the ability for a screen to arrive on an agent desktop at the same time as a call. A CTI capability. Callers’ records are automatically retrieved (based on ANI or digits entered into the VRU) and delivered to agents, along with the calls.
A script is a written guide produced for agents to assist them with call handling.
If you can provide self-service, you are providing customers with a way of completing a transaction/having their query answered without having to involve a member of the customer service team.
Service Level Agreement
A contractual agreement between a service provider and the organisation specifying specific performance standards to be achieved.
Session Initiated Protocol (SIP)
SIP is a signalling system that enables a whole range of applications to be integrated. This includes voice, data, video, pictures and online games.
It allows the user to be able to switch between one mode and another. A good example would be online gaming through a mobile phone, where while playing you would be able to use a “push to talk” button.
Ensures that calls are directed to those agents that have the specific skills to answer that call type most effectively.
Smooth Call Arrival
Calls that arrive evenly across a period of time. Virtually non-existent in incoming environments.
Social Customer Service
Social customer service is the practice of extending a business’s existing service platform to include social media channels.
The capability of a voice processing system to decipher spoken words and phrases.
The term ‘spike’ refers to a sudden and dramatic increase in inbound contact volume. It’s often understood to be a short-term event, taking place over a few hours, although spikes can continue over longer periods.
The person who has front-line responsibility for a group of agents. Typical ratios are one supervisor to every 10-15 agents. However, help desks can have one supervisor for every 5 people, and some reservations centres have one supervisor for every 30 or 40 agents. Generally, supervisors are equipped with special telephones and computer terminals that enable them to monitor agent activities. Also known as Team Leader or Team Manager.
A high-speed digital circuit used for voice, data or video, with a bandwidth of 1.544 megabits per second. T1 circuits offer the equivalent of twenty-four (24) analog voice trunks.
The amount of time an agent spends handling a customer call – from start to finish.
Using telecommunications to work form home or other locations instead of at the organisation’s premises.
Telephone Service Factor
See Service Level.
Telephony Applications Programming Interface (TAPI)
CTI protocol developed by Microsoft and Intel.
Telephony Services Application Programming Interface (TSAPI)
CTI protocol developed by Novell and AT&T.
The telephone set used by an agent in a call centre. It often has other functions (the ability to log on etc.) to a normal telephone set.
The term TeleSet was first termed by Aspect but has more recently come to be used as any agent telephone set.
Enables callers to reach a call centre out of the local calling area without incurring charges. 0800 and 800 service is toll-free. In some countries, there are also other variations of toll-free service. For example, with 0345 services in the United Kingdom, callers are charged local rates and the call centre pays for the long-distance charges. See also Link Line.
Traffic Control Centre
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)
The protocols that govern the exchange of sequential data. TCP/IP was designed by the US Department of Defense to link dissimilar computers across many kinds of networks. It has since become a common standard for commercial equipment and applications.
True Calls Per Hour
Actual calls an individual or group handled divided by occupancy for that period of time.
Not the storage area of a car, but a word to describe the telephone lines coming into a call centre.
The word “trunk” could easily and less confusingly be replaced by the word “telephone line.”
This is one of the most baffling uses of jargon in a call centre, but effectively means an agent telephone set.
This term was commonly used in the 1980s and 1990s but is not so widespread today. Usually the term TeleSet is used these days.
UC – Unified Communications
Blending of interaction types. E.g. where initial contact was made by voice, the response may be via email, etc.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Unified Communications
(The) UK Do Not Call List
In the UK, the definition of a “Do Not Call” list comprises 2 key categories:
- Individuals registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
- Individuals who ask to be removed from your data list after the first point of contact
Companies need to respect the wishes of the individuals in both of these categories to avoid being fined.
Unavailable Work State
An agent work state used to identify a mode not associated with handling telephone calls.
A desktop application which amalgamates other systems or interfaces and accepts both voice and electronic interactions.
A Unified Desktop may also populate an underlying (CRM) system with interaction or customer data, in real time.
Uniform Call Distributor (UCD)
A simple system that distributes calls to a group of agents and provides some reports. A UCD is not as sophisticated as an ACD.
Refers to either:
A) An agent who can handle all types of incoming calls
B) An agent who can handle both inbound and outbound calls.
Verbatim feedback is also known as open feedback and involves capturing customer comments, not scores.
A voicebot is the same as a chatbot, but it is instead voice-activated.
VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol
The means by which a voice channel is delivered as packets through internet protocols, using a pre-existing streaming (CODEC) format, such as H.225, H.323 (see also SIP).
Voice over IP (VoIP)
Refers to a host of methods used to encode voice and transmit it over an IP network, such as an internal ethernet or over the internet.
A blanket term that refers to any combination of voice-processing technologies, including Voice Mail, Automated Attendant, Audiotex, Voice Response Unit (VRU) and Faxback.
Voice Response Unit (VRU)
Also called Interactive Voice Response Unit (IVR) or Audio Response Unit (ARU). A VRU responds to caller-entered digits or speech recognition in much the same way that a conventional computer responds to keystrokes or clicks of a mouse. When the VRU is integrated with database computers, callers can interact with databases to check current information (e.g. account balances) and complete transactions (e.g. make transfers between accounts). See Voice Processing (above).
Virtual Call Centre
A group of call centres that acts as a single point for call handling and reporting processes.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Virtual Contact Centre and Homeworking
The means by which a series of disparate processes or systems is combined to provide a single service offering.
When callers know how long the queue that they just entered is, and how fast it is moving (e.g. they hear a system announcement that relays the expected wait time). See Invisible Queue.
Electronic displays within the physical location of a call centre, used to give the management and agents a view of their own team’s performance.
Wallboards can be used to display key performance criteria such as service level or calls queuing, again in real time.
There is a lot of debate in the industry about whether wallboards are good or bad for agent morale.
You can read more on this debate in our article – Are Wallboards Good or Bad?
Wide Area Network (WAN)
An intra-office data network used to connect terminals, computers and equipment across multiple sites.
WFM – Workforce Management
The means of determining and providing schedules, forecasting and adherence for a workforce, against historical interaction volumes and known future events.
Workforce Management (WFM) Software
Software systems that, depending on available modules, forecast call load, calculate staff requirements, organise schedules and track real-time performance of individuals and groups.
Workforce Optimisation (WFO)
The means of applying schedules and forecasts based on previous and known future interaction and workflow volumes.
Wrap-Up Time (or Wrap Time)
Wrap-Up Time, or Wrap Time, is the time spent by an agent doing After-Call Work (ACW) once they have concluded an interaction.
Also known as ‘disposition codes’ or ‘call codes’, wrap-up codes are a quick way to summarise important information about an interaction.
We currently have no definitions beginning with the letter ‘X’.
If you have any you would like us to add, please email Rachael at the Call Centre Helper newsdesk.
We currently have no definitions beginning with the letter ‘Y’.
See Beep Tone.
3-2-1 (Idea Generation Technique)
Used to gather information from several people in a short space of time. Focused on identifying immediate solutions to a specific issue.
360-Degree View of the Customer
A 360-degree view means creating as complete as possible an understanding of a customer from all available data sources.
- Introduction to call centres
- Outbound Dialling Reference Guide
- An A-Z of Speech Analytics Features
- A-Z of call recording features
- Call Recording and Speech Analytics Reference Guide
- Tony Tillyer of Datapoint, who contributed a big batch of additional material.
- Jonty Pearce of Call Centre magazine Call Centre Helper
- Paul Weald
- Richard Snow of Ventana Research
If we are missing any other terminologies please drop us a line.