Contact Centre Jargon and Terminologies


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Contact centres are littered with distinct vocabulary, abbreviations, and acronyms, such as BPO, POC and CLI.

Need to look up the meaning or full form of some BPO Jargon?  We have compiled a glossary of all the key call centre terminologies, with an explanation for each term and buzzword.



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Abandoned Call

An abandoned call is when the caller hangs up before reaching an agent. Also called a “Lost Call”.

Abandoned Call Rate (ACR)

Account Code

Activity Codes

See Wrap-Up Codes.

Adherence or Adherence to Schedule

After-Call Survey

After-Call Work (ACW)

Agent

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.

Agent Group

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 Occupancy

Occupancy is the period of logged-in time agents spend on call-related activity.

Agent Out Call

An outbound call placed by an agent.

Agent Ramp-Up Time

Agent Status

The agent’s status at a particular point in time – e.g. wait, talk, wrap, idle, unavailable.

Agent Status Codes

All Hands on Deck (AHOD)

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.

Analogue

Telephone transmission or switching that is not digital. Signals are analogous to the original signal.

Announcement

A recorded verbal message played to callers.

Answer Supervision

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.

Answered Call

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.

Architecture

The basic design of a system. Determines how the components work together, system capacity, upgradability, and the ability to integrate with other systems.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Otherwise known as “machine intelligence”, AI refers to machines simulating or bettering human intelligence.

Asynchronous Messaging

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.

Attrition

Auto Attendant

Auto Available

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.

Auto Greeting

Agent’s pre-recorded greeting that plays automatically when a call arrives.

Auto Wrap-up

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.

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.

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.

Maybe a stand-alone system, or ACD capability built into a CO, network or PBX.

Automatic Number Identification (ANI)

A feature of the telephony network to capture a caller’s identifying telephony number. Known in the UK as Calling Line Identity (CLI).

Auxiliary Work State

Availability

See Adherence to Schedule.

Available State

When an agents is signed on to the ACD and waiting for calls to arrive.

Available Time

Average Delay

See Average Speed of Answer.

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)

Average Holding Time on Trunks

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 Resolution Time (ART)

Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

Average Talk Time (ATT)

Average Time to Abandon (ATA)

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.

Average Time to Abandonment

The average time that callers wait in queue before abandoning. The calculation considers only the calls that abandon.

Awaiting Further Instructions (AFI)

This is the status of a customer query in a support centre where things cannot proceed until further instruction is given.

For example, a query can be AFI when the customer is yet to give the call centre agent the go ahead on a potential action.


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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.

Balanced Scorecard

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.

Base Staff

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.

Beep Tone

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.

Benchmark

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 Agent

Blended AI

This refers to the combination of both human intelligence and Artificial Intelligence to help better the customer experience.

Blockage

Callers blocked from entering a queue.

Blocked Call

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

Business As Usual (BAU)

Business Networking

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 Business (B2B)

Business to Consumer (B2C)

Busy Hour

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.


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Call Avoidance

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.

Call Blending

Call Blending is 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.

Call Calibration

Contact centres often run call calibration sessions with their quality analysts and team leaders to ensure that everyone is assessing customer contacts in the same way.

By doing so, the contact centre can help to ensure advisors that their performance is being scored fairly, while changing any subjective criteria from the quality scorecard.

Call Centre

Call Centre Manager

The call centre manager is the person responsible for the management of the budget, operation and business performance of the call centre.

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.

Call Disposition codes

Call disposition codes (also known as wrap-up codes) are used by contact centres to label and classify calls as they come in, based on the reason why the customer is calling.

Call Drivers

A call driver is the reason that someone had called into the contact centre.

Contact centres often measure and analyse their most common call drivers, in order to lower call volumes.

Call Forcing

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

Call handling analysis is an approach to monitor the effectiveness and quality of the handling of calls by the agents.

Call Recording

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 Riding

Call Routing

Call routing is the process whereby incoming calls are routed to certain advisors in a process that is based on pre-established criteria.

Caller ID

See Automatic Number Identification.

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.

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.

Carrier

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.

Channel Agnostic

Provision of a (centralised) process or interaction route, irrespective of the interaction channel.

Chatbots

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

A typical title for the highest ranking executive responsible for an organisation’s information systems.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Churn Rate

Churn rate refers to the percentage of customers who end their relationship with a business within a given period.

Closed-Loop Feedback

Cloud Computing

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).

Cloud Contact Centre

Coach

The person who provides additional support and technical knowledge to agents (in addition to the Team Leader). Also known as a buddy.

Cold Call

Compliance

Computer Simulation

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 also 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

Contact Centre

Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS)

Contact Centre Quality Assurance

Conversational AI

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

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.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

Cost Per Call

Total costs (fixed and variable) divided by total calls for a given period of time.

Customer Centricity

Customer Data Platform (CDP)

Customer Dissatisfaction (DSAT)

Customer Experience Management (CEM)

Customer Experience Management is the appliance of an over-riding theme, company ethos or approach, irrespective of the means of contact.

Customer Journey Map

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Customer Service

Customer Service Representative (CSR)

Customer Touchpoints

Customer touchpoints are the services and resources that bring the public into contact with a brand.


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Dashboard

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).

Data Access Form (DAF)

Data Protection Act (DPA)

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.

Direct Dial Inward (DDI)

A direct inbound number to the switch.

Delay Announcements

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).

Delay

Also called Queue Time, delay is the time a caller spends in queue waiting for an agent to become available. The average time that a customer has to queue is also known as Average Delay of Delayed Calls.

Average Delay is the same thing as Average Speed of Answer.

Delayed Call

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)

Digital

The use of a binary code (1s and 0s) to represent information.

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.

Digital Transformation (DX)

Dip Check

When a quality analyst or contact centre leader quickly analyses customer contacts to find one specific type of problem or failure, that process is often known as a “dip check”.

Direct Message (DM)

A DM is direct message to one single person. It is therefore a private form of messaging.

DMC Rate

DMC stands for Decision Maker Contact (DMC).  It is a term used in sales to or outbound calling to show the correct level of decision makers that you reach in a day or an hour.

Document Management System (DMS)

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.

DTMF Masking

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).

Digital Transformation (DX)

Stands for digital transformation.

Dynamic Answer

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.


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Email

Electronic mail (email). Electronic text mail.

Emoji or Emoticon

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Erlang B

Developed by A K Erlang. Used to determine the number of trunks required to handle a known calling load during a one-hour period.

Erlang C

Erlang Calculator

The Erlang Calculator is a 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.

Empathy

Empathy is 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.

End of Service (EOS)

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

The means of determining staffing and occupancy levels for front- and back-office staff.

Escalation Plan

A plan that specifies actions to be taken when the queue begins to build beyond acceptable levels.

Early Warning System (EWS)

An EWS or Early Warning System is a process that alerts the company to new product issues that may arise.  For example if there is a bug in a new product release then this will typically be picked up first in the contact centre.


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Failure Demand

Failure demand is the term used in call centres when contacts come in regarding a fault of the company within the customer journey.

In other words, the businesses failure to do something – whether that’s a failure to call back, deliver something on time or something of that nature – has created extra demand of the contact centre. This extra demand is known as failure demand.

Fast Clear Down

A caller who hangs up immediately when they hear a delay announcement.

First Call (Contact) Resolution (FCR)

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.

Full Time Equivalent (FTE)


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Gamification

Great Customer 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.

Good Will Gesture


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Handled Calls

The number of calls received and handled by agents or peripheral equipment. Handled calls does not include calls that abandon or receive busy signals.

Handling Time

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.

Hang Up the Phone

Help Desk

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.

Historical Reports

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.

Holding Time

See Average Holding Time on Trunks.

Hosted Call Recording

Hot Desk

Hybrid Working

Hybrid working means that employees work both in the office and remotely (usually at home).

As this type of working becomes more commonplace acronyms for these types of workers are being created, and employees are being named after the days they spend in the office for example:

  • MTFers (who go to the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday)
  • WTFers (who go to the office on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
  • MTWers (who go to the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday).

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Intelligent Call Router (ICR)

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.

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)

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?

Immutable Law

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.

Index Factor

In forecasting, a proportion used as a multiplier to adjust another number.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Intelligent Network Service (INS)

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.

Internet Phone

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.

Intranet

Invisible Queue

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)

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.


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Job Offer (JO)

Judgemental Forecasting

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.


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Key Performance Area (KPA)

KPAs is that they are the areas for development which our KPIs have alerted us to.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

Key Performance Objective (KPO)

Your KPOs are your most important contact centre objectives. These are your targets, while your KPIs are your indicators.

As a note of caution, KPO can also stand for Knowledge Process Outsourcing – with the acronym changing from one organization to another.

Key Result Objective (KRO)

In BPO Agents are often set Job Objectives that have to be completed by the end of quarter. These objectives are known as KROs or Key Result Objectives and are linked to a Performance Review and possibly a bonus structure.

Knowledge Management System (KMS)

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.


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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.

Legacy systems

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.

Load Balancing

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.

Logged On

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.

Long Call

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 Call


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Mailsort

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.

Manufacturer’s Serial Number (MSN)

Middleware

Software that mediates between different types of hardware and software on a network, so that they can function together.

Management Information System (MIS)

Reports that enable the Call Centre Manager to monitor the call centre’s performance through wallboards, real-time displays, reporting, forecasting and staff allocation.

Moment of Truth

Monitoring

Also called Position Monitoring or Service Observing. The process of listening to agents’ telephone calls for the purpose of maintaining quality. Monitoring can be:

  1. Silent, where agents don’t know when they are being monitored
  2. Side by side, where the person monitoring sits next to the agent and observes calls
  3. Record and review, where calls are recorded and then later played back and assessed.

Multilingual Agents

Agents that are skilled in handling calls in more than one language.

Multi-Site Networking

Multi-Skilling

An agent who can handle several different types of call, e.g. sales and service.

Mute

Murphy’s Law

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.


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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.

Network Inter-flow

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.

Next Generation Workforce Optimisation

Noise-Cancelling Headset

Headsets equipped with technology that reduces background noise

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.

No Call No Show (NCNS)

Nuisance Call


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Occupancy

Off The Shelf

Hardware or software programs that are commercially available and ready for use “as is”.

Offered Calls

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.

Off-Peak

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.

Open Ticket

A customer contact (transaction) that has not yet been completed or resolved (closed).

Outbound

Outbound calls are those made by a contact centre to a third party, usually a customer or partner organisation.

Outbound Call Centre

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.

 Outsourcing

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. This is also known as BPO – Business Process Outsourcing.

Overflow


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Pareto Chart

A bar chart that arranges events in order of frequency. Named after 19th-century economist Vilfredo Pareto.

Peaked Call Arrival

A surge of traffic beyond random variation. It is a spike within a short period of time.

Percent Allocation

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.

Phonetic Alphabet

Poisson

Poisson is 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.

Pooling Principle

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.

Post-Call Processing

See After-Call Work.

Positive Scripting

Predictive Dialler

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.

A predictive dialler 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.

Probing Questions

Proof of Concept (POC)

Point of Contact (POC)

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).

In Europe, PRI typically provides 30 bearer lines (30B+D). See Basic Rate Interface and Integrated Services Digital Network.

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).

Private Network

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.

Process

A system of causes.

Profit Centre

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.


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Quality of Experience (QoE)

Quantitative Forecasting

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.

Queue

The ability to prioritise and handle callers when there is no agent available.

Queue Time

See Delay.


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RAG – Red, Amber, Green

This is typically used for quality scoring of phone calls.  If a quality review (typically done by listening to calls) goes well then the call is scored as Green.  If there are a few areas to improve on it will be Amber. If there are a number of more major problems it will be scored as Red.

A RAG system can also be used to flag if the customer was happy.

Random Call Arrival

The normal, random variation in how incoming calls arrive. See Peaked Call Arrival.

Rapport

Readerboards

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.

Real-Time Data

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).

Real Time Floor Monitoring (RTFM)

Real-Time Management

Making adjustments to staffing and thresholds in the systems and network in response to current queue conditions.

Response Time When New (RTWN)

Received Calls

A call detected and seized by a trunk. Received calls will either abandon or be answered by an agent.

Record and Review Monitoring

See Monitoring.

Recorded Announcement Route (RAN)

See Delay Announcement.

Re-engineering

A term popularised by management consultant Michael Hammer, which refers to radically redesigning processes to improve efficiency and service.

Remote Agents

Response Time

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.

Rest Day Overtime (RDOT)

Retrial Tables

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.

Retrial

A caller who “retries” when they get a busy signal.

Right Party Contact (RPC)

Right First Time (RFT)

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

A method of distributing calls to agents according to a predetermined list. See Next Available Agent and Longest Waiting Agent.

Real-Time Adherence (RTA)

In contact centres, adherence can be measured in both real time and historically.

RTA is the acronym used to signal when adherence is being measured in real time.

By measuring RTA, contact centres can address the issue immediately, in order to have the optimal number of advisors, at any given time.


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Software as a Service (SaaS)

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.

Scatter Diagram

A chart that graphically depicts the relationship between two variables.

Schedule Compliance

See Adherence to Schedule.

Scheduling Exception

When an agent is involved in an activity outside of the normal, planned schedule.

Screen Monitoring

A system capability that enables a supervisor or manager to remotely monitor the activity on agents’ computer terminals.

Screen Pop

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.

Script

Self-Service

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.

Service Recovery

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.

Shift Inflex (or Schedule Inflex)

Shift inflex (or schedule inflex) is a fudge factor to cover for things like adherence and shrinkage.  The word Inflex is a shortening of Inflexibility.

It is a factor (typically 5% – 10%) that is added to the FTE number to allow staffing to meet service levels.

Shrinkage

Side-by-Side (SBS) Coaching

Silo

Skills-Based Routing

Skill Based Routing ensures that calls are directed to those agents that have the specific skills to answer that call type most effectively.

Skip Level Meetings

A skip level meeting is a meeting between agents and managers, where the team leader is not present – allowing managers to have a transparent view of what is going-on on the contact centre floor.

Small Medium Enterprise (SME)

An SME is an enterprise or business with fewer than 250 employees.

While this is how it is defined in the UK, in the EU, a business can also be an SME if it has an annual turnover of less than €50 million, or a balance sheet total of less than €43 million.

Smooth Call Arrival

Calls that arrive evenly across a period of time. Virtually non-existent in incoming environments.

Social Customer Service

Special Response Team (SRT)

A SRT is a group of engineers that can be called out for an emergency.

However, SRT can also be used as a short-term for a econd line group in a contact centre that deal with special situations (e.g. VIP Escalations, Premium Customers etc.).

Speech Recognition

The capability of a voice processing system to decipher spoken words and phrases.

Spike

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

SOPs are a set of guidelines that contact centres create to deal with common processes and procedures, such as:

  • How calls are scored for quality
  • How to deal with complaints
  • How to schedule staff

Within WFM, SOPs are created to provide a process to follow when the contact centre experiences a significant peak or trough in contact volumes.

Supervisor

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 five 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.


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T1 Circuit

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) analogue voice trunks.

Talk Time

The amount of time an agent spends handling a customer call – from start to finish.

Team Leader (TL)

Telecommuting

Using telecommunications to work form home or other locations instead of at the organisation’s premises.

Telephone Service Factor

See Service Level.

Telephone Service Representative (TSR)

A TSR is another name for a Customer Service Rep (CSR), with one slight difference. A TSR will only handle telephone calls, while a CSR may also handle emails, chats, letters etc.

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.

TeleSet

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.

Top Level Organisation (TLO)

When a company buys another company, but don’t merge, the buying company is known as the TLO.

A TLO is more commonly known as a “Parent Company”.

Toll-Free Service

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.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Traffic Control Centre

See Network 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.

Trunk, Trunks

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”.

Turnaround Time (TAT)

Turret

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.


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(The) UK Do Not Call List

In the UK, the definition of a “Do Not Call” list comprises 2 key categories:

  1. Individuals registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
  2. 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.

Unified Communications (UC)

Unified Communications (UC) refers to the blending of interaction types. For example, where initial contact was made by voice, the response may be via email, etc.

Unified Desktop

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.

Universal Agent

Refers to either:

  1. An agent who can handle all types of incoming calls
  2. An agent who can handle both inbound and outbound calls.

Unscheduled Personal Leave (UPL)

Utilization

Utilization (also spelt as “utilisation”) is the percentage of time that an advisor is either assisting or available to assist with customer activity out of the time that they are paid to be in the contact centre.


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Verbatim Feedback

Verbatim feedback is also known as open feedback and involves capturing customer comments, not scores.

Virtual Agent

Virtual Call Centre

A group of call centres that acts as a single point for call handling and reporting processes.

Virtualisation

The means by which a series of disparate processes or systems is combined to provide a single service offering.

Visible Queue

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.

Voice and Non-Voice Process

Voice Design

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

VoIP is 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.

Voice Processing

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).

Voicebot

A voicebot is the same as a chatbot, but it is instead voice-activated.


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Wallboards

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.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

An intra-office data network used to connect terminals, computers and equipment across multiple sites.

Work at Home (WAH)

Workforce Management (WFM)

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 Codes

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.


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We currently have no definitions beginning with the letter “X”.

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We currently have no definitions beginning with the letter “Y”.

the-letter-Z-150

Zero Tolerance Policy (ZTP)

ZTP is a ban of a certain behaviour or possession that an organization deems to be unacceptable.

It can also be thought of as a code of conduct – which, if an employee doesn’t follow, will lead to some some sort of repercussion.

Zip Tone

See Beep Tone.


Additional Definitions

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


Further reading

Contributors

  • Tony Tillyer of Datapoint, who contributed a big batch of additional material.
  • Jonty Pearce of Call Centre magazine Call Centre Helper
  • Paul Weald of mcx
  • Richard Snow of Ventana Research

If we are missing any other terminologies please drop us a line.

Published On: 18th Jun 2018 - Last modified: 23rd Sep 2022
Read more about - Definitions


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4 Comments
  • I am currently working in BPO but I am not familiar with those other terms mentioned above. Haha.
    Thanks for this blog! It’s very informative and helpful as well. 😀

    John 30 Mar at 02:34
  • Started my new job and needed to get my head around all these “buzz” words. Thanks for the easy definitions

    Mubean 11 Nov at 15:41
  • I am currently working in bpo but I am not familiar with those thanks for this

    Vineet Srivastava 8 Jun at 16:08
  • Great glossary. Thanks.

    R2G 29 Aug at 05:51
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