Call centres are littered with distinct vocabulary, abbreviations, and acronyms, such as BPO, POC and CLI.
Below, we explain all the terms and common buzzwords that you could possibly wish to know if you are in the call centre industry, in a handy glossary format.
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.
ACW – After Call Work – (See also “Wrap Up Time”)
A period of time immediately after contact with the customer is completed and any supplementary work is undertaken by the Agent.
The person who receives and makes customer telephone calls. May also deal with customer correspondence and customer e-mails. Also known as Customer Advisor or Customer Representative.
Occupancy, also known as utilisation rate, is the period of logged-in time agents spend on call-related activity.
The Agent 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 training gets cancelled, all team leaders and managers start taking calls and overtime is offered to help clear the backlog.
ANI – Automatic Number Identification
A feature of the telephony network to capture a callers identifying telephony number. – Known in the UK as Calling Line Identity (CLI).
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 – that shows on a single sheet of paper how a call centre is performing.
Blended agents are trained to handle both incoming and outgoing calls.
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.
B2C is a short version of Business to Consumer. In effect it generally involves one company trying to do business to the general public.
It could just as easy be shortened to just “Consumer – so “B2C Sales” could become “Consumer Sales”.
B2B (Business to Business)
B2B is a short version of Business to Business. In effect it generally involves one company trying to do business to another company- for example Dell selling to ICI.
It could just as easy 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 nature of 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 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
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.
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
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
Provision of a (centralised) process or interaction route, irrespective of the interaction channel.
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.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)
A method of connecting your telephone system to your database. Most commonly this will allow you to pop your callers 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 is 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 Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance (QA) is a business process that ensures products and services meet an internally agreed standard.
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 and 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 customers details appear automatically on an Agent screen when the call is answered.
Customer Journey Map
Customer Journey Maps are 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.
A dashboard is an at-a-glance report of important statistics relating to contact centre performance.
Digital Access Signaling System (DASS 2)
It is a type of digital telephone line that connects between that 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 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 callers telephony number to the called party. – Known in the UK as DDI.
Emoji or Emoticon
Emojis and emoticons are pictorial representations of faces used in text-based communication to express emotional response.
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.
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 and 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 empathizing, knows what the other person is going through, and can identifies with the person.
“I can empathize 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 empathizes 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.
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 choses 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.
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.”
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’s in the Call Centres, 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?
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
A telephone system that lets callers interact with your company through either touch tone or speech recognition.
The IVR will ask the customer to press a button on their telephone key pad 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 you your account balance.
INS (Intelligent Network Service)
Facilitates the distribution of calls to multiple destinations across a virtual call centre 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.
IVR (interactive voice response) is a computerised telephone system, commonly used when a customer rings a call centre.
We currently have no definitions beginning with the letter ‘J’.
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
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.
LAN (Local Area Network)
A network located in one building that links terminals, PCs and common equipment e.g. printers to that computers can share information and applications.
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 about them.
Lost calls are any inbound calls that do not result in the caller being connected to either an advisor or an answering service.
MIS (Management Information Systems)
Reports that enable the Call Centre Manager to monitor the Call Centres performance through Wallboards, Real Time Displays, Reporting, Forecasting and Staff Allocation.
Multi-site networking is the practice of rerouting calls to external locations based on the availability of resources.
Agents that are skilled in handling calls in more than one language.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Multilingual Customer Support
An agent who can handle several different types of call, – different call types e.g. sales and service.
A nuisance call is an unwelcome or unwanted call which bothers the recipient.
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.
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.
Call Centre Helper Directory – Outsourced Contact Centre Services
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).
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
The ability to prioritise and handle callers when there is no Agent available.
A remote agent works from a location other than the traditional contact centre, which is usually their own home.
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.
Screen pop describes the ability for a screen to arrive on an agent desktop at the same time as a call.
A script is a written guide produced for agents to assist them with call handling.
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 signaling 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.
Skills Based Routing
Ensures that calls are directed to those agents that have the specific skills to answer that call type most effectively.
Social Customer Service
Social customer service is the practice of extending a business’s existing service platform to include social media channels.
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 amount of time an Agent spends handling a customer call – from start to finish.
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.
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 confusing 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; 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
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.
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. See also SOA (Service Orientated Architecture).
VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol
The means by which a voice channel is delivered as Packets through Internet Protocols, using a pr-existing streaming (CODEC) format, such as H.225, H.323 (see also SIP). LINK: http://www.protocols.com/pbook/VoIPFamily.htm
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?
WAN (Wide Area Network)
An intra office data network used to connect terminals, computers and equipment across multiple sites.
WFM – Work Force Management
The means of determining and providing Schedules, Forecasting and Adherence for a work force, against historical interaction volumes and known future events.
WFO – Work Force Optimization
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’.
We currently have no definitions beginning with the letter ‘Z’.
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