Contact Center Terminology

Contact Center Terminology – Abbreviations & Key Terms Explained!

Do you know your DTMF IVRs from your ACDs? Or your conformance rates from your utilization rates?

There’s a lot of terminology to get your head around in call centers and customer experience. (Working with contact centers around the world, we know that better than anyone!)

That’s why we’ve put together a glossary covering some key CX terms, with some links to further resources so you can become your company’s CX expert in no time.

We’ve divided our definitions into the following categories:

Make sure to bookmark this page for the next time someone asks you to define a predictive dialer! (Check back here for new definitions as we update the page.)

Metrics and measurables


Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A key performance indicator is a measurement that indicates how well a business is reaching important objectives. For a contact center KPIs can include average speed of answer, call transfer rate, and average hold time. Contact center KPIs should be interpreted and applied carefully to balance contact center efficiency with quality of customer experience.

Average Time to Abandon (ATA)

Average time to Abandon is a contact center KPI which shows the average amount of time a caller will wait on hold before they disconnect. Usefully calculating and interpreting ATA depends on whether or the contact center uses an IVR system – this is complicated by the fact that customer can either hang up from frustration, or because the IVR answered their query. 

Active waiting calls metric

The active and waiting calls metric is a key performance indicator that measures the effectiveness of customer service teams by the number of calls agents take to the number of calls that are on hold. It is a key KPI for tracking call center performance. 

Agent availability

Agent availability is a contact center KPI that indicates what proportion of their time at work agents are available to handle calls in. In other words this measures the percentage of work time during which agents are ready to take calls, and are not engaged in other work activities such as admin or ACW (after call work).

Calculation - Agent availability

Average Speed of Answer (ASA) 

Average speed of Answer is a call center KPI which indicates the average amount of time a caller must wait to reach an agent after they’ve entered a queue. This does not include time spent navigating an IVR system. A lower ASA is considered a sign of a healthy call center.

Average Handling Time (AHT)

Average handling time is the amount of time a contact center agent typically spends handling an interaction. It includes the total talk and hold time, as well as the wrap-up time after each call. 

Call Center Analytics

Call center analytics are data-driven metrics that illuminate call center performance and inform future planning and improvements. Analytics used in this way by call centers can include KPIs gathered by the software used by call center agents to make/manage calls, and even predictive analytics model customer behaviour to anticipate contact spikes. 

Call center blockage

Call center blockage refers to the inability of a call center’s communication channels to handle a new incoming contact, either due to high incoming traffic or technical difficulties. Calculating the call center blockage rate is a useful step towards understanding and improving performance. 

Call center interval reports

A call center interval report is a snapshot of call center performance during a specific timeframe of usually less than a day. As distinct from the daily/weekly/monthly reports used to measure wider performance trends, an interval report allows you to measure specific KPIs and general performance at a specific time of day (e.g. lunchtime). 

Call Transfer Rate (CTR)

Call transfer rate is a contact center KPI which measures the percentage of total calls that are transferred from one agent to another agent or resource (whether at the request of the caller or as a step towards connecting the caller to more relevant personnel.) A well designed modern contact center will keep CTR low with effective automatic call distribution.

Conformance

Conformance is a measure used by contact centers which shows what percentage of their paid time a given agent spends working (including things like paid breaks, coaching sessions and meetings). Working overtime could push an agent’s conformance rate over 100%.

Cost per call

Cost per call is key performance indicator that grants insight into how effectively a contact center’s budget is being spent. Cost per call is calculated by dividing the center’s total operating costs for a given time period by the number of calls. 

Employee Satisfaction (ESat)

Employee satisfaction is a metric which measured how happy employees are in their role by tracking factors such as satisfaction with day-to-day tasks and alignment with company goals. ESat can be measured by surveying staff to establish an Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI).

Expected Wait Time? (EWT)

Estimated wait time is an estimate – usually calculated on a rolling basis by call center software – of the length of time a caller will have to wait in a queue before an agent answers. Communicating this kind of information to callers is a good way to improve CX.

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

First contact resolution is an important contact center KPI for inbound contact centers. It measures the number of calls (and other forms of contact) that result in a resolution with no follow-up contact necessary. 

Percentage of calls blocked

The “percentage of calls blocked” is a metric that measures the proportion of inbound calls that do not reach an agent because they are deliberately disconnected by your phone systems to prevent excessive wait times. A high percentage of calls blocked can indicate an over-reliance on telephony as a contact channel.

Calculation - Percentage of Calls blocked


Revenue per call

Revenue per call is an approximate measure of the average income brought in by each call handled by your contact centre (both outbound and inbound). Revenue per call is calculated by taking the total revenue generated by the calls in a given sample, and dividing that total by the number of calls in the sample.

Schedule adherence

Call center schedule adherence is a percentage measure of how well agents stick to their schedules. High adherence rates demonstrate that people are working when they are supposed to, which keeps queue times down and helps to split traffic between agents.

Pacing ratio

The pacing ratio is an integral part of the predictive dialers used by contact centers. It’s defined as the ratio between available agents and the number of calls to be made for each individual agent. A ratio of 1:6 means that the dialer will dial out between one and six contacts for each agent at a given time. 

Utilization

Utilization is a measure of how much of an agent’s time is spent on the contact floor, handling contacts and waiting for them to arrive. A utilization rate of 75% means that an agent spends three quarter of their time attempting to assist with customer activity. 

Wrap-up time

Wrap-up time is the time that it takes a call center agent to perform call-related tasks after the call has ended (such as recording outcomes or escalating a complaint). Wrap-up time is the portion of the total ‘handle-time’ that does not include hold time or talk time.

Technology

Application Programming Interface (API)

An API is an application programming interface. It allows two or more software applications to communicate with each other, or collate data from various apps to provide a better customer experience. In the contact center, this can also enable automated workflows that span the technology stack for a better customer experience. 

Application Service Provider (ASP)

An application service provider is a company that provides software capability to another company via the internet. The ASP will set up the client’s software instance on ASP infrastructure so that the client does not have to worry about issues such as maintenance. 

This is distinct from SaaS, which is more likely to be billed flexibly than ASP software.

Automatic callback

Automatic callback (AKA virtual queuing) allows customers to request a return call if the contact center’s current line is busy or if no agent is available. This is often enabled with contact center automation software, and gives the caller the option to hang up but retain their place in the queue. The caller receives a callback when they reach the front. 

Concept of virutal queuing

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)

Automatic call distribution is the functionality of an Automatic call distributor (ACD) which routes incoming calls to an appropriate contact center agent without the intervention of a live switchboard operator. A modern ACD can route callers through an IVR (which may actually resolve their query before they reach an agent) and pull data from other computer systems to inform its call routing decision.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

Automatic speech recognition is technology that allows users to interact with a computer application using their voice. ASR is distinct from ‘voice recognition’ in that it deciphers intent from the caller’s speech. ASR is also known as conversational AI. 

Blended Universal Queue System (BUQS)

A blended universal queue system is a method for combining traffic from multiple channels into a single queue, rather than having a queue per channel. Modern customers are likely to use multiple channels within a single enquiry, and BUQS is a step towards meeting this expectation. 

Call Line Identification (CLI)

Call line identification is the ability of a person receiving a call to view the telephone number of the caller. Within an inbound contact center, if your telephony is connected to the CRM, CLI can bring up key information and allow the agent to set a good tone by greeting the caller.

Cloud contact center

A cloud contact center is a customer service operation that uses diverse software solutions to manage customer service interactions. These software solutions are typically hosted in the cloud, which can reduce costs for the call center and offer greater flexibility in terms of adding or removing ‘seats’.

Conversational AI

Conversational AI is a broad term for a group of technologies which use speech as their main input and output – in other words any system you can talk to that can talk back. In an interactive voice response system in a call centre, this can include using NLP and NLU to give callers a faster route to query resolution.

Co-browsing

Co-browsing, or collaborative browsing, is when a customer grants a contact center agent remote access to their browser or software interface so that they can browse a website or application together. Importantly, the agent is able to interact with as well as view the content, allowing them to provide advice or solve issues together with the customer.

Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)

Contact Center as a Service refers to cloud-based software packages that contain everything a business needs to start a contact center. They will usually include features – such as call routing, dialers, IVR, and VoIP telephony – that allow a contact center to be easily started and scaled. 

Call center dialer

A dialer is an automated system that places a series of calls to customers from an outbound call center or a blended call center, with the aim of making the call center agents’ work more efficient by removing repetitive tasks. Modern dialers may integrate with other systems such as call center CRMs to filter out unnecessary calls based on data (such as X has already made an inbound call).

Document Management System (DMS)

A document management system is an automated software solution that stores, manages and tracks all documents and data that passes through a company. Contact centers can deploy a DMS to organize information from incoming emails to relieve pressure on agents. 

Dual Tone Multifrequency (DTMF)

Dual Tone Multifrequency is a technology that allows telephone callers to communicate with automated programs by pressing numerical keys. Contact center IVR systems often use DTMF where callers are allowed to press a key to select an option. The system listens for the tone produced by the key press, rather than directly responding to the button itself.


DTMF vs Conversational IVR


Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Interactive voice response is functionality included in call center management software that allows the system to ‘speak’ back to the caller using recorded or dynamically generated speech. The caller can either interact with button presses (as with a Dual tone multi-frequency IVR) or verbally if the IVR system is advanced enough to include conversational AI. IVR can either help direct a caller to the right human phone operator, or even resolve queries without company-side human intervention. 

What is No-Code development?

No-code development is the ability to create new services and processes without writing code. A no-code development platform will present the user with a versatile set of ‘prefabricated’ and configurable components (through a graphical user interface) that will allow the user to create software functionality bespoke to their own needs without a costly dev team.

Platform as a Service? (PaaS)

Platform as a Service is a cloud computing service where a third party provides a supporting platform which users can remotely access in order to develop customised applications. PaaS often provides an OS as well as infrastructure, but with fewer pre-built applications than a SaaS solution.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX)

A private branch exchange is a telephone network or system that allows a company to have a private switchboard. Employees can dial each other’s extensions and also make outside calls. PBX systems can be either on-premise or hosted by a third-party provider. 

Progressive dialer

A progressive dialer is a piece of call center software functionality that automatically works through a pre-prepared list of phone numbers so that the call center agent does not have to waste time manually dialing. The system will present the agent with useful information about each call, and automatically disconnect calls that reach customer voicemail in order to increase efficiency and save costs. 

Skills-based routing

Skills-based routing matches agents (with a particular area of expertise) to callers most likely to benefit from that expertise. This is available as a feature of more ACD systems, and can match customers with multi-lingual agents, retention specialists or others as needed.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Voice over Internet Protocol refers to a form of telephony where the speaker’s voice is digitalised and transmitted via the internet instead of traditional telephone infrastructure. This can reduce costs and allow the integration of business telephony with other useful software features.

Voice User Interface (VUI)

A voice user interface allows customers to interact with a computer or other electronic device using their voice. VUI is experiencing growth in consumer electronics (see Alexa and Siri) and in customer service, where 73% of customers believe that conversational self service can significantly improve their experience.

Virtual contact center software

Virtual call center software allows geographically dispersed call center agents to manage customer interactions remotely. Other functionality is often included in the software package such as CRM integration so that agents can access relevant information to support issue resolution. 

Contact center terminology 

Call center coaching

Call center coaching is a call management tool that offers agents feedback, examples and performance assessments in order to improve their performance and wellbeing. When agents understand good practices to follow, they can heighten their skills and deliver top notch customer service.

Call center forecasting

Call center forecasting is the practice of determining future contact volume and the corresponding number of contact center agents needed to handle that volume over a set period of time. This can be achieved through excel, or with workforce management software with built in business intelligence tools.

Call center script

A call center script is a written guide which informs the way in which call center agents deal with particular sales or customer service scenarios. They range from general guidance to details instructions on what to say, and often include information on how to assess call intentions, upsell products or effectively close an interaction.

Customer Journey Map (CJM)

A customer journey map is a visualization that tracks the various stages that consumers encounter when they interact with your business. They can cover key purchasing journey moments from awareness to decision, and can formalize which teams and contact channels are involved at which stages.

Inbound call center

An inbound call center is a centralized (unless cloud-enabled and geographically dispersed) location housing staff whose job it is to receive inbound phone calls, the calls coming in from customers or potential customers. Inbound call centers deal with things like providing customer service, booking appointments, and working on customer loyalty. 

Call center queue

A call center queue is the virtual waiting list which a customer or potential customer is placed in with other callers while they wait for an agent to become available to deal with their query. Well optimized call centers place high importance on managing queueing times so that customers do not become frustrated. 

Workforce Management (WFM)

Workforce management is a set of business processes that call centers use to ensure that staff can work in an efficient way. This can include analyzing performance and forecasting demand in order to schedule the right number of appropriately skilled staff members to meet erratic demand levels. 

Business practices and methodology

Business continuity planning

Business continuity planning refers to a strategy or group of strategies for preventing (or recovering from) major disruption such as infrastructure failure, unprecedented demand or a natural disaster. A BCP might involve redundant infrastructure or cloud services to share an increased load.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence is the practice of using insights from analytical data (often collected by software) to assess business performance and optimize future strategy. For a contact center, key BI metrics include First Contact Resolution (FCR), Average Handle Time (AHT), Customer Satisfaction (CSat) and sales/revenue data. 

Business process outsourcing

Business process outsourcing is a contractual agreement where businesses pay an external service provider to manage specific tasks. These are usually essential front-office or back-office tasks such as processing sales, outbound call center services, and managing IT infrastructure.



Reasons for Business Process Outsourcing




Lead enrichment

Lead enrichment is the process of gathering additional data and adding to a lead profile so that sales staff know which potential customers to focus on. ‘Enriching’ the lead profile with extra data such as industry, revenue and number of employees can narrow down which potential customers would be the best fit for your offering. 

A Request for Proposal (RFP)

A request for proposal is a formal document produced by an organization that is seeking to purchase goods or services, or to find a partner for a project. The RFP will outline project information, the requesting organization’s requirements, and often take the form of a questionnaire to evaluate potential partners/service providers. 

What is sales acceleration?

Sales acceleration is about making every part of the sales process faster. The sales function of any company involves numerous complex interactions and systems. A sales acceleration initiative aims to maximize efficiency across all processes and data flows touching sales. 

Voice of the Customer (VoC)

Voice of the Customer is the collected commentary that your customer makes about your brand. This can be gleaned from a mixture of surveying, feedback forms, reviews and social media posts as a way to gather actionable insights to power positive change for your brand.

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