Efficient communication is key in the workplace. 

In the call center industry, this efficiency is even more critical, and it’s achieved through the use of specific terminology and acronyms. These linguistic shortcuts are more than just a convenience — they are a necessity for clear and swift communication. 

For instance, abbreviations like “AHT” for “Average Handling Time” are universally understood within the industry, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. 

Cutting a few seconds or words here and there may seem insignificant, but it adds up. That’s why embracing this specialized language streamlines interactions and fosters a cohesive work environment.

Here are some call center terms and acronyms you should be familiar with. 

Call center terminology every agent should know and use

Use this comprehensive list of the 43 most common call center terms and definitions as your go-to source to clear things up when you’re scratching your head on the sales floor over strange collections of letters.

1️⃣ Call center employees 

Who works in a call center? Here are the main roles you can expect to see:

1. Agent: These call center representatives handle incoming and outgoing customer calls or any other communication with customers in the contact center.

2. Blended agent: A call center refers to a contact center representative who handles both inbound and outbound communication channels. These agents are skilled in managing incoming calls from customers seeking assistance or support, as well as making outbound calls to reach out to prospects or customers for various purposes such as lead generation, sales, surveys, or follow-ups. 

3. Call center manager: This person is responsible for budget execution, operation, business performance, and overall direction of the call center management software.

4. Coach: In a call center, a coach provides additional support and technical knowledge to agents.

5. Customer service representative (CSR): Anyone who interacts with customers. CSRs handle complaints, process orders, and share information about an organization’s products and services.

2️⃣ Metrics and KPIs

There are lots of ways to track performance in a call center, so your team needs to familiarize themselves with some of the terminology they’ll hear nearly daily:

6. Abandoned call: A call or any contact to the contact center that ends before any conversation occurs.

7. After-call-work (ACW): The tasks performed by agents immediately following a customer interaction. These include updating customer databases, logging call notes, filling out forms, and initiating outbound contact.

8. Average handle time (AHT): This metric shows the average time agents spend in call-related activities, including conversing, hold time, and any after-call activities and administration, i.e., ACW. 

💡 Use this formula to calculate your AHT: Add your total talk time + total hold time + total after-call tasks (or ACW), then divide by the number of total calls.

9. Average talk time: This measures the time an agent spends speaking to a customer. But it doesn’t include the time a customer spends on hold or the times an agent does other work during or after the call.

10. Average speed of answer (ASA): The average amount of time it takes for an agent to answer a call. ASA is crucial for assessing a contact center’s efficiency, measuring performance, and ensuring accessibility to customers. The typical industry standard for ASA is around 28 seconds, with the goal of keeping this metric as low as possible to enhance customer service and operational effectiveness.

11. Average time of abandonment (ATA): Use this call center term to measure the average length of time a caller stays in a queue before they hang up the call. ATA is also known as the Average Patience of the caller and plays a vital role in assessing call center efficiency, customer service quality, and operational performance.

12. Expected wait time (EWT): This is the expected time your phone system tells customers to wait before they can speak to an agent. EWT is calculated based on factors such as the number of customers in the queue and the average handling time of representatives, helping call centers predict and track wait times accurately.

13.  Busy hour call attempts (BHCA): This is a teletraffic engineering measurement used to evaluate and plan capacity for telephone networks. It represents the number of telephone calls attempted during the busiest 60-minute period in a 24-hour cycle.

14. First call resolution (FCR): A critical metric used in call centers to measure the percentage of customer calls or contacts that are resolved satisfactorily on the first interaction without the need for a follow-up. High FCR rates are indicative of excellent customer service, increased customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency within a contact center environment.

 🔑Providing an ideal caller experience will ensure customers keep coming back to engage with your business.

15. Hit rate. The percentage of successful sales or outcomes achieved by an agent from the total number of leads or contacts. It is a key performance indicator that provides insight into the effectiveness of the call center’s operations and the quality of the contact list. Measuring the hit rate helps in understanding an agent’s, team’s, or campaign’s efficiency and performance in converting leads into sales.

🔑  Use this metric to analyze the business performance associated with the outbound campaign. 

16. Best-in-class (BIC): Something management has designated as the preferred solution, standard, or benchmark. 

3️⃣ Software and tech 

What enables call centers to operate, manage, and reach customers in the most effective ways? In this section of call center terminology, we’re talking about tech jargon you need to know. 

17. Automatic call distributor (ACD): A specialized software phone system that manages incoming calls and routes them to the most appropriate agent or department within a company. The role of ACD systems is to improve the customer experience by reducing wait times and ensuring that callers are connected to the agent best suited to address their inquiries.  

🔑 A key role of ACDs is to help management track both calls and agent performance.

18. Automatic number identification (ANI): A telephony software system that provides the receiver of a telephone call with the number of the calling phone. ANI is crucial for tracking inbound calls to toll-free numbers and is used for both inbound and outbound calls in call center operations.

19. Application program interface (API): A software intermediary that lets two applications communicate with each other seamlessly. In a call center, APIs allow agents to access information from several different databases all in one application. APIs allow call centers to integrate various tools, streamline operations, and enhance customer service by facilitating the exchange of data between different systems. By utilizing APIs, call centers can create custom applications, automate processes, and extend the functionality of existing software solutions, leading to greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency in managing customer interactions.

20. Calling line identity (CLI): A technology that uses computer telephony integration software to match a customer’s number and their previous call records. This system provides information about the caller to the recipient of a telephone call. It displays the caller’s phone number or, in some cases, the name associated with the number on the recipient’s telephone screen. CLI has been a core component of contact center platforms since the 1970s, offering significant value by adding context to inbound calls. It allows for routing customers to appropriate agents, delivering customer context to agents for personalized service, and filtering out illegitimate calls to enhance contact center efficiency. Additionally, CLI is crucial for outbound contact centers to ensure transparent communication with customers and to comply with regulations regarding caller ID practices.

21. Customer experience management (CEM): Procedures adopted by a company to track the interactions between a customer and the call center agents. The purpose of this system is to ensure the best possible customer experience and exceed their expectations. 

22. Call management system (CMS): A software product for organizations that receive a large volume of telephone calls — or small ones that just want to manage customer databases the right way. CMS features often include collecting call-traffic data, creating management reports, and providing an administrative interface. The CMS enables call centers to efficiently manage dynamic call volumes, make data-driven decisions, enhance customer satisfaction, and optimize resource allocation. 

23. Collaborative browsing (AKA co-browsing): A software-enabled technique that makes it easier for an agent or CSR to interact with the customer and use their web browser to show or help them with something if they’re stuck on a web page. It’s worth mentioning that the agent can’t see sensitive information on the page — only the fields that are relevant to the issue.

24. Customer relationship management (CRM): All the techniques, tools, and technologies a call center uses to develop, retain, and acquire customers. This approach helps manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle. CRM systems in call centers store essential customer information, such as contact details, purchase history, preferences, and interaction records, enabling agents to provide personalized and efficient service.

25. Interactive voice response (IVR): Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a technology that allows telephone users to interact with a computer-operated telephone system through the use of voice or touch-tone keypad inputs. IVR systems enable customers to access information, make selections, and perform tasks without the need for a live agent, enhancing self-service capabilities and improving call center efficiency. IVR technology has evolved to include features like speech recognition, natural language processing, and integration with automated attendant systems, providing a more interactive and personalized experience for callers.

💡 Remember the expected wait time metric? The voice that updates customers on their hold time is an IVR prompt!

26.  Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP): A methodology and group of technologies that deliver voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, like the Internet. VoIP uses packet-switching rather than circuit-switching. In other words, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enables users to make and receive phone calls over the Internet instead of using traditional landline phones. It converts analog voice signals into digital data packets, which are then transmitted over broadband connections. VoIP offers a cost-effective, flexible, and scalable telephony solution that allows users to communicate using various devices, including softphones, VoIP phones, and traditional analog phones connected through adapters.

27. Private branch exchange (PBX): A Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a business telephone system that allows users to create telephone networks within a company, enabling internal and external communication over channels like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Each device connected to the PBX has its own extension with a designated number, and the PBX is connected to the public phone system to route calls to each extension. PBX systems provide features like call queues, call forwarding, and auto attendants, as well as managing routing and calling capabilities for both inbound and outbound calls.

4️⃣ Dialing techniques

Without systems and techniques that help manage incoming calls, it’d be nearly impossible for your sales team to be on the same page — plus, you’ll frustrate tons of potential customers and likely lose them. Learn this call center terminology to stay on top of your game. 

28. Blended universal queue system (BUQS): This is a customer service solution that integrates various communication channels, such as telephony, email, chat, and social media, into a single platform. It combines the benefits of multiple queue systems, prioritizes queries based on urgency and complexity, reduces customer wait times, and enhances overall customer satisfaction.

29. Blockage:  The percentage of calls that are initiated by customers but do not reach the center due to a lack of available circuits, lines, or trunks. It represents a measure of accessibility and can impact customer satisfaction significantly. Blockage can occur due to various reasons, such as insufficient lines or trunks between the caller and the center, technological failings, or deliberate manipulation to meet service-level objectives. Simply put, it’s when phone lines or other communication channels are filled to capacity with in-progress and queued contacts, which can cause additional inbound contacts to be blocked.

30. Call blending: A call center technology platform that allows agents to handle both inbound and outbound calls seamlessly without the need to switch between different systems manually. It enables agents to make outgoing calls and receive incoming calls efficiently, optimizing productivity and reducing idle time. Call blending systems automatically assign agents to either make outbound calls or take inbound calls based on call volume, ensuring a balanced workload and enhancing operational efficiency within call centers.

31. Customer-controlled routing (CCR): CCR is a telecommunications feature that gives customers the ability to manage and control the routing of incoming calls. This technology allows customers to customize the treatments and routing of their calls, enabling them to direct specific calls to designated agents who are best suited to handle their inquiries.

32. Pacing ratio: This is the ratio predictive dialers use to make outbound calls and transfer the connected calls to agents. In other words, it’s the ratio between the number of available agents and the number of calls to be made for each agent. It is a crucial parameter in predictive dialer systems that determines how many calls are dialed for each available agent.

💡 Here’s what that means: If the max pacing ratio is set to 1:6, the dialer will dial out six contacts for each available agent at most. This ensures a balance between the workload and agent availability. The pacing ratio plays a significant role in optimizing agent productivity, reducing idle time, and enhancing the efficiency of outbound call operations in call centers. 

33. Power dialer: Call centers use a power dialer when agents place calls one after another instantly. In case the number is busy, disconnected, or there’s no answer, the power dialer places the next number to call without any delay or input from the agent. This system is suitable for high-volume call centers, and it prioritizes quantity over quality. 

34. Predictive dialer: This refers to the system that dials multiple numbers simultaneously and routes the call immediately to an available agent as soon as someone picks up. However, this technology, although seemingly efficient, can frequently lead to dropped or blank calls. The trouble with this is that according to the TCPA regulations, the dropped-call rate has to be below 3%, and if you don’t comply, you risk hefty fines or even shutting down the lines. 

35. Preview dialer: An automated dialing technique where the display dialer presents a customer’s contact information to an agent before dialing the number. This way, the agent has time to review the information before the dialer automatically places the call, thus personalizing the experience.  

36. Queue: The “waiting line” that holds calls before an agent is available to attend to the waiting customer

5️⃣ Productivity and optimization

There’s always a way to improve your skills — in a call center, these terms define how leaders do that.

37. Post-call processing: The time an agent takes to finish administration work after their call ends, like ticketing, filling in forms, registering calls, and call-related information needed.

38. Business process outsourcing (BPO): Outsourcing some aspect of your call center’s operations to a third-party vendor or service provider.

39. Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR): Plans and practices put into place to support an organization’s ability to operate after an adverse event. BC/DR plans in call centers aim to minimize downtime, preserve customer service, and ensure operational resilience in the face of emergencies like natural disasters, cyberattacks, or IT failures.

40. Business intelligence (BI): BI refers to a systematic process of collecting, processing, and analyzing data related to customer interactions, agent performance, call volumes, and other relevant factors to make data-driven decisions that optimize call center operations and improve customer service.

41. Document management system (DMS): A software solution that helps call centers manage, track, and store documents efficiently. It plays a crucial role in improving customer service by enabling call center agents to access essential information quickly, respond to customer inquiries promptly, and collaborate effectively with team members. By organizing documents, automating processes, and ensuring secure access to information, a DMS enhances the overall efficiency of call center operations, leading to faster response times, streamlined workflows, and improved customer satisfaction.

42. Workforce management (WFM): An integrated set of processes that call center managers use to optimize the productivity of agents on the individual, departmental, and company-wide levels. For example, WFM includes determining and providing schedules and forecasting.

43. Script: A structured document that provides call center agents with clear instructions, responses, and next steps to guide them on how to handle various customer interactions effectively. These scripts ensure consistency across conversations, reduce errors, and help agents navigate different scenarios, such as greeting customers, handling inquiries, providing technical support, addressing complaints, and offering product information. To avoid your agents sounding robotic, the script shouldn’t be a linear document but a number of dynamic elements that agents can personalize and adapt to each customer interaction, allowing for a more natural and engaging conversation while still ensuring key information is conveyed accurately and efficiently 

Navigate your call center with jargon and acronyms

Call centers are one of the few places where no one will judge your use of jargon and industry terminology. In fact, it’s encouraged. Wondering how to upgrade your call center solution? Check out how VanillaSoft optimizes outbound call center operations with an intuitive, automated platform that’s easy to use and scale.

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