Did you know the average person spends 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime? That breaks down to about a third of your entire life. 

Before you go down the rabbit hole of questioning the existence of capitalism, think about how much call center terminology you’ve grown accustomed to using in your day-to-day to be on the same page as everyone else. 

It’s second nature to you now, but to effectively communicate with certain groups, we develop sublanguages — and it works for everyone. For example, it’s easier to text, “LOL. I’ll TTYL. BTW, LMK about the meeting,” than, “Laughing out loud. I’ll talk to you later. By the way, let me know about the meeting.”

Similarly, you’d rather ask, “Where are we with AHT this week?” than, “Where are we with the average handling time metric this week?” 

Cutting a few seconds here and there may seem insignificant, but I mean… reducing words to vowels or single syllables > saying mouthful of phrases. 

Call center terminology every agent should know (and use daily!)

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:

call center terminology

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

2. Blended agent: An agent who manages inbound and outbound calls and applications as needed, which is determined by contact center traffic levels. 

3. Call center manager: This person’s 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 tons of ways to track performance in a call center, so you gotta get hip to some of the terminology you’ll hear nearly daily: 

6. Abandoned call: A call or any contact to the contact center that ends before any conversation occurs. (Either you took too long to get to it, or the customer was short on patience that day.)

7. After-call-work (ACW): The average amount of time an agent takes to wrap up a call.

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. 

💡 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 number of seconds it takes for an agent to answer a call.

11. Average time of abandonment (ATA): Use this call center terminology to measure the average length of time a caller stays in a queue before they hang up the call.

12. Expected wait time (EWT): This is the expected time your phone system tells customers to wait before they can speak to an agent. 

13. Busy hour call attempts (BHCA): The number of calls agents attempted during the busiest hour of the day. Management often uses this metric to evaluate the capacity of telephone networks.

14. First call resolution (FCR): Do agents identify a customer’s issue the first time they contact a call center? That’s what this metric monitors, plus the quality of service that customers receive and considering the average resolution time for solving the problem.

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

15. Hit rate: This is the number of connected contacts out of the number of attempts — i.e., your hit rate is the success rate of your outreach efforts. That means it’s more about the number of products you sell than the number of people who called about it or visited your website. 

🔑 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, benchmark… you get my drift.

3️⃣ Software and tech 

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

17. Automatic call distributor (ACD): A specialized software phone system that answers incoming calls and routes them to the most appropriate agent or department within a company. This is a specialized phone system that handles incoming/inbound calls. 

call resolution

🔑 A key role of ACDs is to produce management information that tracks 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. But the service provider determines the method of providing this information.

19. Application program interface (API): A software intermediary that lets two applications talk to each other. In a call center, APIs provide agents with information from several different databases all in one application.

20. Calling line identity (CLI): A technology that uses computer telephony integration software to match a customer’s number and their previous call records.

21. Customer experience management (CEM): Procedures adopted by a company to track the interactions between a customer and the call center agents.

22. Call management system (CMS): A software product for organizations that receive a large volume of telephone calls — or a small one that just wants to manage customer databases the right way. CMS features often include collecting call-traffic data, creating management reports, and providing an administrative interface.

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 in a query. When considering options for secure and privacy-focused browsing, it’s worth comparing Brave vs DuckDuckGo. These browsers offer features that can enhance both customer service interactions and your own online privacy.

24. Customer relationship management (CRM): All the techniques, tools, and technologies a call center uses to develop, retain, and acquire customers.

25. Interactive voice response (IVR): IVR asks customers to press the buttons on their telephone keypad to select which service they want. Thereafter, the IVR routes the call to the most appropriate agent. 

💡 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.

27. Private branch exchange (PBX): A telephone system located at a customer’s site that handles incoming and outgoing calls. Plus, ACD software can provide PBXs with ACD functionality.

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 the ultimate combo of email, chat, and other data that enables universal queuing along with call blending.

29. Blockage: 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: The process of combining separate inbound and outbound agent groups into one group of agents who handle both inbound and outbound contacts. Call blending automatically puts agents who make outbound calls into the inbound mode, and vice versa, as the incoming call load requires.

31. Customer-controlled routing (CCR): The process of customizing customer experience by routing incoming calls to specific agents trained to address the customer’s specific issue.

32. Pacing ratio: This is the ratio predictive dialers use to make outbound calls and transfer the connected calls to agents.

💡 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. That means for every agent, the number of dialed calls will be between one and six. 

33. Power dialer: Call centers use a power dialer when agents place calls one after the other 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.

34. Predictive dialer: This is where the outbound dialer dials the calls sequentially without having the agent on the line. It routes the call immediately to an available agent as soon as someone picks up.

💡 Why the term ‘predictive’? Because it first checks the availability of the agent and even uses statistical algorithms to calculate the time it takes for a live person to answer the call. This minimizes the time agents spend waiting between conversations.

35. Progressive 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.

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.

40. Business intelligence (BI): A combination of analytics, data mining, data visualization, data integration tools, and infrastructure to help call centers to make more data-driven decisions and improve agent efficiency and the customer experience.

41. Document management system (DMS): Many call centers handle large amounts of incoming emails agents can’t check manually — DMS opens and scans them for electronic distribution.

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. WFM includes determining and providing schedules and forecasting, for example.

43. Script: A written guide produced for agents to assist them with call handling. 

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 after reading this article? 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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