Contact Center Glossary

The most common call center, contact center, customer experience, and workforce management terms defined.

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A

Abandon Call Rate

The percentage of inbound phone calls abandoned by the customer before speaking to an agent. It is calculated by dividing the number of abandoned calls by the total number of inbound calls.

Abandon Rate

The number of customers who abandon the queue after waiting for a given period of time divided by total number of contacts.

Adherence

The amount of time an agent works that coincides with the time they are scheduled to work, sometimes called schedule adherence. The time considered in adherence includes call time, after-call work, and activities such as meetings and training.

After-Call Work (ACW)

The tasks that a call center agent completes after finishing an interaction with a customer, sometimes referred to as post-call processing. Tasks could include sending an email to the customer or internal department to follow up on the call, logging details about the call in a database, and scheduling follow-up actions. 

Agent Occupancy

The amount of time an agent spends on call handling activities as a proportion of total time worked. This is typically measured at the team level rather than the agent level. Occupancy is also called utilization rate or agent utilization rate.

Agent Status

The current working status of an agent, such as available (ready to take calls), busy (on a call), unavailable (on a break), after-call work, etc.

Agent Total Time

The amount of time an agent is occupied with or available to handle customer requests plus their time away for breaks, meetings, meals, training, and other activities not directly related to handling customer calls.

Agent Utilization Rate

The percentage of time that contact center agents spend in active call handling versus in an idle or available state.

Answered Call

An inbound call that is handled by a contact center agent.

Automated Attendant

Technology that allows callers to be automatically transferred without human intervention, sometimes referred to as auto attendant. An automated attendant typically offers a menu system the caller can interact with to route their call to the appropriate team or department.

Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)

A device that answers and distributes incoming calls to a specific group of agents within a call center. ACDs can route callers based on the caller’s needs, telephone number, selected incoming line, or time of day.

Arrival Pattern

A graphical representation of the times and frequencies of inbound customer calls derived from an analysis of past contacts, used to identify variances in contact frequency.

Attrition

The rate at which agents voluntarily or involuntarily leave your support team to join another team in the company or exit the company altogether.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

Technology that converts spoken language into machine readable text.

Available Time

Time spent by a contact center agent ready and waiting to take calls, answer emails, and respond to chat messages. Also called idle time.

Availability Rate

The proportion of time an agent is actively ready to work with customers but not engaged directly with a customer, sometimes referred to as idle time or available time.

Average Call Transfer Rate

The percentage of customer calls transferred or routed to another team member, department, or queue in order to be completed or resolved.

Average Handle Time (AHT)

The average duration of the entire customer call interaction, from the time the customer initiates the call to ending the call. This includes hold times, transfers, and after-call work. To calculate average handle time, add total talk time, total hold time and after-call work time, then divide that number by the total number of customer calls. 

Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

The average amount of time it takes agents to answer inbound customer calls once they appear in the call center queue.

Average Talk Time

The amount of time a contact center agent spends handling customer calls and resolving queries, not to be confused with average handle time which is longer in duration.

Average Time to Abandonment (ATA)

The average length of time that a caller waits in a queue before they abandon their call, sometimes referred to as average patience.

B

Backlog

The number of customer support tickets that have yet to be addressed or resolved within a given period of time.

Blended Agent

A call center agent who handles incoming and outgoing calls.

Blocked Call

An inbound call that is blocked from entering an agent queue. Blocked calls may occur during extreme peak times in which case callers would be prompted to call again later.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

A method of subcontracting various business operations to third-party vendors, such as a contact center.

C

Call Avoidance

The practice of avoiding taking phone calls, which could involve agents taking their phone off the hook, transferring calls to others, taking excessive breaks, or deliberately taking longer than needed to handle a particular call.

Call Barging

The practice of dropping in on live calls to speak with the customer and the agent. 

Call Blending

The practice of enabling agents to make outgoing calls when inbound calls are slow, which includes delivering both inbound and outbound calls seamlessly to the agent.

Call Center (Call Centre)

An office staffed by agents trained to handle a large volume of inbound and outbound phone calls and inquiries, especially for taking orders and providing customer service.

Call Center Manager (Call Centre Manager)

A worker who is responsible for hiring, training, and supervising call center agents and employees. The manager sets goals, monitors challenges, and works to motivate team members to offer exceptional customer service.

Call Center Software (Call Centre Software)

Technology that increases the effectiveness and efficiency of a call center, with specific focus on facilitating high quality interactions between customers and agents.

Call Monitoring Modes

ways for a call center supervisor to participate in a contact center agent’s calls with customers, including listening, whispering, barging, and recording.

Call Recording

The capture of audio and screen activity associated with agent-to-customer phone calls so that they can be stored, retrieved, and evaluated.

Call Routing

A call management feature for contact centers that allows incoming calls to be placed in a queue and then routed to a specific person or group of people based on business rules and caller criteria.

Call Script

A document that clearly lays out what a call center agent is supposed to say in response to a specific customer issue or problem.

Caller ID

A service that allows an agent to identify the area code, phone number, and location of the person calling before answering the call.

Carrier

A telecommunications service provider (TSP) that enables the public to call into a contact center by telephone.

Chatbot

Technology that uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and speech recognition to simulate human conversations.

Churn Rate

The percentage of customers who end their relationship with a business within a given period, also referred to as attrition.

Cloud Contact Center (Cloud Contact Centre)

A contact center whose operational tools and systems for handling customer communications are hosted on remote servers instead of on premises.

Cold Call

Unsolicited calls placed by contact center agents to prospective customers, usually for the purpose of making a sale or introducing a product.

Compliance

The percentage of time that an agent works compared to the total time he or she was scheduled.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

Technology that links computer systems with telephone systems to control how agent calls are made and received.

Contact Center (Contact Centre)

An office staffed by agents trained to handle omnichannel customer support, including telephone, email, chat, social media, and website.

Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)

A cloud-based service that enables companies to use only the technology they need to operate a contact center, thereby reducing IT costs.

Contact Center Quality Assurance

A process that helps ensure customer interactions are aligned with business goals. Typically includes identifying common customer issues, improving the customer experience, and standardizing customer communications.

Cost Per Call (CPC)

A call center metric calculated by dividing the fully loaded cost of your contact center for a given period by the number of inbound and outbound calls handled in the same period.

Cost per Case

The average cost per support contact, which can include fixed costs, such as office space and technology expenses, and variable costs, such as scheduled labor and unscheduled overtime. Sometimes referred to cost per contact.

Cross-Sell

The process of selling a new or additional product or service to an existing customer.

Customer Experience Management (CEM)

The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and increase satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A technology for managing a company's relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

A business metric that indicates how satisfied a customer or group of customers is with a specific product, transaction, or interaction with a company. The metric can also be applied at the company level.

D

Delayed Call

An inbound customer call that remains in a queue waiting for an agent to become free to respond.

Digital Experience (DX)

A customer’s collective interactions with a company via multiple digital touchpoints, such as mobile device, social media, or desktop computer.

Dual-Tone Multifrequency (DTMF)

A method of signaling a desired telephone number by sending tones on a telephone line, sometimes referred to as touch-tone.

E

Employee Experience (EX)

An agent’s collective perceptions about their journey through all the touchpoints at a particular company, starting with their candidacy and proceeding through their exit.

Erlang C Formula

An equation for calculating the number of agents needed in a contact center, given the number of calls and the desired or target service level.

Erlang Formulas

Mathematical calculations to derive the number of staff needed for a given number of calls to meet a given service level.

Expected Wait Time (EWT)

An estimate of how long a customer will have to wait in a queue before being connected with an agent, based on call volume, handling time, and staffing levels.

F

First Call Resolution (FCR)

A case in which a caller’s question is answered or problem is solved during the initial call so that no follow-up contacts are necessary.

First Contact Resolution

A case in which a customer’s question is answered or problem is solved during the initial interaction so that no follow-up contacts are necessary.

Forecast Accuracy

The degree to which a predicted volume of calls or contacts reflects the reality of support volume for a given period.

Forecasting

A prediction of contact center workload and staffing requirements, based on historical data.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

An employee's scheduled hours divided by their employer's defined hours for a full-time work week.

H

Handled Call

A call that is answered by an agent instead of being blocked or abandoned.

Handling Time

The combination of talk time and after-call work time.

Holding Time (Hold Time)

The amount of time a caller spends in an agent-initiated hold status.

I

Idle Time

Time spent by a call center agent ready and waiting to take calls, also called available time.

Intelligent Call Router (ICR)

Technology that captures and places incoming customer calls into a queue and then routes each one to the appropriate group or agent.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

A device that automates the retrieval and processing of information by phone using touch tone signaling or voice recognition to access information from a server. The response may be given via recorded human voice or computerized voice.

Interval

A defined period of time, usually between 5 and 30 minutes, used to break up and define the work day, enabling close analysis of productivity, forecasting, scheduling and other contact center performance metrics.

Intraday Scheduling

A method of schedule management designed to reduce the impact of unplanned events, rebalancing each day’s workload with available agents to maintain acceptable service levels.

K

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

The most critical performance metrics in a contact center, typically measures related to productivity and customer satisfaction.

Knowledge Management System (KMS)

Technology that contains a database of knowledge and pertinent information related to handling customer interactions.

L

Learning Management System (LMS)

A technology for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs.

Live Chat

A communication channel that allows customers to communicate with a contact center agent in real time, typically via mobile app or website accessed through a browser.

Load Balancing

The process of balancing customer calls between multiple sites, queues, or agents.

Logged On

The state of being able to communicate or initiate interaction with a computer or technology system.

Longest Available Agent (Longest Waiting Agent)

The agent who has been without a customer call or post-call assignment for the longest period of time, sometimes referred to as the longest waiting agent.

Lost Call

An inbound customer call that does not result in the caller being connected to an agent or answering service.

M

Monitoring

The practice of listening to an agent’s calls to assess the quality with which the call is handled.

N

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

An index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company's products or services to others.

Nuisance Call

An unwelcome or unwanted call that bothers or annoys the recipient.

O

Occupancy Rate

The percentage of logged-in and available time that an agent spends in active call handling versus in an idle or available state.

Outbound Dialing Campaign

A coordinated sequence of dialing phone lists automatically, while screening out answering machines, busy signals, and non-completed calls, to achieve a call center metric typically related to performance or sales.

Outsourcing

The process of contracting with an outside company to handle some or all contacts with customers.

P

Peak Hour Traffic (PHT)

The highest volume load of traffic offered to a telecommunications system, sometimes referred to as peak traffic.

Power Dialer

An automatic dialing system that allows an agent to call through a manually set list of contact or prospect phone numbers, sometimes referred to as a progressive dialer.

Predictive Dialer

A device used to automate the making outbound calls and directing them to an agent only when a person answers so as to screen out answering machines and busy signals.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX)

A private telephone exchange located on the user's premises and connected to the public network via trunks.

Progressive Dialer

An automated dialing technique that presents contact information to a contact center agent prior to dialing the phone number.

Q

Quality Assurance

the people, processes, and systems for monitoring customer calls to ensure they are being handled by agents in a desired fashion, also known as quality management.

Quality Assurance Scorecard

A rubric against which an analyst, team lead, or manager scores an agent's interactions with a customer with the intention of improving an agent’s performance.

Quality Management

The people, processes, and systems a contact center uses used to monitor customer interactions to ensure they are being handled by contact center agents in the desired fashion, also known as quality assurance.

Queue Time

The time a customer waits for an agent to become available and handle their request.

R

Real-Time Management

The process of proactively managing agent contacts and queues on the same day they occur to ensure call center service levels and business targets are met.

Remote Agent

An agent physically located outside the contact center, typically connected to the center on an as-needed or scheduled basis to supply additional answering capability.

Response Time

The amount of time needed to answer a contact, serving as a gauge how accessible your contact center is to customers and the number of agents required to maximize service efficiency.

Routing

A management feature for contact centers that allows incoming contacts to be placed in a queue and then routed to a specific person or group of people based on business rules and criteria.

S

Schedule Adherence

The amount of time an agent works that coincides with the time they are scheduled to work, sometimes simply called adherence. The time considered in adherence includes call time, after-call work, and activities such as meetings and training.

Schedule Conformance

The total amount of time an agent was scheduled to work compared to the time they actually worked.

Schedule Efficiency

The measurement of how closely scheduled resources match the forecast number of resources needed.

Scheduling

A workforce management activity in which agent schedules are created based on expected contact volume, and agent availability and skillset.

Script

The words and logic to be followed in the handling of a customer call to assist agents in focusing on the most important aspects of the call, sometimes referred to as a call script.

Self-Service

A software application that enables the user to access and use its features to address their unique needs or issues without help from an agent.

Service Level

A speed-of-answer goal that is typically expressed as some percentage of calls to be answered within a specified number of seconds.

Service Level Agreement

A contact center's commitment to maintain a certain level of service, typically involving a specified percentage of handled contacts within a period of time.

Session Initiated Protocol (SIP)

A signaling protocol used for initiating, maintaining, and terminating real-time voice, video, or messaging sessions in a software application.

Shrinkage

The percentage of paid time that contact center agents are not available to handle calls, emails, chats, and other customer interactions after accounting for breaks, meetings, training time, off-phone activities, paid leave, and other activities.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

A software application delivered to customers over the Internet and typically billed on a monthly or yearly basis.

T

Transfer Rate

The percentage of customer calls transferred to another team member in order to be completed or resolved.

U

Unified Desktop

The integration of a CRM system with multichannel communication, including phone, email, social, chat, and mobile on to a single agent interface.

Upsell

The practice of selling a comparable, higher-end product than the one in question to an existing customer.

Utilization

A contact center metric that represents the time agents are engaged with customers or waiting for incoming customer interaction as a percentage of the time for which they are compensated, excluding paid time off and any unpaid breaks.

Utilization Rate

The percentage of logged-in and available time that an agent spends in active call handling versus in an idle or available state, sometimes referred to as agent occupancy.

V

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

A method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over the Internet.

Voice Responsive Unit (VRU)

A device that automates the retrieval and processing of information by phone using touch tone signaling or voice recognition.

Volume

A measure of how many inbound contacts are coming into a contact center within a given period of time, typically represented in increments of a quarter-hour, hour, or day.

Volume Forecast

A prediction of the number of incoming contacts your team will receive over a given period of time.

W

Workforce Engagement Management (WEM)

Software products that help companies manage and improve contact center agent engagement.

Workforce Management (WFM)

The art and science of having the right number of agents, at the right times, to answer an accurately forecasted volume of incoming calls at the service level standard set by a contact center while minimizing cost.

Workforce Optimization (WFO)

A business strategy that integrates call center technologies for customer experience to promote operational efficiency.

Wrap-Up Time

The time required by an agent after a conversation is ended to complete work that is directly associated with the call just completed.
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