A call that has arrived at an automatic
call distribution (ACD) system and the customer has hung up before an agent
Also known as a lost call.
An unexpected noise that comes through an agent's headset. This can be a high-pitched
noise or squeal.
A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as AHT for average
handling time, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series of
words, such as RADAR for RAdio Detecting And Ranging.
The art of showing a customer that you are listening and interested in
what they have to say. This involves giving them your full attention and
the use of verbal encouragers such as Yes, Aha and
Mmm. It also includes non-verbal acknowledgements such as nodding,
smiling and body language.
This refers to how closely an agent keeps to their schedule for lunch
and other breaks.
The person who answers the phone in a call centre/customer contact centre.
A group of agents who handle calls coming in on a particular telephone
number dialled by customers.
The individual code used by an agent to log into the automatic
call distribution (ACD) system. This ID allows the system to track
the performance of the agent.
Amplifiers magnify the sound as it is
transmitted to the headset and usually have a volume control,
a headset switch and a mute function. Many handsets have external amplifiers. Some types of phones have internal
Software designed to carry out a specific task, such as word processing, spreadsheets or a database.
The discussion of the details such as delivery
options with the customer as soon as you feel that the customer wants to
go ahead with the purchase.
Automatic call distribution (ACD) system:
A queuing system designed for use in customer contact centres/call centres
with high volumes of incoming telephone traffic - read the ACD
This system automatically offers the next inbound
call to the next available agent.
The system can be very sophisticated. It can be designed, for example,
to give priority to certain callers or to send certain types of calls to
Refer also to management information
This describes an agent, logged into the automatic
call distribution (ACD) system, who is ready and waiting for an inbound
call. (See unavailable.)
Also known as idle or ready.
Average handling time (AHT):
The average time spent on each call and follow-up work. This is worked
out by adding the talk time and work
time for calls, and then dividing the result by the number of calls.
Average speed of answer (ASA):
This is the average time a customer has to wait in the queue
before their call is answered.
Average talk time (ATT):
The average length of time that an agent speaks with a customer, from
answering to hanging up.
The advantage that a feature of a product or service provides to the customer. E.g. ease of use, low running
costs. See also feature.
An agent arranges to call the customer back if:
- the agent needs to give the customer additional information
- the customer was not available when the agent called.
Call centre/Customer contact centre:
A call centre/customer contact centre employs carefully trained agents
to handle customer calls. These may arrive via telephone calls, the internet
or e-mail. Agents may deal with calls about customer
service, sales, or other inquiries.
The term 'call centre' is being replaced with the term 'customer
contact centre' to reflect the changes that are taking place in
the industry particularly with technology. In the past, agents used to
interact with customers only via the phone. Today, customers have a wide
range of contact options, including fax, e-mail, websites or even Internet
A document outlining the steps an agent should take when making an inbound
or outbound call.
The number of inbound calls received in previous years on the same day
at the same time.
Calling line identity (CLI):
This allows the caller's telephone number to be displayed when the call is received. This helps the agent identify the caller.
Call target analysis (CTA)
The analysis of the performance of agents doing telemarketing. The analysis is based on the forms that agents complete whilst doing calls.
A question that only requires a 'yes', 'no' answer, or a very short specific answer.
(See open question.)
This is a term used in outbound calling. An agent
calls a new customer for the first time or calls an existing customer
about a new product or service that is now available.
An expression of dissatisfaction by a customer who is not
happy with a product or service provided or offered by the organisation.
Computer telephony integration (CTI):
The technology that links the computer, telephone and other services such as voice messaging and fax. CTI improves the handling
of the customer relationship. For example, customer details can be on
screen while an agent answers the call.
A 'meeting' by telephone in which three or more people in different locations
Credit management agency:
An organisation which specialises in collecting debts from people who
owe money to a business and have failed to pay within a reasonable time.
Credit reference agency (CRA):
Establishes whether a person or organisation is a good or poor credit
risk. A customer's information is forwarded to the CRA, who then checks
the customer's credit history. The CRA determines whether there is any history
of unpaid accounts, slow payment or any similar circumstances which would
result in a poor credit rating.
To sell related products or services in addition to the original purchase.
Customer care is a phrase that is used to describe the process of taking
care of our customers in a positive manner. The term is used in place
of complaint handling due to its positive focus,
and is a reminder that customer satisfaction is a priority.
A lull in a conversation during which there is no sound.
The level of authority an agent must work within to carry out their job.
(See also discretionary limit.) For
example, an agent may have delegation to refund up to $100. Beyond this,
the call must be escalated to a supervisor or team leader.
A limit generally set by the organisation on certain transactions
e.g. discounts that can be offered, extras included in package deals.
A call centre/customer contact centre might recommend appropriate phrases
for its agents to use with customers, but their use is not compulsory. (See standard greeting.)
Electronic Funds Transfer Point Of Sale. This is an immediate transfer
from the customer's savings, cheque or credit account to the vendor's
bank account. This service is not available for telephone orders.
Messages sent via the internet.
Demonstrating an understanding of a customer's point of view and feelings about a situation by using phrases such as "I can imagine this must be very upsetting".
The study of equipment design to make workplace equipment more comfortable for people so that they are more efficient
in their work environment.
The process of handing a call to a supervisor when the enquiry is outside the agent's delegation, when the enquiry/situation is too complex for
the agent to deal with or when the customer asks to speak with someone more senior.
(See refer and transfer.)
A person outside an organisation who requires a product or service.
The features of a product or service include actual information such as weight, height, colour, price. See
A prediction of the number of calls and the average
work time per agent over 15 or 30-minute intervals. Based on the forecast, the team leader or scheduler prepares a schedule.
- when a product will be supplied to the customer
- how it will be supplied
- dealing with the customer's expectations.
Grade of service (GOS):
This is a target set for call answering times, such as: 80 percent of
calls answered in 20 seconds.
Grade of service is the same as service level.
You may use guard words to help with the spelling and pronunciation of
names and unfamiliar words. For example, instead of saying "Is that T-O-N-Y",
you could say, "Is that T for Tommy, O for Oliver, N for Nellie and Y
Guard words resemble the phonetic alphabet used by the police or airline
pilots. Agents are free to develop their own set of guard words.
Here is a list of guard words you might want to use in the call centre/customer
contact centre industry:
| A - Alfred
||N - Nellie
|B - Benjamin
||O - Oliver
|C - Charles
||P - Peter
|D - David
||Q - Queen
|E - Edward
||R - Robert
|F - Frederick
||S - Samuel
|G - George
|| T - Tommy
|H - Harry
||U - Uncle
|I - Isaac
||V - Victor
|J - Jack
||W - William
|K - King
||X - X-ray
|L - London
||Y - Yellow
|M - Mary
||Z - Zebra
(See signal words.)
This allows for hands-free operation via an ear and mouthpiece attached to a telephone.
Any call received by a call centre/customer
Interactive voice response (IVR):
A greeting system that lines up inbound calls directly
in the appropriate queues. The IVR allows customers to interact with a computer (the ACD)
directly through their telephone keypad. A common IVR application is telephone banking.
Someone inside an organisation requiring a product or service.
This is a global network of computers that allows everyone connected to
the network to make contact with each other. You
can access the network in two ways, by:
- e-mail, which allows you to send messages to
- web browsing, which allows you to access information stored on computers
connected to the Internet.
The specialised or technical language of a trade, profession, or similar
Line of business (LOB) code:
This code indicates the product or process that a call
relates to. The LOB code is keyed in to the handset or computer by the agent at the
time they take the call.
Information that you can use to your advantage when dealing with a customer.
See abandoned call.
Management information system (MIS):
Management information systems that are associated with ACD
systems can provide information about calls, agents
and agent groups. This information is used
for preparation of statistical reports. The MIS also has current information,
e.g. number of calls on the queue, which agents are in wrap-up
time or the total number of calls answered in that day.
The use of a moderated or even tone of voice when speaking to
customers. The tone of voice should not be either too high (as this can
sound child-like), or too deep (as this can sound threatening).
The percentage of time that agents who are available to take calls are actively
occupied in talk time and after-call work
time. It is used to measure the productivity of agents.
Agents who are occupied 100% tend not to work as efficiently as those
who have time for other activities.
Occupancy does not include available time.
A question that encourages the customer to provide a lot of information
(see closed question), for example "Can you please describe the problem?".
Any outgoing call from the call centre/customer
contact centre to a customer.
The use of an external company to provide call
centre/customer contact centre services. The external company may provide
just staff, or staff, equipment and premises.
The transfer of calls from one agent
group to another so that they can be handled
Repeating to the customer what the customer said in the agents own
words. It is a summary of the customers information with a focus
on the key points.
Personal identification number (PIN):
A password or combination of numbers that is used to identify the user
of an electronic system such as the ACD.
Private automatic branch exchange (PABX):
An in-house telephone switching system that connects internal
phone extensions to each other, as well as to the outside telephone network.
Primary directory number (PDN):
The telephone number that customers dial to ring the customer
contact centre/call centre.
The use of open and closed questioning to assist in identification of
the substance of the call details. Open questioning allows for broad answers
while closed questioning results in a definitive answer, usually a Yes
A queue in a call centre is an electronic holding area where calls are placed until an agent becomes free
to answer them.
The number of seconds an individual call waits in the queue before
it is answered.
Building a relationship with a customer.
Providing the customer with the contact details of an external organisation when the agent is sure that
no one in their organisation can help the customer directly with their
enquiry. (See escalate and transfer.)
Agreeing with a customer on a solution to their problem.
Sales principles for agents:
Sales principles are the guidelines under which an organisation expects
their agents to operate. These relate to:
- the way to promote products
- information to provide to customers before an order is
placed in the system
- information to be gathered from a customer before a product/service is despatched
- sales ethics
- methods of recording customer information.
The feeling that a customer has when their needs have been met by the
agent who answered their call.
A plan which shows when each agent starts and finishes work, and when
breaks are taken during the day. The goal of scheduling is
to have the right number of agents on the queue at the right time, based
on the predicted number of calls.
Secondary directory number (SDN):
This is a direct line on which the agent can
make outbound calls and receive inbound
The percentage of calls a call centre/customer contact centre might expect to handle in a defined
number of seconds. For example an organisation might aim to answer 80% of their
calls within 20 seconds of each call arriving.
Service level is the same as grade of service.
This is usually a call with less than five or ten seconds of talk time.
In a customer service industry it is unlikely that a call can be handled
effectively in this very short amount of time.
See guard words.
A script that states exactly what an agent is required to say when answering
an inbound call. The standard greeting usually
contains a greeting, the name of the company, the agent's name and an
offer of help. (See discretionary phrasing.)
Also known as standard phrasing.
See standard greeting.
The time, measured in seconds, that an agent talks to a customer.
This lasts from when the agent first answers the call to when the caller
Telecommunications network provider:
A company that provides services such as telephones, telephone lines,
data lines and Internet access to individuals and companies.
Making outbound calls to a selected target group of new or existing customers
in order to sell goods and/or services.
Handing over a call within the same organisation when the agent cannot answer
the customer's enquiry directly, but knows that another agent, area or
department would be able to help. (See escalate
A phrase that gives the agent a clue as to the customer's needs and requirements.
The status of an agent who is logged in to the Automatic
call distribution (ACD) system, but has blocked any incoming calls. The agent
may be on a paid break or in a coaching session. (See available.)
The sale of a product or service in addition to the product or service
the customer has purchased. For example an agent may sell an additional
feature such as voice mail with a new telephone service.
A service that works like an answering machine and allows callers to leave a
message. This message can be reviewed, copied, stored, annotated
and forwarded to one or many people.
Also known as voice messaging.
See voice mail.
This is the time an agent uses to complete
paperwork or other tasks associated with a call.
Also known as wrap up time.
See work time.