Call centers around the world are experiencing a growth in technologies that are bringing advancement and innovation to the industry. Terms such as “Data Mining” are starting to be more common-place within the industry and our terminology page can assist you in becoming familiar with other words or phrases that are necessary to have a successful call center.


If you are looking for further educational resources on the call center industry, please visit our Webinars page to view recordings of our previous webinars or to sign-up on the form to the right of the page to join.  


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Abandoned Call or Contact – A call or contact that is terminated by the person originating the call before any conversation happens.  In an outbound call center, abandoned calls refer to connects that are disconnected by the automated dialer if live contact is detected but no agent is available to answer the call.

Activity Codes – Codes entered by agents at the end of a call to indicate the type of contact handled.

After Call Work (ACW) – Work such as keying in activity codes, updating a customer database, or filling out forms immediately following a call.

Agent, Telephone Service Representative (TSR) or Customer Service Representative (CSR) – The person that handles calls in a contact center.

AHT (Average Handle Time) – The amount of time an agent spends with a call, or transaction time plus wrap-up time.

ANI (Automatic Number Identification) – The telephone number of a caller.

Application Programming Interface (API) – Programming rules to create an interface between different software programs or services that allows them to interact.

ATA  – American Teleservices Association.

Auto dialer, Autodialler, or Automatic Calling Unit (ACU) – Software to automatically dial telephone numbers.  Autodialers can use predictive dialing algorithms to detect whether an answering machine or a human voice answers the call.  Autodialers can leave voice messages (see Broadcast Messaging / Robocall) or data (like SMS messages) with the called party.  Autodialers are important to outbound call center campaigns, like outbound telemarketing.

Automated Attendant – Answers callers with a recording and menu choices, like an Interactive Voice system.

Automated Greetings -  A greeting that automatically plays when call is answered.  Also called a voice-saver system.

Automatic Call Back – A scheduling feature in software that automatically queues a call back to a number that does not answer.

Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) – Software that processes, queues, routes, tracks and reports incoming calls and tracks call statistics automatically.

Automatic Call Sequencer (ACS) – A device for handling incoming calls by answering the call with a message and putting them on hold, then signaling agents that a call is waiting.

Auxiliary Work State – A work state other than actively handling calls, to process paperwork or emails.

Available Time – Amount of time an Agent spends on a call or waiting for a call.

Average Delay to Abandon or Average Time to Abandon – Average time callers are held in queue before disconnecting without an agent answering.

Average Handle Time – The average amount of time it takes to handle a complete a call, including talk time plus After Call Work time.  Total seconds of work time divided by the number of contacts.

Average Speed Of Answer (ASA) – Average amount of time that callers wait in queue.

Back to top

Barging – Barging allows a call center manager to interrupt a call center agent’s conversation and add additional information while the agent and customer are on a call.

Benchmarking – Measuring your company or call center’s performance against a standard or average, or against the performance of other similar companies.

Blended Services – Call center services that dynamically adjust outbound dialing levels as inbound call volumes fluctuate to balance call load.  This adjustment allows agents to receive both inbound and outbound calls simultaneously, and for those calls to be placed or answered with maximum efficiency.

Blocked Call – A call that cannot be completed.

Broadcast Messaging or Robocalling – A voice-based message sent using an automated delivery system or autodialer.  Broadcast Messaging allows you to send the same pre-recorded message to thousands of telephone numbers at once.

Busy Hour – The hour in which the largest number of calls/contacts are offered.  Some businesses will have more than one peak call time.

Back to top

Callback Messaging – Callers on hold can leave a message or telephone number and request that an agent call back.

Call Center – Any operation (a help desks, customer service center, sales center, reservation centers, or telemarketing/collections operation) with two or more agents.

Caller ID – A service that shows the telephone number of the caller.

Cloud Computing – Information Technology services delivered to end-users “in the cloud,” or using Internet Protocol.  Cloud computing offers convenient, on-demand access to networks, servers, storage, applications, and services offered in the cloud.  Hosted call center software offers communications as a service using internet protocol.

Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS) – Communications services offered using internet protocol on a subscription basis.  CaaS allows companies access to contact center services through the cloud on an as-needed basis.  Flexible and scalable cloud services are often VoIP based (see VoIP below).

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) – Software integration that allows computer systems to interact with telephones, email, web, fax, voice messaging, etc.

Conditional Routing – The capability of the ACD to route calls or contacts depending on conditions such as the day of week, time of day, agent availability, type of call, service needed, etc.

Conferencing – Conferencing permits the call center manager and call center agent to be on the call simultaneously with the customer.

Contact Management  – Software that keep tracks of all customer contacts.

Contact Rate – Measure for successfully connected inbound and outbound calls in a call center.

Cross-Selling – A technique used by agents to sell an additional product or service while on a customer call.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – in a call center, CRM is software to capture contact information for customers.  More broadly, it is a company’s strategy to attract, grow and retain customers profitably, and involves sales, service and customer retention.

Customer Service Representative (CSR)  – An agent who handles customer calls and contacts including account inquiries, complaints, or support calls.

Back to top

Data Directed Call Routing – Call routing by an ACD based on a database of information such as an account number.  A caller enters the account number via touch-tone phone, the number is identified in the database, and the call is distributed automatically.

Data Mart or Data Warehouse – A static database of historical data used for reporting, usually updated daily.

Data Mining – Reporting and detecting trends in a set of historical customer data.

Delay Announcements – Recordings played to callers on hold.

Delay or Queue Time – The time callers remain in queue waiting for an agent.

Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) – DNIS is a feature of toll free lines that shows the number the caller dialed.

Direct Inward Dialing (DID or DDI) – A DID is a local telephone number that connects an extension or a single line on a phone system.

Do Not Call (DNC) List – List of telephone numbers on the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry.

Dual-Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF) – Dialing using tones, or touch-tone.

Back to top

Erlang – Measures telecommunication traffic usage.  One Erlang equals 3600 seconds of usage in one hour.

Erlang Models – Traffic engineering techniques utilized to determine numbers of facilities required in route selection, call attempts, staffing needs and other telecommunications scenarios.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – ERP systems integrate internal and external management information across all functional areas of an organization, including finance, accounting, manufacturing, sales and service, customer relationship management, call center, etc. ERP systems use an integrated software application to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside and outside of the organization.

Back to top

Fax On Demand – Callers can request documents or information through use of a touch-tone telephone pad, and documents are faxed to numbers indicated by caller.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) – The full-time hours and days of one person (equals the number of total scheduled person hours divided by the number of hours per week for one person).

Back to top

Gate, Split or Group – ACD agent routing to a particular agent group.

Grade of Service – The probability of getting a busy signal on a trunk or group of trunks, usually defined as a “P” factor.  For instance, a P01 grade of service means that one percent of calls will encounter a busy signal.

Back to top

Handled Call – A call answered by an agent.

Handle Time – The time an agent spends on the call plus after work time.

Hit Rate – The number of connected calls as a percent of the number of attempts.

Home Agent or Remote Agent – An agent that works from home or outside of the contact center location, such as at a branch office.

Hosted Contact Center or Hosted Call Center – Communications as a service offered for inbound, outbound or blended call centers.  Hosted services use cloud computing technology over the internet.

Back to top

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or Auto-Attendant – A system that automates retrieval and processing of information.  Callers choose from a menu of options using a touchtone (Dual Tone Multi-Frequency) or voice recognition telephone interface.  IVRs use pre-recorded voice menus and prompts. A Hosted IVR is an IVR system hosted by an outsourced service provider.

Interflow – Call flow out of the dialer to another site, voice mail system, or telephone number.  Allows calls to be rerouted to a predefined destination.

Internet Protocol (IP) – A data networking protocol for submitting and receiving data packets over the Internet.

Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange (IPPBX) – An internet-protocol-based telephone system internal to a company that switches calls between internal phone lines, and shares external phone lines, replacing dedicated lines for each user.

Intraflow or Overflow – Calls that are redistributed between agent groups within an ACD to balance workload, minimize caller delay, or handle call overflow.

Invisible Queue – A term for when callers wait on hold but have no idea of the wait time.

Back to top

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) – Key productivity measures critical to an organization.

Back to top

List Management – Managing telephone number lists, including sorting, selecting, importing or exporting telephone number records for outbound calling campaigns.

Load Balancing – The process of balancing calls between multiple sites, queues, or agent groups.

Longest Delay In Queue (LDQ) – The longest length of time a caller waited in queue prior to being handled.

Longest Delay to Abandon (LDA) – The longest length of time a caller waited in queue prior to hanging up without being handled.

Look Ahead Routing or Queuing – A system’s capability to “look ahead” to determine the availability of a group before routing or overflowing a contact there.

Back to top

Make Busy – Setting inbound telephone lines to return a busy tone to downsize incoming calls to understaffed groups.

Monitoring or Service Observation – Listening to agents’ telephone calls to assess the quality with which the call is handled.  Monitoring can be silent, announced, side-by-side, or recorded for later review.

Back to top

National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry – List of U.S. residential/consumer telephone numbers that have requested not to receive telemarketing calls from businesses.  The registry does not apply to business telephone numbers, political organizations, non-profits, survey companies, bill collectors or companies with which the consumer has an existing relationship.

Next Available Agent -  Routing the first contact in queue to the first available agent, or the agent idle the longest, to maintain an equitable workload among agents.

Non-Contact – A call attempt that results in anything other than a live answer, such as a busy signal, hang up, no answer, or automated answer.

Nuisance Call – A call when a live contact is made, but no live agent is available, resulting in dead air to the customer.

Back to top

Occupancy – The percent of logged in time that an agent spends in active contact handling.

Offered Call – A call received by the ACD which is either handled or abandoned.

Off-Peak – Time other than the call center’s busiest periods, or time periods when telecommunications carriers offer discounted rates.

Outsourcing – Contracting with an outside company to handle customer calls.

Back to top

Pacing Algorithm – Rules for an automated outbound dialer to determine when to initiate a call, which speeds up or slows down dialing depending on the number of available agents.

Percent Allocation – Routes contacts in a multi-location network to various sites based on user-defined percentages.

Power Dialing – A system that dials calls automatically when lines are available and puts live calls through to call center agents.  Power dialing without predictive dialing can, however, result in dropped calls if no agent is available.

Predictive Dialer or Predictive Dialler – A call center system that uses mathematical algorithms to manage calls based on expected agent availability, screens out no-answers, busy signals, answering machines, and disconnected numbers, and delivers the call to the next available agent.  The dialer takes into account the number of available agents, the number of lines, talk time and call results to determine how many calls need to be made to increase agent productivity.  Similar to an autodialer, predictive dialers also use algorithms to analyze incoming audio to detect whether an answering machine or a human voice answers the call.

Predictive Hang-Up – Aborts a call attempt when no agent will be available before the customer answers.

Premise-Based Call Center or Contact Center – A call center owned and operated in-house, usually using a PBX (see below).  The call center owner is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the equipment and software, and upgrading as technology advances.

Preview Dialer – A dialer that shows the account information and phone number on the screen for the agent to “preview” the information before dialing.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX) – A landline telephone system usually internal to a company that switches calls between internal phone lines, and shares external phone lines, so that a dedicated line for each extension is not required.

Progressive Dialer – An automated dialer shows the account information and phone number on the screen after the number is dialed, but is not predictive.

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – The world’s public, circuit-switched telephone service provider network.  The PSTN switches calls between telephone lines, fiber-optic cables, microwave transmission links, cellular networks, communications satellites, and undersea telephone cables.

Back to top

Quality Assurance (QA) – The systematic monitoring and evaluation of call services to ensure that minimum standards of quality are being met.  In a call center, monitoring, whisper coaching, barging, conferencing and recording center agents helps to ensure the quality of agents and identify any training issues.

Queue – A queue holds an incoming or outgoing call until an agent is available.

Back to top

Random Call Arrivals – The way calls normally arrive in an inbound call center.

Real-Time Adherence – Measures how closely agents meet their planned work schedule using real-time statistics from the ACD and comparing them to an agent’s schedule.

Recorded Announcement – An announcement heard by callers while waiting in queue.

ReDial – Dialing a telephone number multiple times after the initial attempt.

Remote Agent – An agent physically located outside the contact center.  See home agent.

Response Time – The time between a call connecting, or the end of the recorded message, and the handling of a call.

Ring Delay, or Delay Before Answer – A setting on the ACD-PBX that adjusts the number of rings before the system automatically answers the call.

Back to top

Schedule – Days of week worked, start time, break times and durations (as well as paid/unpaid status), and stop time for a call center agent.

Schedule Exception – Any activity outside of an employee’s work schedule, including meetings, training sessions, unscheduled breaks, or absenteeism.

Scheduled Callback – A redial scheduled for a specific time and date in the future.

Screen Monitoring – Software that lets a supervisor or manager to see an agent’s screen activity in real-time.

Screen Pop –IVR, ANI, or CTI software that pops-up corresponding customer data or campaign scripts on the computer screen when receiving or placing a call.

Script – Words and branching logic for an agent to follow when they place or receive a call.

Service Level – Promised speed of answer or percentage of calls to be answered within a predefined number of seconds.

Service Quality – A measure of how well a call is handled, including consistency and friendliness of the agent’s greeting, and his or her ability to handle calls to completion.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) – A signaling protocol to create, modify or terminate a session in an internet telephone call.

Silent Monitoring – Permits a supervisor to listen to both sides of a conversation including an agent and a caller for determining training and performance quality monitoring.

Skills Based Routing or Skill-Based Routing – Dialer rules to route inbound calls to the agent best able to meet that caller’s needs, rather than the first available or longest idle agent.

Speech Recognition – Voice processing software to translate human voice signals into digital signals that a computer system can understand using discrete syllable recognition or continuous speech recognition.

Split, Gate or Group – When an ACD routes calls arriving on specific trunks or handling predefined transaction types to be answered by specific agents.

Back to top

Talk Time – The elapsed time from when an agent answers a call until the agent disconnects.

Telephone Service Factor (TSF) – The Telephone Service Factor is the percent of calls answered in a defined number of seconds, and can be used to define a desired service level.

Text-to-Speech or Speech Synthesis – Software that converts normal language text into spoken words.  A synthesizer incorporates a model of human voice characteristics to create a synthetic but realistic voice.

Traffic Engineering – Science of designing facilities and resources to meet user requirements

Traffic Study – A study determining the levels of traffic that a system is handling by contact type (incoming, outgoing, local, long distance) to forecast future traffic and system requirements.

Trunk – Transmission channel between switching centers or nodes.

Trunk Group – Several trunks provided as a group for a call center.

Trunk Hold Time – Total length of time that a trunk is occupied by a particular call, from ringing to disconnection.

Back to top

Unavailable Time – Amount of time the agent is not ready to accept inbound or place outbound calls, such as breaks, meals, administrative work, etc.

Unified Messaging (UM) – Single interface for electronic messaging and voice communications (email, SMS, Fax, voicemail, video, etc.).

Uniform Call Distributor (UCD) – Software to distribute incoming calls uniformly among a group of agents.  A UCD will distribute calls following a predetermined logic, such as “top down” or “round robin.”  It is typically unable to route calls based on real-time traffic load, or which agent has been busiest or idle the longest.

Universal Agent – An agent that is trained to handle multiple types of contacts.

Back to top

Virtual Call Center – A call center that uses a distributed workforce comprised of remote agents, at home agents, or agents in various decentralized office locations that uses hosted or IP communications.

Voice Identification – A technology used to verify the identity of a person by comparing spoken passwords with prerecorded voice patterns.

Voice Mail or Voicemail – Centralized system that captures and stores voice-based telephone messages for later retrieval, including taped or electronic messages.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – Transmission rules to send voice information in data format using Internet Protocol, bypassing the PSTN, or public switched telephone network, and avoiding ordinary toll charges.

Voice Processing – A technology that allows computers to speak, store human voices, and react to human speech.

Voice Recognition System – Software that uses speech recognition to dial telephone numbers automatically.

Voice Response Unit (VRU) or IVR (Interactive Voice Response) – Caller use touch tone signaling or voice recognition to select responses from a pre-recorded menu of choices.  The VRU or IVR retrieves information and replies or routes calls accordingly.

Back to top

Whisper Coaching – Whisper coaching allows a call center manager to speak in a call center agent’s ear while a call is going on without the customer hearing.

Workforce Management – Predicting the right number of agents, at a given time, to answer a forecasted volume of incoming calls at a service level set by the call center.

Workforce Management Software – Software used for predicting and optimizing scheduling, staff levels, workloads, campaign time-tables, and tracking performance of call center agents, usually for inbound call center services.

Workload – Total talk time plus after-call work time for agents.  Ring time, delay time, and conversation time for trunking.

Wrap-Up Time – Time required by an ACD agent after a conversation is ended, to complete work directly associated with the completed call.

Back to top

Zip Tone – A beep or tone heard by the Agent right before a call arrives.  Sometimes these are used to indicate that a supervisor is monitoring in the call.

Back to top