Call Centre Jargon Buster

Call centres are littered with buzzwords, jargon and abbreviations. We explain here all of the common buzzwords that will be found as soon as people start talking about call centres

There are lots of three letter acronyms or TLAs used in call centres. So here is a jargon buster to help you out.

It can be very confusing to the novice, so we have started to build a glossary of all the call centre buzz words. We have also built a definition of what they really mean in normal words. For example you could look up DPNSS and see the answer Digital Private Network Singnalling System and be none the wiser. We hope to be able to put these terms into normal language.

3-2-1 (Idea Generation Technique)

Used to gather information from several people in a short space of time. Focused on identifying immediate solutions to a specific issue.

ACW – After Call Work – (See also “Wrap Up Time”)

A period of time immediately after contact with the customer is completed and any supplementary work is undertaken by the Agent, in relation to that interaction.

AHT (Average Handling Time)

The amount of time it takes an Agent to deal with all aspects of a call – includes talk time plus after call work


The person who receives and makes customer telephone calls. May also deal with customer correspondence and customer e-mails. Also known as Customer Advisor or Customer Representative.

Agent Status

The Agent status at a particular point in time e.g. wait, talk, wrap, idle, unavailable.

ACD Automatic Call Distributor

The telephone system that takes all the calls either coming into (or going out) of a centre and directs each call to the right person or team to answer, queuing the calls where necessary. The ACD system can handle multiple telephone numbers coming into the centre, and produces a range of Management Information reports about the call traffic and the agents handling those calls.

ANI – Automatic Number Identification

A feature of the telephony network to capture a callers identifying telephony number. – Known in the UK as Calling Line Identity (CLI).

Automated Speech Recognition

A solution to automate some or all parts of a customer call. It allows the caller to interact with your call centre, using their natural language, without the involvement of an Agent. Speech recognition can be applied to some or even all parts of a call, particularly where the information that you collect is in a standard form.

Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)

The type of telephone system used in most call centres. Sometimes called a call centre it is used to queue callers and distribute the calls to agents. It usually includes the ability to generate statistics. Manufacturers include Aspect, Avaya (used to be called Lucent), Cisco, Nortel and Rockwell. It may be a dedicated telephone system or part of an office telephone system.

Average Speed Of Answer (ASA)

The average time (typically in seconds) for calls to be answered in the call centre. This needs to be treated carefully since it deals with the arithmetic mean. For example if 9 calls were answered immediately and at a very busy period one call waited for 10 minutes to be answered – it would treat the average speed of answer at one minute – even though 90% of calls were answered immediately.

Balanced Scorecard

A scorecard that shows a range of measures – typically based around graphs or traffic lights – that shows on a single sheet of paper how a call centre is performing.

B2B (Business to Business)

B2B is a short version of Business to Business. In effect it generally involves one company trying to do business to another company- for example Dell selling to ICI. It could just as easy be shortened to Business – so “B2B Sales” could become “Business Sales”

B2C (Business to Consumer)

B2C is a short version of Business to Consumer. In effect it generally involves one company trying to do business to the general public. It could just as easy be shortened to just “Consumer – so “B2C Sales” could become “Consumer Sales”

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

Taking a business task and getting another company to deliver it. This term is typically used to mean moving call centres and other business functions to India and other lower cost countries.

Call Avoidance

A proactive strategy to reduce the number of unwanted or low value calls-for example failure avoidance by eliminating repeat calls; or call automation through self-service.

Call Blending

A technique to mix Inbound and outbound calls for specific agents. Smooths out the peak nature of demand for inbound call patterns by feeding outbound calls of a similar call type to Agents during quiet periods.

Call Centre Manager

The person responsible for the management of the budget, operation and business performance of the call centre

Call Handling Analysis

An approach to monitor the effectiveness and quality of the handling of calls by the Agents.

CEM – Customer Experience Management

The appliance of an over-riding theme, company ethos or approach, irrespective of the means of contact.


The person who provides additional support and technical knowledge to Agents. (In addition to the Team Leader). Also known as a buddy.

CLI (Calling Line Identity)

A telephone technology that displays the number where customer is calling from. This number can be used by CTI software to match up to a computer record for that caller.

Cloud computing

A remote means of offering a system, service or solution utilising a Wide Area Network (WAN) or more locally, across a Local Area Network (LAN).

CTI (Computer Telephony Integration)

The ability to automatically combine voice and data (PC or legacy application) at the Agent desktop. Also known as screen pop, when a customers details appear automatically on an Agent screen when the call is answered.

Call Recording

A solution to implement an effective call handling quality process. Can involve the recording and storage of calls and data relating to financial or legal transactions.

DMS (Document Management System)

Many Call Centres handle large amounts of incoming mail, which is opened and scanned by DMS for electronic distribution as part of a workflow process for managing correspondence.

DNIS – Dialled Number Identification Service

A feature of the telephony network to re-present a callers telephony number to the called party. – Known in the UK as DDI.

Erlang B

Developed by A K Erlang. Used to determine the number of trunks required to handle a known calling load during a one hour period

Erlang C

Used to calculate waiting times, based on the number of Agents available, the number of callers and the average time it takes to handle a call.

Calling Line Identity (CLI or CLID)

These days the telephone number of the caller travels ahead of most calls. This is known as Calling Line Identity (CLI) or by BT as Caller ID. You will probably most often see this when someone calls your mobile phone. This is also known in the USA as Automatic Number Identification or ANI.

Channel Agnostic

Provision of a (centralised) process or interaction route, irrespective of the interaction channel.

CSR (Customer Service Representative)

A person employed in a call centre to answer the phone. Another name for this is Agent or Advisor. Care should be taken using this term as it also can be used as

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

This term is widespread in business and means “The ethics of a company” e.g. do they pollute the environment etc. It is also confused with CSR describing and agent in the call centre.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

A method of connecting your telephone system to your database. Most commonly this will allow you to pop your callers details up on to the agent’s screen when the call connects (Screen Pop). CTI can be used for a variety of applications such as call routing. Despite huge business advantages is often requires quite complex integration and its deployment has been limited.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A widely abused term that is about developing better relationships with customers. It has widely been high jacked by suppliers to mean a customer database, most frequently one that combines all customer data onto one database, giving a single view of the customer.

Digital Access Signaling System (DASS 2)

It is a type of digital telephone line that connects between that call centre and the telephone exchange in the UK.

It is sometimes called ISDN 30 and it allows 30 telephone calls to be carried on one set of lines.


The ability for an agent to put themselves into the customer’s shoes. Many call centres lack empathy. The caller is just another caller and although the agent deals with the call as best as they can. With empathy the agent feels the same concerns as the caller “I know how you are feeling because I too….” would be a common phrase that perhaps shows empathy. It is also commonly confused with sympathy which is more of an “I hear what you are saying…” type of communication, but perhaps without the shared experience of what it is like to go through this condition. Empathy was a concept developed by the psychologist Carl Rogers (1902-1987)

This web post on is a good example of the difference between empathy and sympathy.

The difference between empathy and sympathy is perhaps demonstrated by the expression of pity or sorrow to the distress of another.

“I offered my sympathy when I learned that Jane’s father died.”

Empathy, on the other hand, is usually meant to indicate that the person who is empathizing, knows what the other person is going through, and can identifies with the person.

“I can empathize with how Jane is grieving over her father’s death. I know exactly how she felt, because I went through the same thing when my father died”.

To me, the big difference between empathy and sympathy is that the person who empathizes can feel the distress on a personal level, whereas sympathy is less personal.

ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning

The means of determining staffing and occupancy levels for Front- and Back-Office staff.

FCR – First Call (Contact) Resolution

A measure of relative success for an individual interaction. Usually defined in terms of a single customer or account, a single issue or order and a predefined time range for a response to have taken place. Example: If a customer choses a set of particular Options on an IVR or an Agent appends a particular Result Code to an Account and the customer contacts the supplier/provider regarding the same criteria within (7) days, then that interaction would have failed FCR. Usually expressed as a percentage of the overall interaction volume.


IMS stands for IP Multimedia Subsystem.

IMS – enables the convergence of data, speech and network technology over an IP-based infrastructure. It is the operator choice of control and service logic for IP/packet based person-to-person communication.

For users, IMS-based services will enable communications in a variety of modes – including voice, text, pictures and video.

It is not quite clear how this could be used in a call centre environment. Does anyone have any ideas?

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

A telephone system that lets callers interact with your company through either touch tone or speech recognition. While most systems are only programmed to give callers menus (press one for sales, two for support…) they can also be programmed to interact with a database top provide status information or to give you your account balance.

Invisible Queue

The Invisible Queue is a call centre queue where the caller does not have an indication of how the call is progressing.

ICR (Intelligent Call Router)

The brand name for a specific intelligent telecommunications network service that takes real time information from the ACD’s in the Call Centres, to provide details on queuing and agent availability across a virtual call centre network.

Intra Day Statistics

Reports that provide details of what is happening in the Call Centre at particular times of the day – often broken down into thirty minute periods

INS (Intelligent Network Service)

Facilitates the distribution of calls to multiple destinations across a virtual call centre network.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)

A digital network providing 64kbit and 2 Mbit bandwidth voice and data circuits.

IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

Asks customers to press a button on their telephone key pad to select which service they want. The technology then routes the call to the most appropriate agent to handle the enquiry! Or it can ask customers to use their own telephone keypad to key information that will help the agent to validate who they are e.g. account numbers.

Knowledge Management System

A desktop application that Agents use as source of information to provide the answers to customer enquiries. As the range of enquiries that an agent may have to handle is large, or the responses may change regularly, then the Knowledge Management System acts as a single source of content for the centre to use.

KPI – Key Performance Indicator

A (percentage) measure of (work) volume versus success criteria, by which the relative performance of a work unit is measured.

LAN (Local Area Network)

A network located in one building that links terminals, PCs and common equipment e.g. printers to that computers can share information and applications.

Legacy systems

In order for the agent to transact business with the customer they may have to use ‘old’ computer systems that the company has had for many years. Typically these systems are not as user friendly as more modern ones as they may require the agent to remember codes, use lots of screens and do not have a logical flow about them.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Defines the targets and measures against which the Centre, the Teams and the Agents must perform. Usually based on a balanced scorecard of measures covering both efficiency and effectiveness.

MIS (Management Information Systems)

Reports that enable the Call Centre Manager to monitor the Call Centres performance through Wallboards, Real Time Displays, Reporting, Forecasting and Staff Allocation.

Multi-lingual Agents

Agents that are skilled in handling calls in more than one language.

Multi Skilling

An agent who can handle several different types of call, – different call types e.g. sales and service.

One and Done

The ability for the customer transaction to be completed by the Agent in a single call.


The sharing of call centre activities e.g. peak call loads or certain call types, with a third party specialist company who can manage the calls on your behalf. Outsourcers can provide both inbound response and outbound campaign services across a range of call types – telemarketing, customer service, technical helpdesk, debt management and many more.

PBX (Private Branch Exchange)

An office telephone system located in one building that provides voice communications. Also known in the UK as a PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchange).

Predictive Dialler

Specialist telephony equipment for managing outbound calls. The term predictive means that the dialler will phone the telephone number of the customers you want to contact, and only when the phone is answered by a person, will the call then be directed to an agent to answer. Here an algorithm is used to predict when an agent is likely to become free and dials in anticipation of this so that the non productive time that an agent spends between calls is minimised. Such equipment can also be used in preview mode, where the systems allocates the contact to an Agent for them to preview prior to physically dialling the number.


The ability to prioritise and handle callers when there is no Agent available

SaaS – software as a service

The (remote) delivery of an item of software or a system by a provider to a subscriber or user base.

Screen Pop

Screen pop describes the ability for a screen to arrive on an agent desktop at the same time as a call

Session Initiated Protocol (SIP)

SIP is a signaling system that enables a whole range of applications to be integrated. This includes voice, data, video, pictures and online games.

It allows the user to be able to switch between one mode and another. A good example would be online gaming through a mobile phone, where while playing you would be able to use a “push to talk” button.

Service Level Agreement

A contractual agreement between a service provider and the organisation specifying specific performance standards to be achieved.

Skill Based Routing

Ensures that calls are directed to those agents that have the specific skills to answer that call type most effectively

Talk Time

The amount of time an Agent spends handling a customer call – from start to finish.


The telephone set used by an agent in a call centre. It often has other functions (the ability to log on etc) to a normal telephone set. The term TeleSet was first termed by Aspect but has more recently come to be used as any agent telephone set.


This is one of the most baffling uses of jargon in a call centre, but effectively means an agent telephone set. This term was commonly used in the 1980s and 1990s but is not so widespread today. Usually the term teleset is used these days.

Trunk, Trunks

Not the storage area of a car, but a word to describe the telephone lines coming into a call centre. The word “trunk” could easily and less confusing be replaced by the word “telephone line.”

UC – Unified Communications

Blending of interaction types; where initial contact was made by Voice, the response may be via email, etc.

Unified Desktop

A Desktop Application which amalgamates other systems or interfaces and accepts both voice and electronic interactions. A Unified Desktop may also populate an underlying (CRM) system with interaction or customer data, in real-time.


The means by which a series of disparate processes or systems is combined to provide a single service offering. See also SOA (Service Orientated Architecture).

Virtual Call Centre

A group of Call Centres that acts as a single point for call handling and reporting processes.

VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol

The means by which a voice channel is delivered as Packets through Internet Protocols, using a pr-existing streaming (CODEC) format, such as H.225, H.323 (see also SIP).


Electronic displays within the physical location of a call centre, used to give the management and agents a view of their own team’s performance. Wallboards can be used to display key performance criteria such as service level or calls queuing, again in real time.

WAN (Wide Area Network)

An intra office data network used to connect terminals, computers and equipment across multiple sites.

WFO – Work Force Optimization

The means of applying Schedules and Forecasts, based on previous and known future interaction and workflow volumes.

WFM – Work Force Management

The means of determining and providing Schedules, Forecasting and Adherence for a work force, against historical interaction volumes and known future events.

Wrap Time

Time taken by the Agent, following the call, to complete the transactions for that call – also known as After Call Work.

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