A-Z Call centr e guide and glossar y
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
A call that has arrived at an automatic call distribution system (ACD) and the customer has
hung up before an agent has answered. Also known as a lost call.
An unexpected noise that comes through your headset. This can be a high-pitched noise or
squeal. Depending on the severity of the incident, you may need to complete an
Occupational safety and health - incident report form.
A word formed from the first letters of a group of words. For example, 'ACD' is the
acronym for 'automatic call distributor'.
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.
Additional products, accessories or services that could be offered to a customer to
accompany their purchase.
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
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 amplifiers.
Apathy is when you have little interest in a customer's problem.
For example, "What do you want me to do about it?"
Software designed to carry out a specific task, such as word processing, or completing
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.
This is a file or document sent with an e-mail. You have to open the e-mail before you can
open the attachment.
Automatic call distribution system (ACD)
A queuing system designed for use in customer contact centres/call centres with high
volumes of incoming telephone traffic.
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 specific agents.
Refer also to management information system (ACD-MIS).
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 handling time is determined by the overall talk time and wrap time, divided
by the number of calls.
Average handling time is referred to in seconds.
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
To go against, or contravene, an arrangement or understanding made between two
An agent arranges to call the customer back if: b ulle t poin t.
the agent needs to give the customer additional information , bullet poin t.
the customer was not available when the agent called.
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 and websites. See customer contact centre.
A call guide may be included in a campaign brief. It is a general call structure for agents to
follow when conducting an inbound or outbound campaign call and includes the script. Call
guides can be written by someone within the organisation, or they can be prepared by
external consultants. A call guide is also known as a contact guide.
The number of inbound calls received previously at comparable times.
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 making calls.
This document provides all the necessary information for an agent to participate in a
telemarketing or data collection campaign. It can include the scope of the campaign,
product information, the agent's operational boundaries, and the contact guide (including
A question that only requires a 'yes', 'no' answer, or a very short specific answer. (See
Coaching is usually a structured teaching session in response to a specific area that needs
improvement. For example, agents may need coaching on a new product line, a policy, or
how to use the technology and database.
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.
To collect papers, forms or data from different sources, and organise them into groups of
A customer who purchases products/services for another organisation.
For example, this person could be employed by a nursery to buy products from
organisations like Bushland Blooms. The nursery will then sell these products. A
commercial customer may also be called a buyer, or purchaser.
This is the way that you carry out an agreed course of action designed to meet the
customer's needs. It includes building rapport, keeping promises, keeping the customer
informed, doing it right the first time, owning the customer's request and responding to
the customer's request with operational efficiency.
Communications pathways are the methods we use to communicate in the workplace.
Pathways can be written (letters, faxes, etc), verbal (telephone conversations, one-on-one
or group chats) or non-verbal (body language).
An expression of dissatisfaction by a customer who is not happy with a product or service
provided or offered by the organisation.
This is the way you finish a piece of written correspondence, for example, 'Yours faithfully',
'Yours sincerely', 'Regards' or 'Cheers'.
Computer telephony integration (CTI)
The technology that links the computer, telephone and other services such as voice
messaging, fax and the Internet. For example, customer details can be on screen while an
agent answers the call. CTI improves the handling of inbound and outbound calls and,
therefore, the customer relationship.
A 'meeting' by telephone in which three or more people in different locations participate.
A formal agreement, usually signed on commencement by an employee, that commits the
employee to treat all customer information as company property and with confidentiality.
This includes not divulging customer information to anyone outside the organisation.
A contact guide may be included in a campaign brief. It is a general call structure for
agents to follow when conducting any inbound or outbound campaign call and includes the
script. Contact guides can be written by someone within the organisation, or they can be
prepared by external consultants. A contact guide is also known as a call guide.
The process of checking a person's credit history, to determine their suitability for a new
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)
A credit reference agency is an organisation that puts together and stores financial and
other publicly available information about almost every adult in a country.
A credit reference agency does not decide whether credit should be given - it simply
provides factual information which helps a company to decide whether to accept an
To sell related products or services in addition to the original purchase. See add-ons and
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.
Customer contact centre
A 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. Is sometimes referred to as a call centre.
Customer contact record
A form used by call centre agents to record the outcome of inbound or outbound calls. It
can include call results, how the customer found out about the products/organisation,
fulfilment processes and any issues or difficulties encountered by agents during the calls.
Call centre staff then collate the records to produce information about market trends and
Information collected and collated about an individual. This is usually stored in the
company's database and often used in sales or marketing campaigns. This information
could include the individual's address, phone number and a history of prior purchases. This
enables a company to target the marketing of specific products to customers who are
more likely to buy that product as a result of their purchase history.
A database is an organised collection of related information. Some examples include:
customer details and records
inventory and pricing lists
flight reservation systems.
Database management systems (DBMS) can be thought of as electronic filing systems in
which data can entered, sorted, retrieved, presented in reports and analysed.
Many customer contact centres design their own database software. However you may
have heard of other programmes such as Microsoft® Access and Lotus Approach. All have
been specifically written to control the storage and retrieval of information found in a
A computer specialist, working in the Information technology (IT) support section of a
company, who sets up and manages a database. They determine who has access to the
different types of data.
Customer contact centres often collect data from customers and agents. The data is used
to improve their services and products, and to help them develop campaigns to better
target customers' needs. Data collection is often carried out by research or surveys, where
the agent makes outbound calls to existing customers to find out their opinions about a
specific product/service. Data collection can be done by market research companies, but is
often done as part of an agent's role in a customer contact centre.
When information is collected and processed to produce data.
A lull in a conversation during which there is no sound.
This is the process of reading a message and understanding it's meaning. (see also
The level of authority an agent has 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.
When you dimension a customer's needs you identify the total range of products and
services, including support services, that the customer requires or may require in the
A limit generally set by the organisation on certain transactions – such as discounts that
can be offered or 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.
Explain or describe something in a more detailed way.
Elements of communication
This refers to the elements that make up the communication process. The elements
include the message, sender, recipient, transmission medium (such as telephone or e-
mail), response, noise and context.
Messages sent via the Internet.
Emoticons are symbols used in place of verbal or visual communication cues to help
convey the tone or emotion of the e-mail message. They are made by a combination of
keyboard keys. Some common emoticons are:
:) :-) happy
:( :-( sad
:-o shocked, surprised
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".
How you use language to create meaning. For example, when you write an e-mail to your
colleague, you are creating a code which both of you understand. (see also decode)
At Bushland Blooms, end-to-end service is the application of enterprise policy to provide
professional service to customers. It refers to the whole sale, from the first contact with
the customer to the completion of the customer's request.
Speak clearly, or state formally.
Ergonomics is the scientific arrangement of equipment to help people work more
efficiently, and in a healthy, comfortable manner.
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.
A category of information in a database table or file. For example, product ID, product
name, product description and price would all be fields in a database table or file
containing product information.
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.
The supply of products, services or information to the customer in a timely and efficient
manner. Agents should endeavour to keep promises to customers and continually keep the
customer informed of progress. Agents should take ownership of any customer requests
and make sure that the customer's needs are followed-up and actioned. This may include
preparing an order for shipment or delivery, or simply sending a brochure.
Grade of service
This is a target set for call answering times, such as 80 percent of calls answered in 20
Grade of service is the same as service level.
Guard words are used to help with the spelling and pronunciation of names and unfamiliar
words. For instance, instead of saying "Is that Tony", you could say, "Is that T for Tommy,
O for Oliver, N for Nellie and Y for Yellow?". Here is a list of guard words you might want to
use in the 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
Hardware refers to the electronic components and equipment that make up your computer
system. This can include the screen, keyboard, printer and disks. Hardware is touchable,
unlike software programmes that tell these components what to do.
This allows for hands-free operation via an ear and mouthpiece attached to a telephone.
The part of an organisation that offers specialised technical help, usually over the phone,
with the organisation's products or services.
Bushland Blooms Helpdesk is available between the hours of 8am - 5pm, Monday to
This describes an agent, logged into the automatic call distributor (ACD), who is ready and
waiting for an inbound call.
Any call received by a call centre/customer contact centre.
See Inbound above.
Information systems are used to manage and process information. Computer technology is
normally used for this purpose, especially in companies and large organisations.
Information Technology (IT) or Information Services (IS) departments are normally
responsible for setting up and maintaining these systems.
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 directly through their telephone keypad. A
common IVR application is telephone banking.
An internal customer is any employee within your organisation.
For example, as a call centre agent, your internal customers could be other agents, team
leaders, those in the service department, or any other employees who depend on you to
carry out their job functions.
This is a global network of computers that allows everyone connected to the network to
make contact with each other. You commonly access the network in two ways, by:
e-mail, which allows you to send messages to other users , bul let poi nt.
web browsing, which allows you to access information stored on computers
connected to the Internet. , bullet po int.
The specialised or technical language of a trade, profession, or similar group.
There are currently no entries under k.
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 (ACD-MIS)
Management information systems that are associated with Automatic call distribution
system (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 such as the number of calls on the queue, which agents are in wrap time, or
the total number of calls answered in that day.
A market niche is an identified need for a particular product or service that is not being
fulfilled currently by any company. This provides an opportunity for a company to focus on
the provision of an appropriate product or service to meet this need.
Mentoring involves a colleague giving advice to a staff member, usually on a one-on-one
basis. It may be that an agent is having problems with a particular aspect of a call, and
mentoring can help by providing support to the agent. Mentoring can involve role
modelling, or observation and feedback.
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
There are currently no entries under n.
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.
Occupancy does not include available time.
This means that you are not required to use punctuation before the salutation and after
the complimentary close in a business letter.
A question that encourages the customer to provide a lot of information (see closed
question), for example, "Can you please describe the problem?".
With each telemarketing or data collection campaign there are a number of things an
agent can and cannot do. These are known as the operational boundaries and are specific
to each campaign. They include, among others, time limits for each call, how far agents
can deviate from the telemarketing script, and what time of day agents may return calls.
Any outgoing call from the call centre/customer contact centre to a customer. These calls
can target existing customers or be a cold call.
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 more
Repeating to the customer what the customer said in the agent’s own words. It is a
summary of the customer’s 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 Automatic call distributor (ACD).
The high or low tone of a sound or speech. For example, women speak with higher-pitched
voices than men.
Microsoft® PowerPoint® is the name of a software package designed for making
A Premium customer is any commercial customer who makes a purchase from Bushland
Blooms to the value of $3000 or more.
These customers are looked after directly by the Premium customer group and are entitled
to a range of benefits such as discounts and special promotions.
Premium customer group
In many contact centres, this team looks after high-spending customers, commonly known
as Premium customers. This team works only with Premium customers, not day-to-day
Premium sales agent
A Premium sales agent is any member of a Premium customer group. These agents are
highly trained, experienced, dedicated to quality customer service and usually have a
strong sales background. They are also responsible for ongoing Premium customer service
and sales support and each agent has their own 'portfolio', or group of customers.
Primary directory number (PDN)
The telephone number that customers dial to ring the customer contact centre/call centre.
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.
Benefits are the gain, value or advantage the customer will receive by using a product or
service, such as ease of use and low running costs. They are the 'value received' from the
customer's point of view.
When purchasing a product, all customers want to know:
"How do I benefit?"
Let's have a look at the benefits of the following product:
Product Features Benefits
bullet po int. bullet po int.
Pony Tail Palm
long leaves , bullet poin t. provides shade on sunny
large bulb at base days , bul let poi nt.
of palm , bullet po int. does not require a lot of
can grow to 5m in water , bullet po int.
height, bullet po int. creates a tropical
atmosphere , bullet point.
large bulb makes palm
This refers to the physical or measurable characteristics of a product or service, such as
weight, height, colour and price.
Products can be characterised by their:
sight smell sound feel taste
Image of a garden layabout chair, showing features and benefits. Features
include reclining back, long lasting plastic, wide range of colours and extra long
leg rest. Benefits include a plastic coating making it perfect for poolside use.
The way you speak words, particularly referring to making the correct speech sounds.
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” or “No”.
A queue in a customer contact 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.)
Someone who purchases products/services for private use.
Agreeing with a customer on a solution to their problem.
Sales guidelines for agents
Sales principles are the guidelines under which an organisation expects their agents to
operate. These relate to: bullet po int.
the way to promote products , bullet p oint.
information to provide to customers before an order is placed in the system , bulle t poin t.
information to be gathered from a customer before a product/service is despatched
, bullet po int.
sales ethics , bullet poi nt.
methods of recording customer information.
How you address the recipient in written correspondence or a speech, for example, 'Dear
Sir', 'Dear Ms Jones', 'Ladies and Gentlemen'.
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.
The language agents should use when conducting an inbound or outbound campaign call.
It is structured to reflect the stages of the contact guide. The script may be followed word-
for-word or modified, depending on the nature of the campaign.
Secondary directory number (SDN)
This is a direct line on which the agent can make outbound calls and receive inbound calls.
An upgrade to a product or service already offered to a customer which promotes extra
features and benefits.
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.
Very informal words and expressions that are more commonly spoken than written. For
example, "That's wicked" instead of "That's excellent".
Software includes system (eg Microsoft® Windows® 2000), utility (eg virus checkers) or
application (eg Microsoft® Word) programmes. These programmes tell your computer
what to do. This information is stored electronically on hardware such as disks and CD-
You must provide the specifications of the customer's request when preparing a quote. The
specifications are the exact details of the customer's request.
For example, for a client requiring lighting you would note down any measurements (like
garden size, height of trees), the kind of effect they want to achieve, and any preference
for style/design of lights. The information you provide in the specifications will help
technical staff provide a quote to satisfy the customer's needs.
A spreadsheet is used to enter numerical data in a table of rows and columns. The
programme is then used to calculate, analyse and visibly represent the data as graphs and
charts. Spreadsheets can be used for business analyses and forecasts such as sales totals,
payroll and mortgage payment calculations and much more. Popular spreadsheet
programmes include Microsoft®Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro.
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.
A company that is part of a larger parent company, often established to satisfy a particular
market niche. For example, a large taxi company might start a subsidiary that deals only
Sympathy involves relating yourself directly to the customer's situation.
For example, "I know how you feel. The same thing happened to me some time ago."
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 hangs up.
The number of teams within each customer contact centre depends on the size of the
centre. A customer contact centre can have from 8-15 teams. The average team size is
about 10-15 members. Each team has a team leader.
Telecommunications network provider
A company that provides services such as telephones, telephone lines, data lines and
Internet access to individuals and companies.
A group of people in different locations can talk on the telephone using specialised
Making outbound calls to a selected target group of new or existing customers in order to
sell goods and/or services.
An organisation presents the customer with the opportunity to purchase a product or
service, either by receiving inbound calls, making outbound calls, or a combination of both.
This is the time within which agreed action should take place. For example, if today's date
is March 15 and you agree to phone a customer by March 18, then your timeframe for
action is the 3 days between March 15 and March 18.
Handing over a call within the same organisation when the original agent cannot answer
the customer's enquiry directly, but knows that another agent, area or department would
be able to help. (See escalate and refer.)
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
Also known as voice messaging.
See voice mail.
A software programme used to create different types of business documents such as
letters, memos, newsletters, brochures, reports, web pages and other written documents.
The programme enables you to type a document and then make changes to the text
before you print it out on paper. You can easily:
copy, cut and move text
add or delete text
format font type and size
format line and paragraph spacing
change the page layout.
You can also perform spelling and grammar checks with a word processor.
This is the time an agent uses to complete paperwork or other tasks associated with a call.
Also known as wrap time.
This is the time an agent uses to complete paperwork or other tasks associated with a call