Terminologies Used

Few Terminologies used by BPO/ ITES/ Call Centres . A Guide to Your Interview

Abandoned Call . Also called a Lost Call. The caller hangs up before reaching an agent.

Adherence To Schedule.  A general term that refers to how well agents adhere to their schedules. Can include both a) how much time they were available to take calls during their shifts, including the time spent handling calls and the time spent waiting for calls to arrive (also called Availability), and b) when they were available to take calls (also called Compliance or Adherence). See Real-Time Adherence Software and Occupancy. 

After-Call Work(ACW).    All rights reserved. Also called Wrap-up and Post Call Processing (PCP). Work that is necessitated by and immediately follows an inbound transaction. Often includes entering data, filling out forms and making outbound calls necessary to complete the transaction. The agent is unavailable to receive another inbound call while in this mode. 

Agent.    The person who handles incoming or outgoing calls. Also referred to as customer service representative (CSR), telephone sales or service representative (TSR),rep, associate, consultant, engineer, operator, technician, account executive,team member, customer service professional, staff member, attendant and specialist.Did we miss any? 

Agent Status   . The mode an agent is in (Talk Time, After-Call Work, Unavailable, etc.). 

All Trunks Busy(ATB).    When all trunks are busy in a specified trunk group. Generally,reports indicate how many times all trunks were busy, and how much total time all trunks were busy. What they don't reveal is how many callers got busy signals when all trunks were busy. 

Announcement   . A recorded verbal message played to callers. 

Answered Call.    When referring to an agent group, a call counted as answered when it reaches an agent.

Application Based Routing and Reporting.    The ACD capability to route and track transactions by type of call, or application (e.g., sales, service, etc.),versus the traditional method of routing and tracking by trunk group and agent group. 

Audiotex   . A voice processing capability that enables callers to automatically access pre-recorded announcements. See Voice Processing. 

Auto Available   . An ACD feature whereby the ACD is programmed to automatically put agents into Available after they finish Talk Time and disconnect calls.

Auto Greeting.    Agent's pre-recorded greeting that plays automatically when a call arrives.

Auto Wrap-up.    An ACD feature whereby the ACD is programmed to automatically put agents into After-Call Work after they finish Talk Time and disconnect calls.

Automated Attendant   . A voice processing capability that automates the attendant function. The system prompts callers to respond to choices (e.g., press one for this, two for that?") and then coordinates with the ACD to send callers to specific destinations. This function can reside in an on-site system or in the network.

Automatic Call Distributor (ACD).    The specialized telephone system used in incoming call centers. It is a programmable device that automatically answers calls,queues calls, distributes calls to agents, plays delay announcements to callers and provides real-time and historical reports on these activities. May be a stand-alone system, or ACD capability built into a CO, network or PBX. 

Automatic Call Sequencer (ACS).    A simple system that is less sophisticated than an ACD, but provides some ACD-like functionality.

Available State.    Agents who are signed on to the ACD and waiting for calls to arrive. 

Available Time.    The total time that an agent or agent group waited for calls to arrive, for a given time period.

Average Delay.    See Average Speed of Answer.

Average Delay of Delayed Calls   . The average delay of calls that are delayed. It is the total Delay for all calls divided by the number of calls that had to wait in queue. See Average Speed of Answer.

Average Handle Time(AHT).    The sum of Average Talk Time and Average After-Call Work for a specified time period. 

Average Holding Time on Trunks (AHT).    The average time inbound transactions occupy the trunks. It is: (Talk Time + Delay Time)/Calls Received. AHT is also an acronym for Average Handling Time, which has a different meaning.

Average Number ofAgents.    The average number of agents logged into a group for a specified time period.

Average Speed of Answer (ASA).    Also called Average Delay. The average delay of all calls. It is total Delay divided by total number of calls.

Average Time to Abandonment.    The average time that callers wait in queue before abandoning. The calculation considers only the calls that abandon.

Base Staff. Also called Seated Agents.   The minimum number of agents required to achieveservice level and response time objectives for given period of time. Seatedagent calculations assume that agents will be in their seats for the entireperiod of time. Therefore, schedules need to add in extra people to accommodatebreaks, absenteeism and other factors that will keep agents from thephones.

Beep Tone.    Anaudible notification that a call has arrived (also called Zip Tone). Beep tonecan also refer to the audible notification that a call is beingmonitored.

Benchmark   . Historically,a term referred to as a standardized task to test the capabilities of devicesagainst each other. In quality terms, benchmarking is comparing products,services and processes with those of other organizations, to identify new ideasand improvement opportunities. 

Blockage.    Callersblocked from entering a queue.

Blocked Call   . Acall that cannot be connected immediately because A) no circuit is available atthe time the call arrives, or B) the ACD is programmed to block calls fromentering the queue when the queue backs up beyond a defined threshold. 

Call Blending   . Combiningtraditionally separate inbound and outbound agent groups into one group ofagents responsible for handling both inbound and outbound contacts. A systemthat is capable of call blending automatically puts agents who are makingoutbound calls into the inbound mode and vice versa, as necessitated by theincoming call load.

Call By Call Routing.    Theprocess of routing each call to the optimum destination according to real-timeconditions.

Call Center.    Anumbrella term that generally refers to reservations centers, help desks,information lines or customer service centers, regardless of how they areorganized or what types of transactions they handle. The term is beingchallenged by many, because calls are just one type of transaction and the wordcenter doesn't accurately depict the many multi-site environments.

Call ControlVariables.    The set of criteria the ACD uses to process calls. Examplesinclude routing criteria, overflow parameters, recorded announcements andtiming thresholds.

Call DetailRecording.    Data on each call, captured and stored by the ACD. Caninclude trunk used, time in queue, call duration, agent who handled the call,number dialed (for outgoing), and other information.

Call Forcing.    AnACD feature that automatically delivers calls to agents who are available andready to take calls. They hear a notification that the call has arrived (e.g. abeep tone), but do not have to press a button to answer the call.

Call Load   . Alsoreferred to as Work Load. Call Load is the product of (Average Talk Time +Average After-Call Work) x call volume, for a given period. 

Calls In Queue.    Areal-time report that refers to the number of calls received by the ACD systembut not yet connected to an agent.

Collateral Duties.    Non-phonetasks (e.g., data entry) that are flexible, and can be scheduled for periodswhen call load is slow.

Computer Simulation.    Acomputer technique to predict the outcome of various events in the future,given many variables. When there are many variables, simulation is often theonly way to reasonably predict the outcome.

Computer TelephonyIntegration (CTI).    The software, hardware and programming necessary tointegrate computers and telephones so they can work together seamlessly andintelligently.

Conditional Routing.    Thecapability of the ACD to route calls based on current conditions. It is basedon "if-then" programming statements. For example, "if the numberof calls in agent group 1 exceeds 10 and there are at least 2 available agentsin group two, then route the calls to group two." 

Cost Center.    Anaccounting term that refers to a department or function in the organizationthat does not generate profit.

Cost of Delay.    Themoney you pay to queue callers, assuming you have toll-free service.

Cost Per Call.    Totalcosts (fixed and variable) divided by total calls for a given period oftime.

Day of Week Routing   . Anetwork service that routes calls to alternate locations, based on the day ofweek. There are also options for day of year and time of day routing.

DDI.   DirectDial Inward, A direct inbound number to the switch.

Delay Announcements.    Recordedannouncements that encourage callers to wait for an agent to become available,remind them to have their account number ready, and provide information onaccess alternatives. In some systems, delay announcements are provided throughrecorded announcement routes (RANs). 

Delay.    Alsocalled Queue Time. The time a caller spends in queue, waiting for an agent tobecome available. Average Delay is the same thing as Average Speed of Answer.

Delayed Call.    Acall which cannot be answered immediately and is placed in queue. 

Dialed NumberIdentification Service (DNIS)   . A string of digits that the telephonenetwork passes to the ACD, VRU or other devise, to indicate which number thecaller dialed. The ACD can then process and report on that type of callaccording to user-defined criteria. One trunk group can have many DNIS numbers. 

Dynamic Answer   . AnACD feature that automatically reconfigures the number of rings before thesystem answers calls, based on real-time queue information. Since costs don'tbegin until the ACD answers calls, this feature can save callers or the callcenter money when long distance charges apply.

Envelope Strategy   . Astrategy whereby enough agents are scheduled for the day or week to handle boththe inbound call load and other types of work. Priorities are based on theinbound call load. When call load is heavy, all agents handle calls, but whenit is light, some agents are reassigned to work that is not astime-sensitive.

Erlang B.    Aformula developed by A.K. Erlang, widely used to determine the number of trunksrequired to handle a known calling load during a one hour period. The formulaassumes that if callers get busy signals, they go away forever, never to retry(lost calls cleared). Since some callers retry, Erlang B can underestimatetrunks required. However, Erlang B is generally accurate in situations with fewbusy signals.

Erlang C.    Calculatespredicted waiting times (delay) based on three things: the number of servers(reps); the number of people waiting to be served (callers); and the averageamount of time it takes to serve each person. It can also predict the resourcesrequired to keep waiting times within targeted limits. Erlang C assumes no lostcalls or busy signals, so it has a tendency to overestimate staffrequired.

Erlang, A.K   .A Danish engineer who worked for the Copenhagen Telephone Company in the early1900s and developed Erlang B, Erlang C and other telephone traffic engineeringformulas.

Erlang.    Onehour of telephone traffic in an hour of time. For example, if circuits carry120 minutes of traffic in an hour, that's two Erlangs.

Error Rate   . Eitherthe number of defective transactions or the number of defective steps in atransaction. 

Escalation Plan   . Aplan that specifies actions to be taken when the queue begins to build beyondacceptable levels.

Fast Clear Down   . Acaller who hangs up immediately when they hear a delay announcement. 

Flushing Out theQueue   . Changing system thresholds so that calls waiting for an agentgroup are redirected to another group with a shorter queue or available agents.

Full-Time Equivalent(FTE).    All rights reserved. A term used in scheduling and budgeting,whereby the number of scheduled hours is divided by the hours in a full workweek. The hours of several part time agents may add up to one FTE.

Gateway   . Aserver dedicated to providing access to a network.

Grade ofService.    The probability that a call will not be connected to a systembecause all trunks are busy. Grade of service is often expressed as"p.01" meaning 1% of calls will be "blocked." Sometimes,grade of service is used interchangeably with service level, but the two termshave different meanings.

Handled Calls.    Thenumber of calls received and handled by agents or peripheral equipment. Handledcalls does not include calls that abandon or receive busy signals. 

Handling Time.    Thetime an agent spends in Talk Time and After-Call Work, handling a transaction.Handling Time can also refer to the time it takes for a machine to process atransaction. 

Historical Reports   . Reportsthat track call center and agent performance over a period of time. Historicalreports are generated by ACDs, third party ACD software packages, andperipherals such as VRUs and Call Detail Recording Systems. The amount ofhistory that a system can store varies by system

Immutable Law.    Alaw of nature that is fundamental, and not changeable (e.g., the law ofgravity). In an inbound call center, the fact that occupancy goes up whenservice level goes down, is an immutable law.

Incoming Call CenterManagement.    The art of having the right number of skilled people andsupporting resources in place at the right times to handle an accuratelyforecasted workload, at service level and with quality.

Incremental Revenue(Value) Analysis   . A methodology that estimates the value (cost andrevenue) of adding or subtracting an agent

Index Factor.    Inforecasting, a proportion used as a multiplier to adjust another number.

IOT. IndirectOperational Time   . Time allowed within the FTE forecast for meetings,training etc..

Integrated ServicesDigital Network (ISDN).    A set of international standards for telephonetransmission. ISDN provides an end-to-end digital network, out-of-bandsignaling, and greater bandwidth than older telephone services. The twostandard levels of ISDN are Basic Rate Interface (BRI) and Primary RateInterface (PRI). See Basic Rate Interface and Primary Rate Interface.

Inter ExchangeCarrier (IXC   ). A long-distance telephone company. 

Interactive VoiceResponse (IVR).    See Voice Response Unit.

Internal Help Desk   . Agroup that supports other internal agent groups, e.g. for complex or escalatedcalls.

Internal ResponseTime.    The time it takes an agent group that supports other internalgroups (e.g., for complex or escalated tasks) to respond to transactions thatdo not have to be handled when they arrive (e.g., correspondence or e-mail).See Response Time and Service Level.

Internet "CallThrough" Transaction   . The ability for callers to click a buttonon a Web site and be directly connected to an agent while viewing the site.Standards and technologies that provide this capability are indevelopment. 

Intraflow.    Seeoverflow.

Invisible Queue.   When callers do not know how long the queue is or how fast it is moving. SeeVisible Queue.

JudgmentalForecasting.    Goes beyond purely statistical techniques and encompasseswhat people believe is going to happen. It is in the realm of intuition,interdepartmental committees, market research and executive opinion.

Law of DiminishingReturns.    The declining marginal improvements in service level that canbe attributed to each additional agent, as successive agents are added.

Load Balancing   . Balancingtraffic between two or more destinations. 

Logged On   . Astate in which agents have signed on to a system (made their presence known),but may or may not be ready to receive calls. 

Long Call.    Forstaffing calculations and traffic engineering purposes, calls that approach orexceed thirty minutes.

Longest AvailableAgent   . A method of distributing calls to the agent who has beensitting idle the longest. With a queue, Longest Available Agent becomes nextAvailable Agent.

Longest Delay (OldestCall).    The longest time a caller has waited in queue, beforeabandoning or reaching an agent.

Look Ahead Queuing.    Theability for a system or network to examine a secondary queue and evaluate theconditions, before overflowing calls from the primary queue.

Look Back Queuing.    Theability for a system or network to look back to the primary queue after thecall has been overflowed to a secondary queue, and evaluate the conditions. Ifthe congestion clears, the call can be sent back to the initial queue. 

Lost Call.    SeeAbandoned Call. 

Monitoring   . Alsocalled Position Monitoring or Service Observing. The process of listening toagents' telephone calls for the purpose of maintaining quality. Monitoring canbe: A) silent, where agents don't know when they are being monitored, B) sideby side, where the person monitoring sits next to the agent and observes callsor C) record and review, where calls are recorded and then later played backand assessed. 

Network Inter-flow   . Allrights reserved. A technology used in multi-site call center environments tocreate a more efficient distribution of calls between sites. Throughintegration of sites using network circuits (such as T1 circuits) and ACDsoftware, calls routed to one site may be queued simultaneously for agentgroups in remote sites. See Call by Call Routing and Percent Allocation. 

Next Available Agent.    Acall distribution method that sends calls to the next agent who becomesavailable. The method seeks to maintain an equal load across skill groups orservices. When there is no queue, Next Available Agent reverts to LongestAvailable Agent. 

Non ACD In Calls   . Inboundcalls which are directed to an agent's extension, rather than to a generalgroup. These may be personal calls or calls from customers who dial the agents'extension numbers. 

Occupancy.    Alsoreferred to as agent utilization. The percentage of time agents handle callsversus wait for calls to arrive. For a half-hour, the calculation is: (callvolume x average handling time in seconds) / (number of agents x 1800 seconds).

Offered Calls.    Allof the attempts callers make to reach the call center. There are threepossibilities for offered calls: 1) they can get busy signals, 2) they can beanswered by the system, but hang up before reaching a rep, 3) they can beanswered by a rep. Offered call reports in ACDs usually refer only to the callsthat the system receives. 

Open Ticket.    Acustomer contact (transaction) that has not yet been completed or resolved(closed). 

Overflow   . Callsthat flow from one group or site to another. More specifically, Intraflowhappens when calls flow between agent groups and Interflow is when calls flowout of the ACD to another site. 

Overlay.    SeeRostered Staff Factor.

Pareto Chart.    Abar chart that arranges events in order of frequency. Named after 19th centuryeconomist Vilfredo Pareto. 

Peaked Call Arrival   . Asurge of traffic beyond random variation. It is a spike within a short periodof time. 

Percent Allocation   . Acall routing strategy sometimes used in multi-site call center environments.Calls received in the network are allocated across sites based on user-definedpercentages. See Call by Call Routing and Network Inter-flow. 

PercentUtilization.    See Occupancy. 

PoolingPrinciple.    The Pooling Principle states: Any movement in the directionof consolidation of resources will result in improved traffic-carryingefficiency. Conversely, any movement away from consolidation of resources willresult in reduced traffic-carrying efficiency.

Profit Center   . Anaccounting term that refers to a department or function in the organizationthat does not generate profit. See Cost Center. 

Public SwitchedNetwork (PSN).    The public telephone network which provides thecapability of interconnecting any home or office with any other. 

QuantitativeForecasting   . Using statistical techniques to forecast future events.The major categories of quantitative forecasting include Time Series andExplanatory approaches. Time Series techniques use past trends to forecastfuture events. Explanatory techniques attempt to reveal linkages between two ormore variables.    

Queue   . Holdscallers until an agent becomes available. Queue can also refer to a line orlist of items in a system waiting to be processed (e.g., e-mail messages).

Queue Display.    SeeReaderboard. 

Random Call Arrival   . Thenormal, random variation in how incoming calls arrive.

Readerboards.    Alsocalled displayboards or wall displays. A visual display, usually mounted on thewall or ceiling, that provides real-time and historical information on queueconditions, agent status and call center performance. 

Real-Time AdherenceSoftware   . All rights reserved. Software that tracks how closely agentsconform to their schedules.

Real-Time Data.    Allrights reserved. Information on current conditions. Some "real-time"information is real-time in the strictest sense (e.g., calls in queue andcurrent longest wait). Some real-time reports require some history (e.g. thelast x calls or x minutes) in order to make a calculation (e.g. service leveland average speed of answer). See Screen Refresh. 

Real-Time Management   . Allrights reserved. Making adjustments to staffing and thresholds in the systemsand network, in response to current queue conditions. 

Received Calls.    Acall detected and seized by a trunk. Received calls will either abandon or beanswered by an agent. 

Record and ReviewMonitoring   . See Monitoring.

Reengineering   . Aterm popularized by management consultant Michael Hammer, which refers toradically redesigning processes to improve efficiency and service. 

Response Time.    Thetime it takes the call center to respond to transactions that do not have to behandled when they arrive (e.g., correspondence or e-mail). See ServiceLevel. 

Retrial Tables.    Sometimesused to calculate trunks and other system resources required. They assume thatsome callers will make additional attempts to reach the call center if they getbusy signals.

Rostered Staff Factor(RSF   ). Alternatively called an Overlay, Shrink Factor or Shrinkage.RSF is a numerical factor that leads to the minimum staff needed on scheduleover and above base staff required to achieve your service level and responsetime objectives. It is calculated after base staffing is determined and beforeschedules are organized, and accounts for things like breaks, absenteeism andongoing training.

Scatter Diagram   . Achart that graphically depicts the relationship between two variables. 

Scheduling Exception   . Whenan agent is involved in an activity outside of the normal, plannedschedule. 

Screen Monitoring   . Asystem capability that enables a supervisor or manager to remotely monitor theactivity on agents' computer terminals. 

Screen Pop.    ACTI capability. Callers' records are automatically retrieved (based on ANI ordigits entered into the VRU) and delivered to agents, along with thecalls. 

Screen Refresh.    Therate at which real-time information is updated on a display (e.g. every 5 to 15seconds). Note, screen refresh does not correlate with the time-frame used forreal-time calculations. See Real-Time Data. 

Seated Agents   . SeeBase Staff. 

Service LevelAgreement   . Performance objectives reached by consensus between theuser and the provider of a service, or between an outsourcer and anorganization. A service level agreement specifies a variety of performancestandards that may or may not include "service level." See ServiceLevel. 

Service Level   . Alsocalled Telephone Service Factor, or TSF. The percentage of incoming calls thatare answered within a specified threshold: "X% of calls answered in Yseconds." See Response Time. 

Service Observing.    SeeMonitoring. 

Shrink Factor   . SeeRostered Staff Factor. 

Skill-Based Routing   . Allrights reserved. An ACD capability that matches a caller's specific needs withan agent that has the skills to handle that call, on a real-time basis. 

Supervisor Monitor   . Computermonitors that enable supervisors to monitor the call handling statistics oftheir supervisory groups or teams. 

Supervisor   . Theperson who has front-line responsibility for a group of agents. Typical ratiosare one supervisor to every 10-15 agents. However, help desks can have onesupervisor for every 5 people, and some reservations centers have onesupervisor for every 30 or 40 agents. Generally, supervisors are equipped withspecial telephones and computer terminals that enable them to monitor agentactivities. 

Talk Time   . Thetime an agent spends with a caller during a transaction. Includes everythingfrom "hello" to "goodbye." 

Threshold   . Thepoint at which an action, change or process takes place. 

Toll-Free Service.    Allrights reserved. Enables callers to reach a call center out of the localcalling area without incurring charges. 800 and 888 service is toll-free. Insome countries, there are also other variations of toll-free service. For example,with 0345 or 0645 services in the United Kingdom, callers are charged localrates and the call center pays for the long distance charges. See also LinkLine

True Calls Per Hour.    Actualcalls an individual or group handled divided by occupancy for that period oftime. 

Trunk.    Alsocalled a Line, Exchange Line or Circuit. A telephone circuit linking twoswitching systems. 

Trunk Group.    Acollection of trunks associated with a single peripheral and usually used for acommon purpose.

Trunk Load.    Theload that trunks carry. Includes both Delay and Talk Time.

Trunks Idle.    Thenumber of trunks in a trunk group that are non-busy.

Trunks in Service.    Thenumber of trunks in the trunk group that are functional. 

Uniform CallDistributor (UCD   ). A simple system that distributes calls to a groupof agents and provides some reports. A UCD is not as sophisticated as anACD. 

Universal Agent.    Refersto either A) An agent who can handle all types of incoming calls or B) An agentwho can handle both inbound and outbound calls. 

Virtual Call Center.    Adistributed call center that acts as a single site for call handling andreporting purposes. 

Visible Queue.    Whencallers know how long the queue that they just entered is, and how fast it ismoving (e.g., they hear a system announcement that relays the expected waittime).

Voice over IP (VoIP).    Refersto a host of methods used to encode voice and transmit it over an IP network,such as an internal ethernet or over the Internet.

Voice Processing   . Ablanket term that refers to any combination of voice processing technologies,including Voice Mail, Automated Attendant, Audiotex, Voice Response Unit (VRU)and Faxback.

Workforce Management(WFM) Software.   Software systems that, depending on available modules,forecast call load, calculate staff requirements, organize schedules and trackreal-time performance of individuals and groups. 

Workload.    Oftenused interchangeably with Call Load. Work load can also refer to non-callactivities. 

Wrap-Up Codes   . Allrights reserved. Codes agents enter into the ACD to identify the types of callsthey are handling. The ACD can then generate reports on call types, by handlingtime, time of day, etc. 

Wrap-up   . Allrights reserved. See After-Call Work.

Zip Tone   . See Beep Tone