Glossary of Terms

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Below is an alphabetical list of common terms that you may hear used when discussing telephone systems or call handling requirements. Not all the terms and technology mentioned in this glossary are used by Your Office & PA, but you may see them referred to elsewhere.


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

After-Call Work 
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.

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 Group 
Also called Split, Gate, Queue or Skills Group. A collection of agents that share a common set of skills, such as being able to handle customer complaints.

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

All Trunks Busy 
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.

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.

Automatic Call Distributor 
The specialised telephone system used in incoming call centres. 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.

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

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Busy Hour 
A telephone traffic engineering term, referring to the hour of time in which a trunk group carries the most traffic during the day. The average busy hour reflects the average over a period of days, such as two weeks. Busy Hour has little use for incoming call centres, which require more specific resource calculation methodologies.

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Also called Transaction and Customer Contact. A term referring to telephone calls, video calls, Web calls and other types of contacts.

Call centre 
An umbrella term that generally refers to reservations centres, help desks, information lines or customer service centres, regardless of how they are organized or what types of transactions they handle.

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

Calls In Queue 
A real-time report that refers to the number of calls received by the ACD system but not yet connected to an agent.

A company that provides telecommunications circuits

Computer Telephony Integration 
The software, hardware and programming necessary to integrate computers and telephones so they can work together seamlessly and intelligently.

Cost Per Call 
Total costs (fixed and variable) divided by total calls for a given period of time.

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Database Call Handling 
A CTI application, whereby the ACD works in sync with the database computer to process calls, based on information in the database. For example, a caller inputs digits into a voice processing system, the database retrieves information on that customer and then issues instructions to the ACD on how to handle the call (e.g., where to route the call, what priority the call should be given in queue, the announcements to play, etc.).

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

Also called Queue Time. The time a caller spends in queue, waiting for an agent to become available. Average Delay is the same thing as Average Speed of Answer. Also see Average Delay of Delayed Calls.

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

Dialled Number 
The number that the caller dialled to initiate the call.

Dialled Number Identification Service 
A string of digits that the telephone network passes to the ACD, VRU or other devise, to indicate which number the caller dialled. The ACD can then process and report on that type of call according to user-defined criteria. One trunk group can have many DNIS numbers.

Direct Dialling Inwards (DDI)
DDI refers to a phone line number that is direct dial (i.e. not through a switch board). Most phone number are DDI’s.

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Facsimile / FAX 
Technology that scans a document, encodes it, transmits it over a telecommunications circuit, and reproduces it in original form at the receiving end.

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

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

Handling Time 
The time 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 a transaction.

Help Desk 
A term that generally refers to a call centre set up to handle queries about product installation, usage or problems. The term is most often used in the context of computer software and hardware support centres.

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Incoming Call Centre Management 
The art of having the right number of skilled people and supporting resources in place at the right times to handle an accurately forecasted workload, at service level and with quality.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)
A set of international standards for telephone transmission. ISDN provides an end-to-end digital network, out-of-band signalling, and greater bandwidth than older telephone services. The two standard levels of ISDN are Basic Rate Interface (BRI) and Primary Rate Interface (PRI). See Basic Rate Interface and Primary Rate Interface.

Internet “Call Me” Transaction 
A transaction that allows a user to request a call back from the call centre, while exploring a Web page. Requires interconnection of the ACD system and the Internet by means of an Internet Gateway.

Internet “Call Through” Transaction 
The ability for callers to click a button on a Web site and be directly connected to an agent while viewing the site. Standards and technologies that provide this capability are in development.

Internet Phone 
Technology that enables users of the Internet’s World Wide Web to place voice telephone calls through the Internet.

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Local Area Network 
The connection of multiple computers within a building, so that they can share information, applications and peripherals. See Wide Area Network.

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

Longest Available Agent 
A method of distributing calls to the agent who has been sitting idle the longest. With a queue, Longest Available Agent becomes Next Available Agent.

Longest Delay (Oldest Call) 
The longest time a caller has waited in queue, before abandoning or reaching an agent.

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

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

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Also called Position Monitoring or Service Observing. The process of listening to agents’ telephone calls for the purpose of maintaining quality. Monitoring can be: A) silent, where agents don’t know when they are being monitored, B) side by side, where the person monitoring sits next to the agent and observes calls or C) record and review, where calls are recorded and then later played back and assessed.

Multilingual Agents 
Agents that are fluent in more than one language.

Combining multiple forms of media in the communication of information. (E.g., a traditional phone call is “monomedia,” and a video call is “multimedia.”)

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Next Available Agent 
A call distribution method that sends calls to the next agent who becomes available. The method seeks to maintain an equal load across skill groups or services. When there is no queue, Next Available Agent reverts to Longest Available Agent.

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

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Offered Calls 
All of the attempts callers make to reach the call centre. There are three possibilities for offered calls: 1) they can get busy signals, 2) they can be answered by the system, but hang up before reaching a rep, 3) they can be answered by a rep. Offered call reports in ACDs usually refer only to the calls that the system receives.

Periods of time other than the call centre’s busiest periods.

Contracting some or all call centre services to an outside company.

Calls that flow from one group or site to another. More specifically, Intraflow happens when calls flow between agent groups and Interflow is when calls flow out of the ACD to another site.

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Predictive Dialling 
A system that automatically places outbound calls and delivers answered calls to agents. When the dialler detects busy signals, answering machines or ring no answer, it puts the number back in queue.

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

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Also called display boards or wall displays. A visual display, usually mounted on the wall or ceiling, that provides real-time and historical information on queue conditions, agent status and call centre performance.

Real-Time Data 
Information on current conditions. Some “real-time” information is real-time in the strictest sense (e.g., calls in queue and current longest wait). Some real-time reports require some history (e.g. the last x calls or x minutes) in order to make a calculation (e.g. service level and average speed of answer).

Received Calls 
A call detected and seized by a trunk. Received calls will either abandon or be answered by an agent.

Response Time 
The time it takes the call centre to respond to transactions that do not have to be handled when they arrive (e.g., correspondence or e-mail).

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Screen Monitoring 
A system capability that enables a supervisor or manager to remotely monitor the activity on agents’ computer terminals.

Screen Pop 
A CTI capability. Callers’ records are automatically retrieved and delivered to agents, along with the calls.

The information that is taken for a particular call type. E.g. the script maybe to take a name, address, email and telephone number for all new enquiries. This would be the script for that call type.

Service Level Agreement 
Performance objectives reached by consensus between the user and the provider of a service, or between an outsourcer and an organisation. A service level agreement specifies a variety of performance standards that may or may not include “service level.”

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Talk Time 
The time an agent spends with a caller during a transaction. Includes everything from “hello” to “goodbye.”

Using telecommunications to work from home or other locations instead of at the organization’s premises.

Also called a Line, Exchange Line or Circuit. A telephone circuit linking two switching systems.

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Unavailable Work State 
An agent work state used to identify a mode not associated with handling telephone calls.


VIP Callers
Inbound callers whose details are held by the database to allow instant recognition when they call inward from their number. This enables the way the call is answered to be personalised. This only works if the inbound caller has not blocked their number from recognition.

Virtual Call Centre 
A distributed call centre that acts as a single site for call handling and reporting purposes.

Voice Response Unit 
Also called Interactive Voice Response Unit (IVR) or Audio Response Unit (ARU). A VRU responds to caller entered digits or speech recognition in much the same way that a conventional computer responds to keystrokes or clicks of a mouse. When the VRU is integrated with database computers, callers can interact with databases to check current information (e.g., account balances) and complete transactions (e.g. make transfers between accounts).

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Wide Area Network 
The connection of multiple computers across a wide area, normally using digital data circuits.

World Wide Web 
The capability that enables users to access information on the internet in a graphical environment.

See After-Call Work.

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