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Contact center definitions

Glossary of contact center, call center and
customer experience terms


ACD – An automatic call distributor (ACD) is a telephony software system that answers incoming calls and routes them to a specific agent or department within a company. The system intelligently routes a call to the most appropriate agent based on the caller’s needs.

Agent – Person who answers calls in a call center. Also called Customer Service Representative (CSR).

ANI – Automatic Number Identification. A series of numbers associated with a call. These numbers identify the phone number of the caller. Sometimes referred to as a CallerID.

ASR – Automatic Speech Recognition. See Natural Language Speech Recognition.

Auto Dialer – An auto dialer is an outbound call center solution that automatically dials customer telephone numbers and can deliver important information through an automated message, or can connect a customer to a live agent once the call has been answered.

Automatic callback – A computer telephony calling feature that permits a customer—when encountering a busy condition or other condition where an agent is unavailable—to instruct the system to return their call when an agent becomes available.

Average handling time (AHT) – The amount of time an agent is occupied on an incoming call.

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Back office optimization – Back-office optimization is the process of streamlining and automating workforce tasks that occur in a contact center, and aligning back office functions with front office workflows in order to improve customer experience (CX) across the customer lifecycle.

Barge-in – A capability provided by Natural Language Speech Recognition that allows callers to speak or enter their responses during the prompt and have those responses recognized. See also echo cancellation.

Blended agent – An employee in the role of contact center agent who divides their time and attention between multiple communication channels (voice, email, SMS, etc.) to service customer needs.

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Call center – A physical location where a high volume of customer and other telephone calls are handled by an organization, usually with some amount of computer automation. Call centers typically provide voice only inbound, outbound and limited self-service customer interactions. See also: Contact Center.

Call Center CRM – Call Center Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a call center technology solution that provides employees with access to account information and history in an effort to provide a real-time, personalized customer experience across all channels including voice, web and social. 

Call center management – The way in which organizations manage the daily operations of the call center, including forecasting, scheduling, employee training, reporting, and all customer interactions. Call center management can be modernized through use of workforce optimization solutions.

Call center workforce optimization – A customer experience strategy that modernizes call center technologies and platforms, through the use of digital channels, in order to improve customer satisfaction.

Call center workforce planning – Call center workforce planning addresses all elements of the call center including team scheduling, training and forecasting.

Call volume – The number of contacts or transactions per second.

CCaaS (contact center as a service) – A comprehensive contact center solution offered on a subscription basis and made available from the cloud.

Chat messages – Allows agents and supervisors to communicate during a contact. Reduces hold times and increase first and final contact resolution.

Cloud call center – A web-accessible platform for handling customer calls and interactions. Call centers based in the cloud can be accessed from virtually anywhere, eliminating the need for a physical infrastructure, which may reduce operational costs and increase scalability to support evolving customer experience strategies.

Cloud contact center – A central point in an enterprise, hosted on an Internet server, from which all inbound and outbound customer communications are handled. Cloud contact centers make interactions through voice, email, social media and the web accessible from virtually anywhere.

Contact center – A contact center is a modern call center. It manages inbound and outbound customer communications through a variety of channels. For example, customers could reach out to a company via email or chat with an agent on the company’s website.

Contact center agent – Front office employees that are customer-facing and typically the primary point of human customer contact within an organization.

Contact Center CRM – Contact Center Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a contact center software solution that provides employees with access to account information and history in an effort to provide a real-time, personalized customer experience across all channels, including voice, web and social.

Contact center management – The way in which organizations manage the daily operations of the contact center workforce, across multiple touchpoints and channels, in order to accommodate omnichannel customer journeys.

Contact center workforce optimization – A customer experience strategy that integrates contact center technologies and processes in order to deliver seamless omnichannel customer journeys in a multi-channel workforce.

Contact center workforce planning – Contact center workforce planning is the process of aligning the strategic and operational elements of a contact center workforce with organizational objectives.

Conversant – An old Avaya Hardware Platform on which HTI built software applications for IVR and NLSR.

CT connect – A computer telephony call control server software that connects a range of telephone switches to a variety of data processing environments.

CTI – Computer Telephony Integration. Computer control and functionality applied to telephony hardware.

CTI server – House the server software that monitors telephony events (ringing, busy etc.) at the switch.

Customer engagement – The ongoing relationship a customer has with an organization based on relevant, personalized experiences and the anticipation of the customer’s evolving needs.

Customer effort score (CES) – A measurement focused on service interactions in contact center environments. It provides a way to measure how customer centric channels and touchpoints are in their design and management, and how they promote ease of use, simplicity and effortless interaction.

Customer experience (CX) – CX is made of individual customer touchpoints. The sum of all experiences a customer has with a company over the lifecycle of their relationship is called a customer journey.

Customer experience management (CEM) – A strategy that focuses on the operations and processes used to create a positive customer experience with focus on your organization, product, service, or brand.

Customer experience platform  – Contact center infrastructure, available from the cloud or on-premises, that supports the design, orchestration, monitoring, and tuning of customer journeys across voice and digital channels.

Customer journey – The customer journey consists of multiple touchpoints and key interactions each customer or prospect has with a company—including messaging, employees, processes, products or services. Single or multiple interactions can be considered a customer journey and are part of a holistic customer experience lifecycle.

Customer Journey Management – Customer journey management is the practice of using behavioral trends and technology to influence and optimize the customer experience (CX). Customer journey management aims to minimize the customer effort across all channels and touchpoints, ensuring a seamless experience every time a customer interacts with your company.

Customer Journey Optimization – Customer journey optimization is the process of connecting and mapping customer interactions, across multiple touchpoints, in order to direct or influence the end-to-end experience. 

Customer satisfaction (CSAT or C-SAT) – A measurement that determines how an organization meets the expectations of its customers based on satisfaction. Customers are asked a question following a transaction about their satisfaction with the company, which is then rated from one (very dissatisfied) to five (very satisfied).

Customer service – Customer service is the assistance and service provided by an organization to customers before, during, and after the purchase of products or services.

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Database – A structured set of files, records, or tables. Often abbreviated DB. A collection of information organized in such a way that a computer program can quickly select desired pieces of data. You can think of a database as an electronic filing system.

Direct inward dialing (DID) – Dialing within a company without going through an operator.

Dialed number identification service (DNIS) – A feature of 800 or 900 lines that identifies the phone number the caller dialed to reach the attached computer telephony system.

Dual tone multi frequency (DTMF) – Touchtone dialing. In DTMF, pushing the button sends a combination of two tones’ one high frequency, one low frequency.

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Echo cancellation – The process of making the channel quiet enough so that the system can hear and recognize Natural Language inputs during the prompt. See also barge-in.

Employee engagement – The extent to which employees are actively engaged in their work and supporting their customers. It can be a key driver of motivation, retention, performance, customer experience, and business success.

Enterprise relationship management (ERM) – Relates to solutions allowing an enterprise to share customer, product, competitor and market information to accomplish goals of meeting long-term customer satisfaction and increased revenues

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First contact resolution (FCR) – The ability to address the customer’s need the first time they call or connect with an agent, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second interaction. Contact center managers carefully monitor follow-up calls because follow-up calls create an overall increased call volume which, in turn, requires more agents. In general, a contact center manager will accept an increase in talk time, as long as the first call resolution rate increases as well. Follow up calls can also be an indication of customer dissatisfaction. Also referred to First Call Resolution.

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GrXML – XML format of a syntax for representing grammars for use in speech recognition so that developers can specify the words and patterns of words to be listened for by a speech recognizer, as defined by the W3C forum The other format defined by the W3C forum, for representing these grammars is an Augmented BNF Form.

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Hosted call center – A hosted call center is a customer experience solution where an organization’s inbound, outbound, and voice-based self-service customer interactions are handled. Customer interactions are hosted on a service provider’s back-office systems, therefore offering lower cost of ownership.

Hosted contact center – A hosted contact center is a customer experience solution where an organization’s central point of inbound and outbound communications are hosted on a service provider’s back-office systems, therefore offering lower cost of ownership.

Hosted Dialer – A hosted dialer is a contact center cloud-based technology that enables cross-channel contact strategies in order to maximize the time agents spend on the phone, while accurately predicting agent availability, optimally pacing dialing, and filtering out unproductive calls.

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Interactive voice response (IVR) – A system that uses responses from a touch tone telephone to gather and store data. An IVR is automated telephone information system that speaks to the caller with a combination of fixed voice menus and data extracted from databases in real time. The caller responds by pressing keys on the telephone keypad or speaking words or short phrases. This can also be used for voice self-service which can used to escalate customers to human-assisted service. It uses a human voice to read back. When set up with voice recognition software, data can be gathered through voice instead of touch tone. See also VRU.

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Mobile Voice – Mobile voice is the emerging technology that combines recent advances in mobile and voice recognition. The combination of the two technologies results in users being able to talk to their mobile devices, be understood by the device, and accomplish tasks.

Multichannel cloud contact center – A multi-channel cloud contact center is a customer experience (CX) solution that integrates multiple touchpoints – including voice, text, social media and the web – making them accessible via an Internet server. A multi-channel cloud contact center can be accessed from virtually anywhere, eliminating the need for increased physical infrastructure while meeting the evolving demands of today’s customer communication preferences.

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NPS (Net Promoter® Score) – Both a loyalty metric and a discipline for using customer feedback to fuel profitable growth in your business. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a macro metric based on the single question and has been adopted by leading companies worldwide as the standard for measuring and improving customer loyalty.

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Omnichannel cloud call center – An omnichannel cloud call center is a multi-channel contact center that delivers seamless customer experiences across all touchpoints leveraging modern cloud based infrastructure and services. In a cloud-based contact center, the company does not actually own, host or operate any equipment that the call center runs on; rather a third party service provider hosts the call center infrastructure in their own data center and the company will pay a monthly or annual service fee for hosting the infrastructure.

Omnichannel contact center – An omnichannel cloud contact center is a multichannel customer experience strategy that seamlessly connects all touch points and is available via an internet server.

Omnichannel customer experience – An omnichannel customer experience is made up of individual customer touchpoints, over a variety of channels that seamlessly connect, allowing customers to pick up where they left off on one channel and continue the experience on another.

Omnichannel customer journey – An omnichannel customer journey consists of key interactions over multiple touchpoints between customer or prospect and a company during the point of sale and throughout the customer lifecycle.

Omnichannel customer service – Omnichannel customer service consists of numerous interactions across multiple touchpoints between a customer, or prospective customer, and product or service provider during the time of sale, and throughout the customer lifecycle.

Outbound call center – An outbound call center is a central point where call center agents contact current or prospective customers on behalf of an organization. Outbound calls are conducted for many purposes, including but not limited to: sales calls to prospective customers, debt collection, customer surveys, or for proactive customer service.

Outbound IVR – An Outbound IVR is a contact center solution used to proactively distribute communications to customers. This technology allows an organization to automatically engage customers through multiple channels such as automated voice calls, SMS messages, email or social media posts using personalized notifications.

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Private branch exchange (PBX) – Private branch exchange (PBX) is a private telephone network used within a company. Users can communicate internally (within the company) and externally (outside the company) using different communication channels like VoIP, ISDN or analog.


Predictive dialing – Predictive dialing is a method of making several automated outbound calls without using agents. Answered calls are then passed to agents. A computer makes dialing decisions based on certain algorithms to support business objectives.

Prompt – A message played to a caller that gives the caller a choice of selections in a menu and asks for a response.

PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network. The public telephone network to which telephones, ACDs, and PBXs are connected.

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Reports agent – Allows agents to view team statistics as well as their own call log.

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Screen pop – A method of delivering a screen of information to a telephone operator at the same time a telephone call is delivered. This is accomplished by a complex chain of tasks that include identifying the calling party number, using that information to access a local or remote ORACLE database, and pulling a form full of information from the database using an ORACLE database utility package.

Server – A provider of resources.

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Talk time – The average time an agent spends on each call, a common call center performance metric. In general, fast talk time averages are desirable. However, fast talk time averages accompanied by poor first call resolution rates are a sign that customer calls are not being answered satisfactorily.

Touchpoint – Each impression a customer has of an organization (be it advertising, product, email, etc.) can be called a touchpoint. These touchpoints can spurn an interaction with the organization, which in turn creates a customer experience.

TTS – Text-to-Speech – An optional feature that allows an application to play speech directly from ASCII text by converting that text to synthesized speech.

Trunk – A trunk is a communication line or physical link, such as a wire or optical line, designed to carry multiple signals simultaneously. A trunk provides network access between two points. They often connect switching centers in a communication solution.

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Virtual Agent – A virtual agent is a contact center capability that uses a virtual character, created through computer generation, animation, and artificial intelligence, as a customer service agent via chat bot functionality. A virtual agent may also refer to a contact center or call center customer service agent that works from a remote location outside of an organization’s physical building.

Virtual contact center (VCC) – A virtual contact center (VCC) is a solution that supports contact center agents in various geographical locations instead of a single physical location.

Virtual call center (VCC) – A  solution that supports contact center agents who are dispersed geographically instead working from a single physical location to provide customer service interactions.

Voice response unit (VRU) – A software system that uses responses from a touch tone telephone to gather and store data. It uses a human voice to read back. It is sometimes referred to as the Interactive Voice Response.

Voice authentication – A biometric used to verify who the speaker says he or she claims to be.

Voice of customer (VOC) – A measurement used to describe the in-depth process of capturing a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions. Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.

VOIC – Voice of internal customer.

Voice platform – A voice platform executes the commands and logic specified by a voice application, provides speech processing capabilities (e.g., speech recognition, text-to-speech, voice authentication) and enables application creation. They also interface with back-end systems (e.g., databases, CRM applications, legacy systems) and call center infrastructure (i.e., computer telephony integration), and provide system management and administration capabilities.

Voice print – A set of features extracted from a sample of a person’s voice that are stored in a speaker authentication system.

VOIP – Voice over IP (VoIP) is a technology that converts your voice into a digital signal, allowing you to make a call directly from a computer, a VoIP phone or another data-driven device. You can make phone calls anytime, anywhere, using an internet-connected computer, a headset and VoIP.

VXML – Voice XML (extensible markup language) – VXML is similar to HTML in that it enables users to interact with the Internet through voice-recognition technology. It relies on a voice browser and/or the telephone to access information. VXML handles input and output audio dialog, dialog sequencing, error handling and client-side scripting.

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Workflow Management – Workflow management is the administration of a sequence of tasks and processes throughout an organization’s workforce.

Workforce Management – Workforce management is the process of strategically optimizing the productivity of employees, ensuring that all resources are in the right places at the right times. A workforce management strategy typically includes scheduling, forecasting, skills management and employee empowerment. Complexity increases with the need to ensure that customer service supports omnichannel customer engagement.

Workforce optimization (WFO) – Workforce optimization is a strategy used to integrate siloed technologies and automate processes in order to reduce operational costs and to better manage employee performance, resulting in greater efficiency and higher customer satisfaction.

Workload management – Workload management is the process of strategically distributing work throughout the workforce in order to maximize employee or application skill and performance.

Workforce planning – A systematic, ongoing process of effective planning, forecasting, and scheduling to provide more efficient distribution of interactions and work across channels.

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