Contact Centre jargon defines an industry with its own nod and wink language. Contact Centre jargon is key to speed of discussion and clarity of ideas in a contact centre.
Unlike departments which have only one specific focus the contact centre has messages to deliver on behalf of all departments.
This article introduces to someone who may never worked in a contact centre the key terms.
For experienced contact centre heads could you define all the key contact centre jargon? Skip down to the “Wrap up” section to test your knowledge.
- General communications terms
- General computer terms
- Contact Centre Jargon by Departments
- Wrap up
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General communications terms
A person who works on the phone is usually referred to as an agent.
An agent will have in their team someone they can easily chat to who has been around a while and knows the lie of the land called a senior agent.
The person who introduces you to the job is often referred to as the trainer who when you’re ready will hand you off to a team.
With many agents they are broken into teams, so a team will have a team lead.
All the team leads will need to report to a manager called the call centre manager or operations manager or ops manager for short.
Customers are the people you chat to on the phone but the business / company who you do work for is called “the client“.
A phone system enables agents to make and take phone calls and have been around since the late 1960s.
The technical name for a phone system is a Public Branch eXchange and you may see the title PBX used in documentation.
The phone system has the ability to take a phone call from the public and then move it through the business to get it to someone who can help. This is a Contact Distribution system.
The most common phone systems are made by
- Nortel – former global leading phone systems but bought by Avaya in 2008
Everyone understands the general title of the Internet as being an inter connecting network of computers. Nerds needed a name to describe the phone system in the same collective way so it was dubbed POTS the Plain Old Telephone System.
Phone calls that go over traditional phone lines cost money furthermore it is possible to make calls using the Internet.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) uses the Internet rather than traditional phone lines.
VoIP offers a number of technological and cost advantages for contact centres.
Where the Internet connects to the POTS is called a SIP trunk. (Session Initiation Protocol). A SIP trunk will have a phone number.
Automatic Call Distribution
The primary function that makes a phone system a key feature of a contact centre is Automatic Call Distribution (ACD). As a result ACD is key to every Contact Centre jargon discussion.
If the phone system does more than just phone calls, like email or fax, then the ACD acronym becomes Automatic Contact Distribution.
The system allows rules which distribute contact to different people. As a result, custom rules allow the business better manage human resources around the business.
There are a number of other useful features which may / may not be available on the system
- Call on hold – places a customer in a temporary state where they can’t hear the agent
- Music on hold – while the customer is on hold the system can play music to them
- Not ready – tells the ACD the agent is not available to do more work just yet
- Voicemail – An answering machine where a person can record custom audio messages
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – The system that provides “press 1 for X, press 2 for Y” interactivity for a customer who rings in
- Call recording – the recording of the actual call itself not just data that happened during or about the call.
General computer terms
Contact Record System – basic metrics
The first Contact Centre jargon word you learn in terms of technology is metric.
Metrics are numbers which are distinct values which can be measured. How many calls? etc. You can learn more about metrics here.
For numerous reasons including legal, customer experience and performance reasons it is very important to record contacts and related pieces of information to that contact.
The actual call is the main bit of information. When you store information like, duration of the call, when it started and ended this is information about the call. Information about information is metadata.
Wherever possible you want equipment to do the recording rather than people. Equipment is cheaper to run than people and in business proves more reliable than humans for repetitive tasks.
For any contact there are usually a lot of important pieces of information (metadata)
- Date / Time of the start of the contact
- End of the contact date / time
- Agent that took the contact
- Name / Id of the caller
- Reason for the call
The phone system as a starting point generates a lot of information as contacts happen yet it isn’t the only tool in the toolbox.
Different tools used by different companies record metadata. This is no one right tool for everything.
Even from these few fields a lot of information can be worked out. Call analytics is examining the call information to figure out decision making facts.
Records and Contacts
Most people know filling out forms as a paper based way of recording information. In contact centres paper forms would lead to a lot of extra work which a computer can do far more easily.
The simple report might start “How many people called in today?”, which would be a job of counting all the forms used today. The more agents and calls the more onerous the challenge of counting.
A customer calls in for a second time. A computer system really becomes useful for searching . Looking up a form, without using a computer system is impractical in a contact centre where you may have hundreds of agents with thousands of forms maybe on different continents.
One form, constitutes interaction with one customer. In a computer system, that one form is called a record.
If a customer calls in for a second time, you might have one record, but there would be two contacts for that record.
Reporting on records and contacts is very important to a contact centre. Every record will have a contact history, which will list all the contacts for that record.
Contact Centre jargon varies from business to business in this area as different industry areas refer to records as cases or incidents.
To improve staff delivery when they are on the phone it can help to put extra information on the form. Including examples of what to put or questions you should ask.
This often leads to open questions where you can put anything in the box and consequently closed questions where the answer is from a set list.
A form with instructions is often referred to as a script.
Unlike a paper form, a computer can add a lot more features to the script.
- Drop down lists improve quality of data and speed up the completion of the form.
- Administrators change contents of lists and fields in real time saving time and effort.
- Intelligence can also be added to the form, such that if one answer is chosen values and questions appear / disappear appropriately, called logic.
- When rules ensure properly filled out fields there’s validation.
The most important thing records on the form “why the customer called?”. This is usually from a drop down list for consistency.
Disposition codes record a contact type. e.g. “Not Interested”, “Sale”, “Callback later”. Modern systems refer to this as an outcome as part of a workflow.
An outcome is not just a word but it also can perform multiple tasks, including sending text messages, emails and data pushes to other systems.
Contact Centre jargon could never be complete without including outbound campaigns.
The call centre calls out to the customers hence outbound.
An outbound campaign starts with a list of people to be called.
It is called a campaign because it has a time scope and a list scope. Once all the people in the list are called the campaign ends.
The instructions given to the team focus on “please contact these people and do the following with them”
- Sell to them
- Upsell / cross sell to them
- Collect debt from them
- Update their details
- Warn them of issues with their product (e.g. recalls)
Contact Centre Jargon by Departments
Touch points are a marketing tool to help group up for the marketing department the ways a customer gets in touch with the business and where your business might get in touch with the customer. Businesses use some or all of them. Channels is another word for touch points.
There are a number of different mediums through which a customer can contact a company
- In person
- Fax (facsimile)
- In writing / by mail
- Live web chat
- Social media
- Through mobile /smart phone or tablet app
- By video conference
Each medium presents different challenges for the business and as a result marketing are not the only department who chat to customers. Sales, Customer Care and any department with interactions with the customers are affected by touch points.
Companies have to pay money to invest in technology to make best use of those touch points.
Omnichannel tools deal with a lot of these tools in one system and often appears in a sales context. Putting all your business communications into one tool this is often called Unified Communications (UC).
Advertising primarily raises awareness with the goal of driving contact.
It costs a lot of money to advertise consequently tracking where advertising is working is very important.
So for every contact logged it should be a goal of the person logging the contact to record what caused the customer to get in touch.
On advertising it is possible to put a unique code, called a media code.
As far as Contact Centre jargon goes media codes are often left out of discussions unless marketing is in the room.
When contact occurs the agent records with the contact, the media code. The marketing department can identify which advertising is working and which is not.
Cold calling is a dark part of Contact Centre jargon.
Historically abuse of outbound contact by some companies came to the point of harassing customers. Phoning a customer over and over again trying to sell them something they don’t want is harassment. You enter a person’s home via their phone.
If you call a person with no permission for contacting them, this is known as cold calling. As a result of the abuse of cold calling the law in many countries now bans outbound contact without permission.
It is legal in Ireland to cold call businesses, as in Business 2 Business (B2B). It is not legal to call customers (B2C) Business 2 Consumer unless the consumer has explicitly given you permission to contact them.
In Ireland, ComReg (the Communications Regulator) is the department responsible for managing contact.
Marketing permissions clarify if a company can contact a record or not.
As a result of the laws it is vital for a business to record marketing permissions. If explicit marketing permissions exist contacting customers is ok otherwise that customer is off limits.
Part of the process of building a contact list is having permission to contact and recording the date and time of when permitted.
Cold Calling Laws
Contact Centre jargon can hide a lot of things but laws are specific and explicit.
If a person has recently become a customer, then the company has the ability to contact the customer for the purposes of customer care but only customer care.
Customers have the right to be left alone. Customers can decide on contact only through preferred mediums such as email or text messages.
The customer also has the right to know what information you store about them (their metadata).
The Irish Data Protection Act protects the customer’s information and dictates what a company can do with that customer’s information. For all European countries GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) regulates pan European law.
The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) is the government office primarily responsible for enforcing the act. There are a number of rules any company must follow when dealing with customer information. More information is available from https://www.dataprotection.ie/
Failing to have permission, not cleaning your list against the likes of the NDD (National Directory Database) and still contacting someone you have never spoken to before can result in Ireland of a fine up to €3,000 per contact.
Cold Calling in the News
If you think that this law is obscure and not enforced, think again.
So at this stage you should have some idea of the nod and wink of contact centre jargon
|General communications terms
|General computer terms
|Contact Centre Jargon by Departments
This list is by no means exhaustive but does serve as handy introduction to the world of contact centre jargon.