Off Center
Being a writer, I like it much the words and things. I’ve always felt that it is crucial to do grammar good, to spel things corectally, and to fully understand each word that you utilization.    

During my years writing about contact centers and customer care, I’ve uncovered many inconsistencies in how people use and define certain key industry terms and concepts. For instance, some people say “service level” when they mean to say “response time”. Others say “peon” when they mean to say “agent”.  And many say “industry standard” when they mean to annoy me.

So, to help get everybody on the same page, I’ve decided to create a condensed glossary for conact center professionals. While you may already know what some or all of the below words and phrases mean, you don’t.

abandonment: The feeling a contact center manager experiences just after talking to senior management about a budget increase.

adherence to schedule: A contact center metric that measures agents’ affinity for invisibility.

agent (a.k.a. rep, CSR, associate, the artist formerly known as operator): A person – usually – who handles a variety of customer transactions via a variety of contact channels while dreaming of a variety of jobs that pay better, such as pamphleteer or migrant farm worker.

average handle time (AHT): A crucial metric embraced by the world’s leading contact centers… in 1986.

best practice: Two words that raise contact center research report prices to four figures.      

contact center: A big place with bad lighting and cramped cubicles where people wear headsets to keep their skulls intact.

contact centre:  Same as above, only located in a region where people drive on the wrong side of the road or play ice hockey in the summer.

customer satisfaction: What many callers sense after screaming a stream of obscenities as they are about to cancel their account with your company.  

e-learning: A way to train agents without having to unlock their cages.

first-call resolution (FCR): The absolute most important metric that a contact center is unable to measure.

forecast: Gloomy.

home agent: A customer care professional who has forgotten how to drive and put on pants. (See also “telecommuting”.)

IVR: An electronic prison where companies house their least valuable customers.

occupancy: The percentage of time contact center agents spend handling calls versus surfing

offshore outsourcing: A strategy deployed by U.S. contact center executives who want their vacations to Asia to be tax-deductible.

quality monitoring: A practice whereby a contact center spies on its agents to officially confirm that the center’s recruiting and training programs blow.

queue: The line that forms outside a contact center’s bathroom after cold pepperoni pizza has been served as the overtime snack for the third straight day.

screen pop: A martial arts move used on slow computers by impatient agents. 

self-service: A customer care approach adopted by contact centers that can’t find anybody who wants to work for them.

skills-based routing: A tool commonly used to torture workforce management teams.

speech analytics: An expensive software solution used to confirm that customers hate your company as much as agents say.

social media: A cruel trick played on contact center professionals who were just starting to get a handle on email and chat.

supervisor: An agent who has shed his or her headset though not his or her craving for customer abuse. 

telecommuting: An innovative staffing solution based on the belief that agents perform at optimum levels in their underwear. (See also “home agent”.)

Voice of the Customer (VOC):  The sound that your agents hear in their sleep regardless of the amount of therapy or medication they try.

web chat: A contact center channel through which agents can efficiently demonstrate illiteracy to up to four or five customers at once.

workforce management: A complex science involving the use of highly sophisticated technology and mathematical formulas to misjudge the number of agents you need to schedule.


Joe Shirley
2/10/2011 09:43:00 pm

You forgot ACD - a system designed to deliver the most irate caller to the agent who most needs to go to the restroom before they have a chance to hit Make Busy.


2/10/2011 10:00:54 pm

Nice one, Joe! I may need to outsource some of my posts to you in the future so that I can catch up on my napping.

Let's see if anybody else adds their own terms/definitions. Maybe we'll start a trend!

Thanks for your addition, and for reading.



2/10/2011 11:43:23 pm

omg -- too funny and ever so accurate! you provide a period of relief and laughter at the end of the wekk. Can't tell you how much I look forward to the next edition!

2/10/2011 11:58:32 pm

Thanks, Kate!

I must say, I particularly enjoyed writing this one. There's so much room for playful irreverence and satire when defining call center concepts. I hope others use my definitions to bring a little levity to their coaching, training and meetings.

Have a great weekend!



Amanda Kaufmann
2/11/2011 12:34:41 am

As always, incredibly witty and entirely spot on. Thanks for another great post, Greg. Receiving your blogs in my email inbox every Friday is something I look forward to all week, and of course enjoy with the morning coffee.

2/11/2011 12:42:41 am

And receiving incredibly nice comments like yours, Amanda, is something that I look forward to all week. But no coffee for me -- I enjoy reading them over my morning vodka Red Bull and left-over steak sandwich.

Thanks for the very kind words and continuous support!


2/11/2011 02:41:23 am

It's so nice to:
A) know that we are not the only call center that experiences these pain points
B) that you can make me laugh at it all!! :)
....and yes, I will be sharing this with my Supervisors so we can all have a good laugh!

2/11/2011 03:12:51 am

Well Jules, as it says somewhere on my website, "I know what you do for a living, and I'm here to alleviate your pain."

Thanks so much for your comment (and for helping to spread the satire center-wide). It's nice to know that my mission statement has some teeth!

Warm regards,


2/13/2011 01:59:40 pm

This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone. It will very much helpful to everyone who wants to know what exactly call center and BPO is?

2/17/2011 12:53:01 am

genius! especially love the social media definition: "A cruel trick played on call center professionals who were just starting to get a handle on email and chat." I still work with clients to provide chat & email etiquette/training, hiring profiles, grammar for reps, etc., and they've absolutely been thrown for a loop regarding social media. As always you hit the nail on the head with your humor. ~W

2/17/2011 01:15:19 am

Thanks, Wanda! Sometimes I get lucky and make some sense. It's not my goal, though. ;)

Great to hear from you!

Karen Wenborn
6/21/2013 01:15:32 am

Tsk tsk Greg. First CONTACT Resolution.
A metric that corner shops could ace but most operations can't.

CTI or CIT. Even the techies don't know what to call it, and it usually doesn't work anyway.

SCV. Any takers for this one?

6/21/2013 01:21:16 am

Nice additions, Karen.

I'd take a stab at "SCV" if I had even the SLIGHTEST inkling of what it was.

Thanks for playing!


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