Answering Service Glossary

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At Contact One Call Center we have been providing telephone answering service and call center services in Arizona for over 30 years. When you work at any business for an extended period of time it is easy to assume  that customers know your industries’ lingo. I decided to put this guide together for any of my customers that wanted to know the meaning of the more common terms.  Keep in mind this is how our call center uses and defines these terms.

Auto Announcement: This answering service feature is a recorded message preceding the live receptionist answering the call.  This is usually used in conjunction with after hour medical emergency service. The purpose is to let callers know they have reached the after hour service.  This is also a cost saving feature.

Agent: These are hard working people that actually take the calls. We also use Customer Service Rep (CSR), Receptionists and Operator interchangeably.

AHT: Average Handle Time in seconds. This is used primarily in call center reports.

ACT: Average Call Time in seconds, also used in reporting.

Agent utilization: This is basically the time an agent spends talking on the phone with our callers, as a percentage of their scheduled shift.  For example, if an agent works an 8 hour shift and spends 4 hours talking on the phone their utilization is 50%.  Our goal is for agents to average between 55-65%. We believe that there is a careful balance between utilization and quality of service. If the agents don’t have some breaks between calls there can be a decrease in the quality of customer service in addition to high turnover in employment due to employee burnout.

ASA or Average Speed of Answer: This is how quickly we answer the phone. We try to keep that average below 15 seconds. In some large call centers it is acceptable to have an average of 5 minutes or more.

Call center script: This is a guide we use to help the agent process the call from beginning to end. It helps ensure that we have collected all of the information that our clients have requested.

Call Screening: This has a dual meaning for answering service customers. 1. (see Auto Announcement) A recorded message that usually lets callers know basic information about the company (hours of operation, address, fax number, etc.)

Dispatcher:  Is a specialized agent who followings the clients specific instructions and protocol to relay a message.

Erlangs calculator: This is the call center standard for estimating the number of agents needed to take calls for a given period of time. The formula takes into account the number of calls (Inbound and outbound), the ACT (or AHT), and service level goal (80% in 20 seconds or ASA goal).

Here are 2 examples of how this can effect utilization. 1.  If you receive 10 calls per hour with an AHT of 2 minutes and service level goal of (80/20) you need 2 agents and will have a utilization  of 16%.   2.  If you receive 100 calls per hour with an AHT of 2 minutes and the same service level, your call center would need 6 agents but they would have a utilization of 55%.  You can download a call center staffing calculator here for free.

Talk Time: The total amount of time our answering service staff spent talking on the phone.

Wrap Time: This is the time after the call is ended and the agent finishes making notes on the call.

Handle Time: This the total of Talk and Wrap time.

Inbound Call: Calls coming into the the call center.

Outbound Call: Calls being made by the call center agents.

Service Level: Our goal is that 80% of the calls will be handled in 20 seconds or less.  If we reach this goal we will have an ASA of less than 15 seconds.  This is a goal we set based on our projected call volume for every day of the year.  When we don’t make our goal it is usually a result of receiving more calls than we expected and not having enough staff to accommodate volume.

Patched Call: Also known as a conference call or transferred call.  This is when an agent connects the caller to our client just like a receptionist would in the office.

Remote Receptionist: We answer the phone just like we are in our client’s office and transfer the call to the person the caller requested.

There are certainly many more call center terms but these are the most common. Hopefully you find this guide helpful. If you have any questions about our services please contact us.

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