Contact Center Glossary for Beginners
A contact center headphone set sits on a pile of papers

If you’re not familiar with the industry, contact center terminology can seem like a foreign language. With confusing acronyms and niche phrases, it’s not easy for a newcomer to grasp everything immediately.


We put together this handy guide to help you get your bearings in the contact center space. 


Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)

An ACD is a telephony device that answers inbound calls and sends them to the proper department or person within an organization.


Agents are the employees of the contact center who answer inquiries or send outbound communications on behalf of clients. They are trained in customer service, sales, and communication techniques.

Application Programming Interface (API)

APIs consist of code that enables different software platforms to communicate with one another. In the contact center industry, they’re generally used to send information from the telephony platform to the client’s CRM.


Autodialers allow agents to place calls without manually typing in phone numbers. This saves time, money, and resources.

Average Handle Time (AHT)

AHT is the mean length of time that calls or chat conversations take. It’s important to track how long it takes to resolve customer issues in order to adequately schedule agents and make sure customers get answers in a timely manner.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

BPOs are organizations that offer business process services to other companies. For example, contact centers offer customer service support (a business process), often for a cheaper price than maintaining the process in-house.

Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)

CCaaS is when organizations purchase only the telephony platform, rather than the platform plus IT support. This allows for flexibility and affordability.


This refers to the methods of communication between agents and customers. It can include phone calls, social media messaging, email, and more.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRMs are platforms that allow organizations to keep track of their customers and interactions with them. These platforms usually offer data analytics tools to monitor sales and other KPIs.

Customer Experience (CX)

CX is hard to define, as it can be subjective and vastly different depending on the customer and industry. In general, it refers to the feelings and emotions that your customers go through when interacting with your brand, as well as the actions you and your employees take. Check out this compilation of definitions that captures the broad range of CX meanings. 

Direct Inward Dialing (DID)

DID refers to a block of telephone numbers that an organization has where each number leads to a different individual or department.

First Call Resolution (FCR)

This metric indicates how many inquiries were solved that required no follow-up calls. AKA, all the customer’s questions were answered the first time they called.

Full-time Equivalents (FTE)

An FTE is a unit of measurement that represents one day worked by one individual. In contact centers, this typically is made up of multiple agents working part-time shifts to make up the equivalent of what a full-time agent would do.


Inbound calls or messages are from customers to organizations. They can be questions about products, customer service inquiries, or a number of other questions.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR technology lets humans interact with computer-generated messages to navigate to the agent or department they’re looking for. It’s been around since the 1970s but has seen much improvement lately, especially with the rise of artificial intelligence.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

KPIs are important statistics that you track to measure how well you’re doing. These are integral for determining the ROI of your projects and making sure all your channels are optimized.

Lifetime Value (LTV)

LTV refers to the value of a customer over the length of time they’re with your company. 


Omnichannel refers to contact center solutions that provide support for multiple communication channels. 

Learn more about omnichannel contact centers here.


Outbound campaigns are when agents are making calls or sending messages to customers on behalf of organizations. They are typically for sales purposes.

Predictive Dialing

Predictive dialers are platforms that automatically call a list of telephone numbers. They screen out voicemails and disconnected numbers to allow agents to reach customers more efficiently.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

An RFP is essentially what it sounds like. Organizations looking for contact center services will send out a document asking for proposals from providers. These documents typically include a template for what they’re looking for in a proposal as well as an overview of the project.

Return on Investment (ROI)

ROI is the ratio that shows the revenue you got out of a project compared to what you put in. Tracking this allows you to determine what’s worth investing in and what is a waste of money. Learn how to calculate it here.

Telephony Platform

This refers to the technological system that facilitates communications and keeps all data in a central place. Modern contact centers use cloud-based telephony platforms to save money and provide easier access.


Related: Call Center vs. Contact Center

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