BPO glossary

Abandoned Call
Also called a lost call. The caller hangs up before reaching an agent.

The term used to describe how well agents stick to their planned work schedules. May also be referred to as compliance.

After-Call Work
Also called wrap-up and post-call.

Also called teleoperator. The person who handles incoming or outgoing calls.

Agent Status
The mode an agent is in (Talk Time, After-Call Work, Unavailable, etc.).

A recorded verbal message played to callers.

Answered Call
When referring to an agent group, a call counted as answered when it reaches an agent.

Application service provider model
The rental of software.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Back office functions
Those business processes such as finance & accounting, human resources, administration, procurement, payroll, legal accounting, benefits management, information technology, marketing, legal, logistics, payroll and procurement.
(Courtesy of: TPI)

Balanced scorecard
A method for conceptualizing the strategic alignment between business goals and specific tactics. It provides feedback around both the internal business processes and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results.
(Courtesy of: Balanced Scorecard Institute)

A snapshot of the state of inputs/outputs frozen at a point in time for a particular process.  A baseline should be recorded to establish a starting point to measure the changes achieved with any process improvement.
(Courtesy of: iSixSigma.com)

Baseline period
The period during which a client’s current services are documented. These results become the yardstick that determines what services the service provider is obligated to provide to the client. Typically, the service provider will charge a premium for services above and beyond the baseline — unless otherwise negotiated.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Best shore
A term used by some service providers to describe their strategy of having work done at the optimal location, whether domestically or offshore.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Best in class. A philosophy of outsourcing to service providers that have proven their expertise in a specific area.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Body shop
A company that provides temporary workers on a contract basis.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Build-Operate-Transfer. A firm contracts with an offshore partner to build a shared services or offshore development center and operate it for a fixed interim period. Organizations try this with the expectation that the offshore partner can initiate operations and reach operating stability much faster than it can with an in-house effort.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Business Process Management.

Business Process Outsourcing. The transfer of internal business processes, such as customer relationship management, finance & accounting, human resources and procurement, to an external service provider that improves these processes and administers these functions to an agreed service standard and, typically, at a reduced cost.
(Courtesy of: TPI)

Business to business (B2B)
Contact that is primarily to other business.

Also called Transaction and Customer Contact. A term referring to telephone calls, video calls, web calls and other types of contacts.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Call Blending
Combining traditionally separate inbound and outbound agent groups into one group of agents responsible for handling both inbound and outbound contacts.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Caller ID
A telephone network feature of the local telephone company by which the telephone number of the caller is passed to the called party.

Calls In Queue
A real-time report that refers to the number of calls received by the ACD system but not yet connected to an agent.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Captive Centers
Offshore companies set up by organizations to provide internal services and in some cases to sell those same services to clients. Often U.S. and European organizations set up captive centers for their outsourced work.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Computer-assisted personal interviewing

Computer-assisted telephone interviewing

Computer-assisted web interviewing

Change of character clause
A clause in an outsourcing contract (frequently introduced by the service provider), that stipulates that any changes in functionality are subject to excess fees.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Chief Sourcing Officer
Executive level person who oversees sourcing governance elements in an organization. Typically, the CSO and his or her team are responsible for overseeing every sourcing decision made.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing: Moving Beyond Outsourcing to Achieve Growth and Agility)

Comanagement process
Business strategies change during the course of a sourcing relationship. A comanagement process is the mechanism for communicating changes, by ensuring that the parties in the relationship understand and agree on the current business strategy, sourcing maxims, sourcing strategy and delivery strategy.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing: Moving Beyond Outsourcing to Achieve Growth and Agility)

Continuous performance reporting
The ongoing responsibility of communication, monitoring and reporting of service level agreement metrics. You need to address how performance is monitored and reported; how targets are established; who is responsible for reporting; what the schedule is for client reviews; what the timeframe, content and format will be for standard reports; and when and how exceptions are to be reported.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Cooperate sourcing option
Acquisition of services through joint ventures, consortia and models in which two or more organizations pool resources to deploy a solution, for a services company or develop a shared service offering.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing: Moving Beyond Outsourcing to Achieve Growth and Agility)

Computer Telephony Integration
The software, hardware and programming necessary to integrate computers and telephones so they can work together seamlessly and intelligently.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Cost and value discovery
The ongoing effort to capture the full value and expenses of outsourcing, as it moves through its various phases. In other words, once the business case is made, it continues to be changed, refined and revised to reflect ongoing discovery.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Cost/benefit model
Quantifiable costs plus quantifiable benefits adjusted for the risks equals value. An attempt to quantify every benefit and cost for inclusion in the financial analysis, even the so-called intangible or “soft” costs and benefits. The reason it is important to quantify everything possible is this: If no financial value is assigned to an agreed cost or benefit, that impact contributes exactly nothing to the financial analysis.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Customer Relationship Management. The strategy of identifying customer needs, improving customer interactions, and customizing contacts, sales approaches, and automation to provide optimum service to each type of customer to maximize the bottom line benefits to the organization.

Cross selling
Suggesting to a direct response customer the purchase of an additional product or service that may not necessarily relate to the original product purchased but which represents an attractive and/or limited time value.
(Courtesy of: ERA)

Customer Service Representative (CSR)
An agent who handles customer calls and contacts including account inquiries, complaints, or support calls.

Collection of data structured and organized in a disciplined fashion for quick and easy access to information of interest.

Database Call Handling
A CTI application, whereby the ACD works in sync with the database computer to process calls, based on information in the database.

Data center operations
Information technology work encompasses: computer operator training, disaster recovery/power backups, equipment leases, floor/space management, hardware and network operations, HVAC/Halon, job scheduling, monitoring mainframe/server performance, operations/end user support, security, server uptime, storage management/tape backup, trouble/help desk.

An aspect of the outsourcing contract’s Terms and Conditions. Specification of the dates, locations, responsibilities and any conditions relating to delivery of products and services to the site. Sets out the responsibility for any site preparation work required prior to delivery.
(Courtesy of: ITANZ, Information Technology Association of New Zealand)

Dialed Number
The number that the caller dialed to initiate the call.

Disaster recovery
Services that encompass getting the organization back to a running state when disaster – small or large - has struck. In the context of outsourcing, this includes security, backup, power management and data recovery. One aspect of disaster recovery that’s important in an outsourcing arrangement is whether the service provider has an alternative facility in the event of a disaster — and in how many hours or days a client will be able to recover.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Disposal of assets
A discussion point for organizations outsourcing a function, to determine whether the winning service provider will purchase the firm’s pertinent assets, whether they’ll pay book value or market value and whether they’ll pay cash or adjust their pricing to reflect the value of the assets.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Dispute resolution process
Mechanisms and procedures to attempt to resolve differences amicably and avoid costly litigation. A dispute resolution framework might include provisions that spell out the first point of contact either side would reach out to in initially raising a point of dispute. It might also include the path of escalation, as well as timetables for milestones along the problem escalation path.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

A term that describes a reduction in staff headcount.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Dragnet clause
A contractual clause that provides that the service provider perform services and functions performed by in-house staff during the one-year period preceding the contract, even if they’re not described in the statement of work.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Efficiency sourcing deal
A sourcing relationship in which the focus is on efficiency of operations – primarily in the form of cost reduction or cost control.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

Enhancement sourcing deal
A sourcing relationship in which the focus is on improving the current state of an IT service or business process. The goal is to improve upon the current state and introduce enhanced operational performance or outcome.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

Escalation Plan
A plan that specifies actions to be taken when the queue begins to build beyond acceptable levels.

Exit plan
The plan developed for coping with the end of the contract — whether because the term is up or because termination clauses have been invoked. (Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

Farmshore sourcing
Comparable to rural sourcing. The placement of jobs in low-cost regions of the service recipient’s home country.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

Finance and Accounting Outsourcing.

Fee-for-service pricing
Variable pricing framework based on the amount or quality (or both) of the service delivered. The provider’s costs aren’t covered unless the service levels are reached. The client organization bears some risk, since costs aren’t entirely predictable and service levels may not be achieved.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

First call resolution. In customer relationship management (CRM), first call resolution is properly addressing the customer’s need the first time they call, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second call.

Fixed pricing
A model of pricing in which a project is undertaken by the service provider for a pre-agreed-upon price. One advantage is that it’s easy for the client to budget for the project. Two disadvantages are that the service provider may overestimate costs beforehand for possible unforeseen conditions or cut corners during the project to compensate for expenses that are higher than anticipated. The service provider will charge a premium for a fixed price relative to the risks involved. Appropriate for efficiency deals.
(Courtesy of: E-Business Strategies)

Follow the sun
24×7 service, in which work is handled onshore, then passed off to an offshore service provider that is in a completely opposite time zone.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Full-service provider
Service providers that offer several business processes, such as IT and HR. They take full responsibility for the complete processes they manage and typically offer to re-engineer the process to make it more efficient. Contracts may run $50 million to $100 million per year and involve hundreds or thousands of employees. The average contract length is typically 7 to 10 years.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Full-Time Equivalent. Level of effort, excluding vacation, training, status meetings and other non-productive time, equivalent to the work that would be provided by one person working full-time.
(Courtesy of: TechNexxus)

Functional redundancy
Duplication of services, which are often only discovered when an analysis across business units is performed by an outside entity. When an organization outsources a major function, such as IT or finance & accounting, the service provider squeezes costs out of the processes by uncovering and eliminating or consolidating redundant functions.

The service provider has some form of incentive for constantly improving the business process. When the client benefits (through reduced expenses, greater revenues or improved efficiencies), so does the service provider.
(Courtesy of: E-Business Strategies)

A server dedicated to providing access to a network.

General allocation systems
The opposite of “Chargeback systems”. An accounting system, that allocates the expense for a given service by factors other than actual usage, such as business unit revenue.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Global delivery model
Using personnel from all over the world to provide maximally efficient service delivery.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

Global shared services model
Also known as captive centers or offshore insourcing, where the objective is to consolidate the scattered, autonomous internal service operations of a multinational organization into multiple service centers, serving a specific region of the world.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Go-live date
The date specified for starting a project.

Handled Calls
The number of calls received and handled by agents or peripheral equipment. Handled calls does not include calls that abandon or receive busy signals.
(Courtesy of: BPOWatch)

Handling Time
The time an agent spends in Talk Time and After-Call Work, handling a transaction. Handling Time can also refer to the time it takes for a machine to process a transaction.
(Courtesy of: BPOWatch)

Help Desk
A term that generally refers to a call center set up to handle queries about product installation, usage or problems.
(Courtesy of: BPOWatch)

Home Agent
An agent that works from home or someplace else other than the actual contact center location.

Hub and spoke model
An organization’s practice of having offshore operations of its own, as well as three or four partners with whom it collaborates. This mitigates the risk of having all services provided by a single service provider.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Hybrid delivery model
Combining onsite and offshore services to deliver results at a reduced cost. Also known as the dual-shore model.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Inbound call
An inbound call is one that a customer initiates to a call center / contact center.

A reward provided to the service provider when service levels are exceeded or some other achievement is reached. These terms are laid out in the outsourcing contract.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Innovation capture
How an organization will be able to exploit new technologies that may drive improved business process. In some cases, the service provider may be unwilling to invest unless the client pays — unless the new technology can be amortized across multiple clients. Contracts need to be structured in a way that rewards the service provider with a portion of savings won.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

A decision by an organization to retain functions internally rather than outsource. The decision is often made after the organization has performed independent benchmarking to determine that its costs and efficiencies are in line or better than those achieved by comparable organizations. The term is also used in cases where services are being brought back in house after a period of outsourcing them.

Internal Help Desk
A group that supports other internal agent groups, e.g. for complex or escalated calls.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Internet Phone
Technology that enables users of the Internet’s World Wide Web to place voice telephone calls through the Internet, thus by-passing the long distance network.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Invisible Queue
When the caller is not made aware of how quickly the queue is moving.
(Courtesy of: CCW)

Interactive Voice Response. Automated phone systems that eliminates the need for a person on the other end of the line.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
The most critical measures of performance in any organization, typically productivity measures.

Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (popularly known as a KPO) is the combination of Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO), Research Process Outsourcing (RPO) and Analysis Proves Outsourcing (APO). KPO business entities provide typical domain-based processes, advanced analytical skills and business expertise, rather than just process expertise.

Labor arbitrage
The financial benefit of buying a comparable service elsewhere to exploit the difference in pricing. In outsourcing, the term is often used to describe the savings an organization will enjoy when it hires work to be done in labor markets offshore, where salaries are less than they are domestically.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Logged On
A state in which agents have signed on to a system (made their presence known), but may or may not be ready to receive calls.

Legal Process Outsourcing.

Service providers with offices in many countries, which enable them to serve a global market of clients and tap the labor arbitrage available by offshoring certain types of work. Among this category are IBM, EDS, CSC, HP, ACS, Accenture and Keane.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Also called Position Monitoring or Service Observing. The process of listening to agents’ telephone calls for the purpose of maintaining quality.

Master Service Agreement.

A strategy that treats a given function – such as IT –  as a portfolio of activities, some of which should be outsourced and others of which should be performed by internal staff. This approach moves away from the idea that all of a function should be viewed as a commodity, easily handed over to a service provider. Also known as “selective sourcing.”
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

The transfer of business or IT processes to companies in a nearby foreign country, often sharing a border with your own country or being on the same continent. Nearshoring is a popular model for companies that don’t want to deal with the cultural, language or time zone differences involved in offshoring.

NIH syndrome
Not Invented Here syndrome. A culture whereby organizations are loathe to execute on something that wasn’t thought up internally or that can’t be implemented internally.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Offshore Development Center. An operation set up for a specific organization by a service provider, which dedicates assets and resources specifically to that single client, in exchange for guarantees of steady work.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Transfer processes or services to an outside company.

Onshore outsourcing
The process of engaging another company within your own country for BPO services. (Courtesy of: TPI)

Outbound call
A call initiated from a call center agent to a customer on behalf of the call center / contact center or a client. Typical outbound calls include telemarketing, sales or fund-raising calls, as well as calls for contact list updating, surveys or verification services.
(Courtesy of: Whatis.com)

Contracting some or all call center services to an outside company.

Calls that flow from one group or site to another. More specifically, Intraflow happens when calls flow between agent groups and Interflow is when calls flow out of the ACD to another site.

Performance audit
Confirmation that service levels are being met consistently.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Performance monitoring
A continual check of service levels to ensure they’re being met.

Pooling Principle
The Pooling Principle states: Any movement in the direction of consolidation of resources will result in improved traffic-carrying efficiency. (Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Project Management Office. The group that handles the day-to-day management of offshore projects to ensure, that processes are running smoothly. As part of the governance of an outsourcing engagement, the PMO may do weekly check-ins, review quarterly operations, do biannual site visits, handle SLA monitoring and document internal processes for further improvement.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Predictive Dialing
A system that automatically places outbound calls and delivers answered calls to agents. When the dialer detects busy signals, answering machines or ring no answer, it puts the number back in queue.

PBX (Private Branch Exchange)
A private telephone exchange located on the user’s premises and connected to the public network via trunks.

Predictive Hang-Up
A call attempt initiated at a time when no agent will be available if a call is connected. The call attempt is aborted during the progress and before the customer answers.

Preview Dialer
A device that presents the account information and phone number on the screen to allow the agent to “preview” the information before instructing the dialer to dial (or not dial) the call.

Prime contractor
Sourcing scenario in which a single provider manages service delivery but accesses multiple providers to deliver the services.
(Courtesy of: Multisourcing)

Process mapping
Comprehensive understanding of the organization and implementation of a business process. Essential to laying out an outsourcing or offshoring analysis.

Progressive Dialer
A device that presents the account information and phone number on the screen after the number is dialed.

Holds callers until an agent becomes available. Queue can also refer to a line or list of items in a system waiting to be processed.

To transfer an employee from the client company to the service provider.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Received Calls
A call detected and seized by a trunk. Received calls will either abandon or be answered by an agent.

Radical redesigning processes to improve efficiency and service.

Response Time
The time it takes the call center to respond to transactions that do not have to be handled when they arrive (e.g., correspondence or e-mail). See Service Level.

Request for Information. The process of collecting written information about the capabilities of service providers. Typically, it’s structured in a way that will allow for comparison among providers.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Request for Proposal. A description of work to be done that is used to solicit bids from potential service providers. An RFP usually includes a description of the organization and its plans, details about the service under consideration for outsourcing and specific requirements expected of the service provider. There’s a deadline attached to it to ensure that interested service providers respond in a timely manner. The structure of the document is intended to aid in comparison of responses across providers.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

Review date
An aspect of an SLA that typically shows the date of the last SLA review as well as the scheduled date for the next SLA review.
(Courtesy of: NextSLM.org)

Risk management
Assessing risk and developing strategies to mitigate it as much as possible, given business circumstances.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Screen Monitoring
A system capability that enables a supervisor or manager to remotely monitor the activity on agents’ computer terminals.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Security audit
An audit that examines the service provider’s ongoing security and privacy practices.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Performance objectives reached by consensus between the user and the provider of a service, or between an outsourcer and an organization.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Service Level
Also called Telephone Service Factor, or TSF. The percentage of incoming calls that are answered within a specified threshold: “X% of calls answered in Y seconds.”

Service level reports
The reports provided by the service vendor to the customer, presenting performance against service level requirements.

Shared risk/reward pricing
Flat rate pricing structure with additional payments based on achieving specified outcomes.

Silent Monitoring
A process that permits a supervisor to listen to both sides of a conversation including an agent and a caller.

Six Sigma
A rigorous and disciplined methodology that uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve a company’s operational performance by identifying and eliminating “defects” in manufacturing and service-related processes.
(Courtesy of: iSixSigma.com)

Statement of Work. The document provided by the service provider to a prospective client spelling out the work to be undertaken and agreed pricing. Details might include the scope of work, where it is to be performed, when deliverables are due, what standards are to be followed, how the results will be evaluated and other requirements.
(Courtesy of: Sourcingmag.com)

An ACD routing division that allows calls arriving on specific trunks or calls of certain transaction types to be answered by specific groups of employees.

The person who has front-line responsibility for a group of agents.

Talk Time
The time an agent spends with a caller during a transaction. Includes everything from “hello” to “goodbye.”
(Courtesy of: BPOWatch)

Toll-Free Service
Enables callers to reach a call Center out of the local calling area without incurring charges.
(Courtesy of: ICMI, Inc.)

Total cost strategy
Integrating global sourcing into the overall business strategy to obtain a low-cost advantage.
(Courtesy of: Offshoring Opportunities)

Transformational outsourcing
The process of effecting continuous strategic change and tying the results of the outsourcing initiative to strategic business outcomes. It is a collaborative, risk- and gain-sharing relationship among the organization and its service providers to drive enterprise transformation and achieve significant business process improvements.
(Courtesy of: TPI)

Transition management
The detailed, desk-level knowledge transfer and documentation of all relevant tasks, technologies, workflows and functions.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Also called a Line, Exchange Line or Circuit. A telephone circuit linking two switching systems.

Suggesting to the purchaser of a direct response product that he could add to his original purchase in some value-enhancing way, such as with a useful accessory or a deluxe, more fully-featured model.
(Courtesy of: ERA)

Value-added outsourcing
An aspect of strategic sourcing or multisourcing, in which some functional area is turned over to a service provider. The presumption is that the service provider can add value to the activity that wouldn’t be cost-effective if provided by internal staff.
(Courtesy of: Beyond the Information Systems Outsourcing Bandwagon)

Value audit
The process in which an organization investigates whether the cost reductions and/or revenue enhancements suggested in an outsourcing business case have actually been captured.
(Courtesy of: Offshore Outsourcing)

Visible Queue
When callers know how long the queue that they just entered is, and how fast it is moving (e.g., they hear a system announcement that relays the expected wait time). See Invisible Queue.
(Courtesy of: BPOWatch)

Voice Response Unit
Also called Interactive Voice Response Unit (IVR) or Audio Response Unit (ARU). A VRU responds to caller entered digits or speech recognition in much the same way that a conventional computer responds to keystrokes or clicks of a mouse.
(Courtesy of: BPOWatch)

Workforce Management Software
Software systems that, depending on available modules, forecast call load, calculate staff requirements, organize schedules and track real-time performance of individuals and groups.