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Customer service acronyms and abbreviations you need to know

Whether you're new or have been in the industry for years, use this handy guide to the most common customer service acronyms and abbreviations.

By Kristen Hicks

Published October 1, 2020
Last updated November 29, 2021

Across industries, people tend to fall into the habit of using acronyms and abbreviations to describe common concepts. Customer service representatives are no exception.

For anyone new to the industry or trying to understand it from the outside, acronyms make communication confusing and difficult. Even people who have worked in the industry for years may still come across the occasional customer service abbreviation that leaves them scratching their heads.

For people who want to better understand the world of customer service, getting to know the common customer service acronyms experienced professionals throw around is valuable.

The most common customer service acronyms and abbreviations

  1. AHT - Average handle time
  2. CRM - Customer relationship management
  3. CSAT - Customer satisfaction
  4. CTA - Call to action
  5. CX - Customer experience
  6. KB - Knowledge base
  7. KPI - Key performance indicator
  8. QA - Quality assurance
  9. SMB - Small- and medium-sized businesses
  10. WOM - Word of mouth
  • AHT - Average handle time is a metric that tracks how long it typically takes to solve a customer service ticket. Many customer support departments use it to track how well agents are doing at providing a speedy response to customers.
  • CRM - Customer relationship management is the practice of working to understand and effectively manage relationships from a person's first interaction with the company through their entire time as customers.

    CRM is often used to describe the software used for customer relationship management, rather than the practice itself. A CRM system is a technological product that enables companies to effectively track and handle all aspects of customer relationships through the entire customer journey.
  • CSAT - An abbreviation for customer satisfaction, CSAT is used to describe a score produced from providing customers with a short survey asking them to rate their service experience.
  • CTA - A call to action is used to encourage a prospect or customer to take a specific step. Common examples include “contact us” or “learn more.”
  • CX - A common abbreviation for the phrase customer experience, CX is a term used to describe taking a larger look at how a customer perceives and interacts with a brand. Providing excellent customer service is one part of the overall customer experience, and many brands are working to gain a broader view of customer success.
  • KB - Knowledge base is a collection of resources on a particular topic. For businesses, internal knowledge bases are used to store and organize important business information. External knowledge bases can be set up to help enable customer self service.
  • KPI - Key performance indicators are the metrics a company or department chooses to prioritize in order to track progress of their primary goals.
  • QA - Quality assurance is the overall process a company puts into place to avoid errors or issues with their products and services. It can include inspecting inventory to ensure it works as expected, doing user testing for a software product, or tracking and analyzing customer service metrics.
  • SMB - This customer service acronym stands for small- and medium-sized businesses. It describes the business category and distinguishes them from enterprise businesses.
  • WOM - Word of mouth is what your customers and prospects have to say about your brand. Building positive WOM is one of the best signs of customer service success.

General business and customer service acronyms

  • AI - Artificial intelligence is a hot topic in the business world and often comes up in the context of technological customer support tools. For example, chatbots that employ AI can take a portion of customer service work off the shoulders of human agents.
  • BI - Business intelligence is the customer service abbreviation tied to the process of using technology to collect data relevant to the business, and then turning them into actionable insights. Customer service software and the data it produces makes up just one part of BI, but it's important for giving management visibility into the customer experience.
  • EOD - A general business acronym, EOD means end of day. It's most often used to clarify deadlines.
  • HR - Human resources is the business department devoted to hiring, training, and managing employee benefits and complaints. While most of customer service is focused on helping the external customer, HR representatives often see their job as providing internal customer service.
  • ROI - Return on investment is a business term used to measure how well the amount spent on products and labor is paying off in terms of profits.
  • UX - User experience is an area of design focused on ensuring that websites, software, and apps are intuitive and user-friendly. UX has an influence on the overall CX.
  • UI - User interface is the part of a software the user interacts with directly. It plays a key role in UX, and how well it's designed can influence how often customers need help from support versus being able to figure out how to use a product on their own.

More technical customer service abbreviations

  • CEM - Customer experience management is the collection of processes, tasks, and tools a business deploys to understand and improve the customer journey. A key part of CEM is gaining a single view of the different interactions a customer has with a brand and how they all connect, so you can understand their larger customer experience.
  • CMS - Call management system is a customer service acronym used particularly in call centers. It's a central piece of call center technology that helps agents more efficiently handle large call volumes.

    With CMS, context really matters. Its most common business use is to describe a content management system, which may include a customer service knowledge base. For customer service representatives in the U.S. who work in government or healthcare, its most common use will be in Center for Medicaid and Medicare services. Anytime you use it, make sure which meaning you intend will be clear to your audience.
  • CRO - Conversion rate optimization is the process of designing online experiences in a way that increases the percentage of people that take the desired action. While the term is used more often in sales and marketing contexts, this abbreviation can also apply in some customer service scenarios.
  • CSS - Customer self service is a type of customer support that's focused on providing customers with the information they need to solve their own problems. It includes resources such as a customer help center or AI chatbot that allows customers to find an answer without having to talk to a person.

    A more common use of CSS, especially in technological fields, is to describe the programming language cascading style sheets. If programmers or developers are in your audience, that's what they'll think of when they hear this customer service abbreviation.
  • CTI - Computer-telephony integration is any type of product that enables companies to integrate their phone and digital interactions in one interface.
  • CTR - Click-through rate is the percentage of clicks that a link gets compared to the number of views it has. While the metric is more common in marketing than customer service, it can be a useful measure for determining how well support articles are performing.
  • EOL - End of life is used to describe when a piece of technology, or a particular version of a piece of technology, will no longer be supported by a company. That can include no longer providing customer support for it.
  • FCR - First contact resolution, or first call resolution in the call center context, is a metric that tracks how often customer issues are solved during their first interaction with a representative.
  • NPS - Net promoter score is a metric produced by sending customers a survey asking them to numerically select how likely they are to recommend the brand. It provides data that customer service departments can use to measure overall customer success.
  • SaaS - Software-as-a-Service is a business model based on selling a subscription to a piece of technology that will be renewed monthly or yearly.
  • SBR - Skills-based routing is a technique customer service departments can use to ensure each ticket gets sent to the most appropriate agent, based on their strengths and skills.
  • SLA - A service level agreement is a written statement of the standards a customer service team commits to. It's a useful tool for incentivizing customer service agents to perform at the highest level.
  • VOIP - Voice over Internet Protocol is the technology that allows people to make phone calls using broadband Internet. It's a common feature in modern customer service contact centers.

Customer service acronyms to guide your agents

  • CARES - Communication. Accountability. Responsiveness. Empathy. Solution.
  • HEAT - Hear. Empathize. Apologize. Take Action.

    HEART is another customer service acronym commonly used in customer service. It means the same as HEAT but with a slight difference at the end. HEART stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Respond, Thank.
  • PLAN - Prepare for positive customer interactions. Let your customers know they are important. Address you customers' expectations positively. Nurture a continuing relationship.
  • SMILE - Say what people want to hear. Make people feel special. Impress people with your willingness to help and positive attitude. Listen. Encourage others to agree with you.

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When to use (and not use) customer service abbreviations

Customer service acronyms can be time savers when you're communicating with someone in-the-know. But if you use them in the wrong context, customer service abbreviations can become a barrier to communication.

Many of the acronyms and abbreviations a co-worker understands will cause confusion if you use them with a customer. Some common customer service phrases can't be reasonably shortened to an acronym without being confused for other common terms. For example, CS could mean customer support, customer success, customer service, or even computer science.

While customer service acronyms and abbreviations are valuable to know, in many cases you're better off spelling out what you mean to say. Knowing when and how to use them is as important as knowing their meaning.

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