Business English Vocabulary: Customer Service

In today’s world of instant tweets and social media posts, a company’s reputation can hang by a thread: get things wrong, and the world will soon know about it. The customer is king, and the smartest businesses put a lot of resources into satisfying their customers’ needs and keeping them happy. That means there are plenty of opportunities to work in customer service, and knowing the correct terminology could make the difference in getting a job. If you're thinking of improving your English skills for a job in customer service, here are a few common terms to start you off.


Average handle time (AHT)

Handling customer complaints is a big part of customer service. The average handle time (AHT) is the average time (across all customer cases) it takes to resolve a case from first contact to final resolution. A lower time is preferential, but only if cases are resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.


customer service – average handle time
Customers are always happier when their problems are resolved quickly


Call center

The name is a throwback to the old days when companies had large office space dedicated to answering customer phone calls. These days, cases are just as likely to be managed via email or live chat, but the name still applies. Many entry-level jobs in customer service are likely to be in the call center.


Customer experience

A good customer experience is more likely to create loyal customers, which is the ultimate objective for any business. A customer experience is made up of all the individual touch points a customer has with the company, which could be in person, over the phone, or online.


Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

Very simply, this measures how happy a customer is – and the happier they are the more likely they are to be loyal. Measuring customer satisfaction rates is important to customer service because it’s an obvious way of monitoring performance and making improvements.


customer service – satisfaction
Are your customers completely satisfied?

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First contact resolution (FCR)

In a perfect world, a customer’s needs will be handled effectively the first time they contact customer service, which means no further contact will be necessary and the customer will go away very happy.



Often companies will provide a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section on their website so that customers can try to resolve a specific issue or problem themselves. If they’re unable to, then they can turn to the help desk, which could be a phone number, a webpage, or a whole team of technical support staff.


Net promoter score (NPS)

Similar to customer satisfaction, this focuses on measuring whether a customer would recommend a business to a friend. It’s an even bigger indicator of how well the company is performing in its customer relations.


customer service – net promoter score
How happy are customers with your services?


Service level agreement (SLA)

This describes what the customer can expect from the business. It’s a promise from the business to the customer that they will deliver on certain expectations. Failure to meet the SLA will result in customer dissatisfaction but can also help resolve cases when customer expectations are too high or demanding.


Time to resolution

This is similar to average handle time, but refers to individual cases. Like in all areas of business, the idea is to be as efficient and productive as possible.


If you want to improve your business knowledge and vocabulary in English, then find out more about our specialist Business English Courses, and contact a Kaplan advisor today.

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