Help Desk Glossary of Terms

Help Desk Glossary of Terms

Understanding IT industry jargon used by customer support professionals can be challenging. Look up help desk terminology and abbreviations in our extensive help desk glossary of IT support terms. Most of the common IT terms used by the help desk are also used by general call centers. Whether you are a Help Desk manager, agent, or customer, this glossary of technology terminology will help you.

Help Desk Glossary of Terms

24 x 7

This is short for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. When used in the context of the Help Desk, it means you can receive support at any time day, nights and weekends.

Abandoned Call

When no Help Desk agents are available to accept a call, the caller waits in a call queue. When a caller ends the call before a Help Desk agent answers the call, it is considered abandoned.

Access Management

The process related to receiving, reviewing and if approved, granting users an appropriate level of access to specific IT resources.

Abandoned Rate

Used to measure the number of callers who ended their call while waiting in a queue compared to the total calls received.

After Call Work (ACW)

The amount of time an agent uses to complete required tasks after a call ends until becoming available for another call. Usually, the time is averaged to give the most accurate perspective.


A person who works at a Help Desk or call center and answers incoming contacts such as calls.

Application Program Interface (API)

This is a bridge to software applications to communicate with each other. An interface creates a pathway by using common tools, coding, and protocols so data can be transferred between applications.

Asset Management

A process used to track ownership and other attributes of physical resources of value.

Assistive Technology

Provided for people with disabilities to improve their use of technology.


Identifying yourself on a computer network with a username and password to obtain access to the system, network, and resources you have rights to use. Corporate networks use Active Directory to handle the authentication process.

Automated Attendant

Prompts callers with a menu choice allowing the ACD to route calls to specific locations based on their input.

Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)

Short for automatic call distributor, which is a system that routes incoming calls based on rules set up by the ACD administrator.

Automatic Response

A predefined reply to incoming messages to confirm the message was received and to provide information.

Help Desk Shift Left
Help Desk Management book by Wayne Schlicht

Average Handle Time (AHT)

An average of the handling time of all calls. Handle time of a call is the sum of talk time and after-call work.

Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

The total length of customer wait time in queue is divided by the total number of calls.

Average Talk Time (ATT)

The average amount of time an agent spends talking to the caller.

Backbone Network

The main network pathway that provides a connection between local area networks


The part of the technology where data is transmitted, stored, and processed where it is not visible to the end-user.

Backward Compatible

When an application works with earlier versions of the application.


In a given time, the number of data that can transverse a data path.

Best Practice

A procedure that has been validated by experience to produce the most optimal outcome.

Big Bang

Moving all users to new hardware or software simultaneously versus a phased approach.


A short-range communications protocol to connect technology devices and allow communication between.


Communication of more than one type of signal that can travel across a wire or cable.


Used to display web pages from a website.


To tire due to being overworked. For a Help Desk Agent, too many sequential calls, the pressure to wrap up calls quickly and low FCR can lead to burnout.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

In the event of a disaster or emergency, this plan is enacted to allow the business to continue to operate or to resume operations in an orderly process.

Business Intelligence (BI)

To support better data-driven business decision-making, BI provides reports, dashboards, and data visualizations from internal and external data sources.

Call avoidance

A strategy to reduce or even out inbound call volumes to the Help Desk with less expensive support and information sharing options.

Call Center

An office which is designed to handle a large volume of telephone calls.

Call Queue

Used at Help Desks and Call Centers to hold inbound calls in a waiting area until the next agent becomes available.

Canned Response

A predetermined response to a support question by a caller.

Change Advisory Board (CAB)

A group made up of representatives from IT, business, and company leadership to assess, approve, prioritize and schedule change requests with higher risks to IT Services.

Change Management

A process to control the implementation of fixes, upgrades or configuration modifications to IT systems.


A way to recover the cost of Help Desk support by customers and departments for the support services provided.


A text-based interaction between a Help Desk agent and customer.

Commercial off the shelf software (COTS)

Packaged and publicly available software available to purchase for a company or private use.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

A technology to integrate voice and data traffic which will allow a computer and telephone to communicate with each other.

Contact Channels

Pathways for customers to reach Help Desk agents for support. Examples of contact channels are email, phone, chat, and other methods.

Cost Per Call

Expenses for maintaining the call center are divided by the number of calls received.


A term used to describe the person receiving services from the Help Desk.

Customer contacts

Inbound requests are received by email, phone, chat, and any other methods.

Customer Experience

The perception of the customer on how they were treated from start to finish when receiving support.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

A metric to measure the customer’s approval of the support they received. Commonly a survey can be used to obtain feedback from customers after completing a support interaction.

Decision Tree

A support tool to help troubleshoot and resolve customer issues. A tree-shaped diagram where each branch represents a possible decision, action, or issue symptom.

Direct Inward Dialing (DID)

A block of telephone numbers is provided by a phone company for use by a company’s private branch exchange (PBX) system.


To ensure workers have a safe and efficient environment by studying a worker’s environment and making improvements.


As related to a Help Desk incident ticket an escalation is an increase of the priority level or the transfer of ticket owner to an assignment group with a higher skill level.

Event Management

The process that monitors for any detectable occurrence that has significance for an IT service in the IT Infrastructure by a monitoring tool.

Expected Wait Time

Information is provided to customers on approximately how long they have to wait in a queue before the next agent will answer their call.

First Call Resolution (FCR)

The ability to solve the customer’s issue during the first interaction without calling the customer back or transferring the customer to another agent.


A technique to improve the engagement of a service or product by offering incentives to encourage behavior while using the service or product. Incentives could include unlocking achievements and a point scoring system.

Hot Call Transfer

When an agent hands off a call to another more experienced engineer without disconnecting the call session.


An incident is an unplanned interruption or quality reduction to an IT service.

Incident Management

An ITIL process focusing on returning the impacted service to normal functionality quickly while minimizing the impact on the business.

Incident Priority

Incident severity and incident priority are similar and frequently interchanged. Determined from a matrix of impact and urgency. Whereas incident impact is how many people are impacted at what level. Incident urgency is how soon the incident needs to be resolved.

Incident Severity

Incident severity and incident priority are similar and frequently interchanged. Determined from a matrix of impact and urgency. Whereas incident impact is how many people are impacted at what level. Incident urgency is how soon the incident needs to be resolved.

Industry Standard

The generally accepted process and procedures used within a specific field of work.

Interactive Voice Response

A system that allows a caller the ability to interact with the telephone menu system using voice or keypad responses. Use to route Help Desk calls to an appropriate group or to provide more specific information to the caller.


An interconnection of many computer networks allows worldwide browsing of websites, communication, and data sharing. The interconnection of networks is made possible by using standardized communication protocols.


A private or corporate computer network with restricted boundaries and addressing to allow only authenticated users access to other users and resources.


Abbreviation for Information Systems.


Abbreviation for Information Technology.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A value measured of a system or process to determine how well the system or process is performing to achieve target goals.

Knowledge Management

The process to gather, store, retrieve and use the information to resolve issues and provide answers.


A repository of information is organized to allow users the ability to find solutions to questions.

Local Area Network (LAN)

The network in a facility or interconnected facilities.

Merger and Acquisition (M&A)

The purchase and consolidation of a company’s resources into another company.

Maintenance Window

A scheduled period of time when IT systems can be unavailable or offline for the purpose of service, upgrades, and preventive maintenance.


Coaching is provided by an experienced person to assist a less-experienced person’s personal and professional growth.

Mission Statement

Summarizes why a company or group exists, what it does for its customers, and what makes it different from competitors. The objective is to inspire, and provide focus and direction.

Phased Implementation

A method of changing from an existing system or service to a new one in stages. Implementation lessons learned in the initial phases can lead to improvements for later phases. This is the opposite of a big bang rollout where the system and services are changed all at once.


A problem is the cause of one or more incidents.

Problem Management

The process of managing the lifecycle of a problem to eliminate recurring incidents.

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)

The interconnected worldwide circuit-switched telephone network was originally made up of analog telephone systems with hard wires.

Qualitative Measurement

Measuring something or a process by attributes other than numerical data.

Quantitative Measurement

Putting a value to something by measuring a quantity can be reported as a statistical or numerical result. At a Help Desk call, ticket and incident data is subject to a high amount of quantitative measurement.

Release Management

A process used to ensure the deployment of code and configuration follows a structured process.

Remote Customer Support

When Help Desk agents or IT staff connect to a remote customer computer via a network or Internet to provide technical support as if they are directly in front of the customer computer.

Screen Pop

When an incoming call is routed to an agent, the phone system application will display or pop the caller’s information upon the agent’s screen.


Information tools available to customers to help themselves usually in an online customer portal. Typical uses are to check the status of requests, find common information, or to open a new request.

Service Level Agreement

A commitment between a customer and a service provider outlines how, when and what services will be provided to the customer. It also identifies service reporting, responsibilities, costs, and warranties.


A Help Desk specialist has knowledge of specific topics and how to troubleshoot the functionality.

Subject Matter Expert

A person who has extensive knowledge about a topic to the point of being an authority on the topic.


Work remote such as home using the Internet, VPN, phone, email, chat, and conferencing software.


A form used to capture customer support information and track the resolution of an issue or the fulfillment of a request.

Tiered Support

An issue support structure that the first level resolves most of the general issues and escalates more complex issues to subsequent levels of support.

Total Cost of Ownership

The complete cost of a product or service goes beyond the initial purchase cost. It includes expenses of licensing, maintenance, warranty, installation, and support.

Unified Messaging

A technology solution that integrates fax, email, chat, voicemail, and other related messaging methods.

Voice Over IP

A method of transmitting voice calls using Internet Protocol as digital data packets versus legacy circuit-switched telephone networks.

Wireless Access Point (WAP)

A device that sends and receives wireless or Wi-Fi signals between wireless devices and the physical cable network.


A temporary way to overcome a fault in an IT service, system, or application is to allow the user to continue to work.

Workforce Management

The system is used to maximize employee productivity forecasting staffing levels using job and employee variables.

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