Call Center Metrics: Service Level

Find out what a call center’s service level is, how to set it and more.

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Statistics are today’s hot topic within the contact center world. Managers are measured on key performance indicators like service level, average speed of answer (ASA), and abandons, while agents are measured against occupancy and handle times. The tracking and reporting done on these KPIs is critical to making important staffing decisions throughout each week, or even within a single day.

Service level is a metric that describes the percentage of calls answered within a certain time frame, usually a matter of seconds. Because it relates directly to customer service quality, service level has become one of the most relied-upon contact center metrics.

The formula for determining service level is straightforward: x-percentage of calls over y seconds (for example, 80 percent of calls answered within 20 seconds). The time stated here is also known as ASA, target time threshold, or simply wait time.

However, that’s the end of any basic discussion of service level. When it comes to setting a reasonable service level goal for your contact center, the devil is in the details.

The Goldilocks Metric

The 80/20 metric quoted above is widely recognized as the most common service level, although it may not be the most reasonable or effective for your business. For instance, regulations mandate certain service levels for many utility companies; if these levels are not met, the companies risk fines and other punitive actions. Many industries have additional concerns that complicate the decision; contact centers in healthcare, for example, must consider regulations such as HIPAA compliance that can increase the time spent with each customer.

So how should you determine your best service level? The goal is to balance maximum customer service satisfaction with budgetary restrictions while setting achievable goals for your agents. Focusing solely on measures that imply that agents should rush through calls (such as total handle time) can actually decrease your satisfaction ratings; on the other hand, a higher service level means higher operating costs. If you want to ensure that all of your customer calls are answered in 10 seconds or less, for instance, you must have a sufficient number of agents on hand to take the calls. Of course, calls don’t always come in at the same rate, so you will likely have periods when some agents are waiting for calls.


How to Set Your Center’s Service Level

First, get an idea how long your customers are willing to wait to talk to an agent by comparing your average queue time for total calls vs. abandon calls. This is important for setting your center’s reasonable service level.

Then it’s time to add in your staffing needs. Calculate your occupancy rate, which is your agent pool’s total logged-in time minus the total idle time divided by the total logged-in time. (Logged-in time is also called staffed time.) This is the total number of hours all agents were signed into the system to take customer calls. You can then establish an occupancy rate goal by reviewing past data that details instances when you achieved an optimal service level.

Defining service level goals by determining the appropriate occupancy rates eliminates much of the guess work of staffing decisions. Once you know the optimal occupancy rate, your center can not only provide the highest level of customer service, but also be positioned to attract the best employees through conditions that enable their best work. Skilled, happy employees deliver better service and will ultimately help you attract and retain more customers.


More Than Just Calls

Now that your service level has been set for calls, it’s important to expand your focus. With the advent of the multi- and omni-channel contact center, you must collect and crunch the relevant data to set service levels not only for voice interactions, but also for emails, chat, text, and even social media – whatever channels your agents work in. And you must ensure additional reporting measures are in place to track each channel.


Get the Right Tools

By reviewing data and observing patterns across all your channels, you can set effective service level targets and plan for adequate staffing to hit them. You will also need real-time analytics to monitor callers and agents in the moment and to handle contact volume fluctuations.

To gather the best data and achieve your most effective service levels, you need the best tools available for your contact center. For instance, there is a direct correlation between the amount of time a customer waits on hold and their overall satisfaction levels, and VHT’s Callback removes the hold time experience for customers and puts them in control of the interaction. Your callers are given the option to exit the queue and receive a callback from your agents at their convenience. VHT’s customer research has shown that 48 percent of customers opt for a callback rather than wait on hold, and that VHT customers have reduced their ASA by 46 percent.

This elegant solution has proved so effective that Callback Cloud won the Frost & Sullivan 2015 Customer Value Leadership Award. And Callback is only one of a full suite of applications that can streamline your customers’ omni-channel experience and provide the data to make your agents more effective in real time.

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