Important call center metrics: Service Level

There is no “right” service level for a call center. The service level should be defined based on customer needs, behavior and expectation, aligned with the business goals and objectives of your company. Also, the service level is just one element that drives customer satisfaction and positive business outcome. If you answer calls very quickly but cannot address the customer issue, it might be worse than having customers wait a bit longer and get their issues resolved in one call. However, this post focuses on the service level component:How is the service level calculated? It is defined as the percentage of calls that get answered within a specific time period. Example: 80% of calls should get answered within 20 seconds.What causes service level issues? There are many reasons that have an impact on services levels, here are just a few:

  • Calls take longer than planned (product issues, training issues, unexpected events, etc.)
  • Forecast inaccurate (higher call volume or different call pattern)
  • Schedule sub-optimal (doesn’t include all activities, lack of flexibility, etc.)
  • Call fluctuations during day that could not be planned for
  • Low schedule adherence (often the biggest problem of missed service levels)
  • Exceptions (unscheduled meetings, staff absenteeism, etc.)

How to improve service level?

  • Goal: First, it is important to define a realistic service level that is in line with your overall business objectives and the specifics and needs of your customers and their inquiries.
  • More accurate forecast: It all starts with an accurate forecast – both the overall volume and the arrival patterns throughout the day. Having call history data available, being able to run different scenarios and breaking it down to 15 or 30 minute increments helps to improve accuracy over time
  • Better aligned schedule: There are many aspects to consider when creating a schedule. A previous blog post about call center scheduling 101 talks about those in more detail.
  • Flexible schedule: Building in some flexibility into your schedule is not easy, but can help dramatically. Flexibility regarding start and end time, breaks, training, etc. helps cover periods of irregular call patterns, while still running a cost efficient operation.
  • Schedule adherence: Again, this is one of the biggest issues, but at the same time, has a big potential to improve service levels. You can read more about improving schedule adherence in this whitepaper.
  • Measure: As you know, you can only manage what you can measure. Add the service level as one of you key metrics to your “dashboard” and also track dependencies to discover the issues that have a negative impact on your service level.
  • Learn: As you measure and monitor you will learn more about what causes problems and over time, you will be able to better plan or even avoid service level issues.
  • Educate: Make service level discussions part of team meetings/training session and have your team share their experience. Compare the measured services level with the perception of customers; have agents share their experience of customer behavior and expectations. For example, a service level that looks great on paper might not be perceived well by customers, or the other way round, a presumed low service level might not be an issue with customers because they feel they get great service.
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