The 6 Best Ways To Measure Call Center Service Levels

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No matter which of the 23 kinds of call centers you operate, your customer service performance levels are critical—which means knowing how to measure them properly is critical as well. 

Many call centers gauge their customer service performance using SLAs, or Service Level Agreements. These are contracts that are held between the call center and its clients, ultimately outlining the expected service standards.

A common call center SLA is known as 80/20. This agreement states that agents should answer 80 percent of calls within a time threshold of 20 seconds. For example, in a scenario where 100 callers contact the call center, the goal is to have 80 of them connected with an agent within 20 seconds.

While the 80/20 service level is a common industry standard, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all metric of success for every call center. Things like unique industry challenges, niche customer expectations, and certain available resources can all influence how to benchmark a company’s service metrics.

With that in mind, let’s walk through the best ways to measure call center service levels and the metrics you should have top of mind.

Components of Call Center Service Levels

Before you can determine the best ways to measure your own call center’s service levels, it’s important to get a handle on which metrics you should be tracking, along with which filters you should be applying to them. These can include any combination of the following:

Time Interval: Time intervals define the duration periods for measuring service levels. Common intervals include a 24-hour period or specific working hours like 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday. 

Total Calls Received: This component represents the overall volume of incoming calls during a specified time frame. 

Abandonment Rate: Abandoned calls occur when customers hang up before connecting with an agent, and how you count abandoned calls can vary. You could consider an abandoned call as a received call or count it as abandoned only after reaching a specific threshold. In any case, monitoring abandonment rates can help you identify potential service level issues.

Average Handle Time (AHT): AHT measures how long a call center agent typically takes to complete a customer interaction from start to finish, which can include both talk time and any post-call work. This metric is essential for assessing efficiency and identifying areas for improvement in agent performance.

First Call Resolution (FCR): FCR is a metric that shows the percentage of customer issues that were resolved after the caller’s initial contact without the need to call back. A high FCR suggests efficient problem-solving and a reduced need for follow-up calls, which naturally increases customer satisfaction. 

Response Time: Response time measures how long it takes for a call center to acknowledge or respond to a customer inquiry. This metric is critical for evaluating initial engagement speed and reducing abandonment rates. 

Service Level Agreement (SLA) Adherence: SLA adherence measures how well a call center meets its predefined SLA parameters. This can include response times, resolution times, and other previously agreed-upon metrics. Since sticking to your SLA means meeting your contractual obligations, this is a critical metric. 

Occupancy Rate: Occupancy rate calculates the percentage of time agents spend actively engaged with customers and/or handling interaction-related tasks. It helps assess agent workload and resource utilization.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): CSAT is a customer feedback metric that gauges customer service satisfaction through surveys and other feedback channels, offering valuable insights into customer experience.

Agent Availability: Agent availability measures the percentage of time agents are available to handle calls or assist customers. This metric ensures you have adequate staffing to meet demand.

Hold Time: Hold time refers to how long a customer can expect to wait before connecting with an agent. Keeping this number low helps improve customer satisfaction.

Transfer Rate: Transfer rate measures how frequently calls are transferred from one agent to another or between departments. A high transfer rate can mean customer inquiries are being handled inefficiently. 

Peak Hour Traffic: Identifying peak hours for call traffic can help you allocate resources more effectively so that you know you’ll have sufficient staffing during periods of high demand.

Escalation Rate: Escalation rate measures the percentage of calls that get sent up to higher levels of support or management. Monitoring this rate gives insights into the complexity of customer issues and the effectiveness of your first line of support.

Admittedly, that’s a long list of metrics to consider—but there are a few measurement models that you can use to consolidate them into something more useful.

3 Popular Models for Measuring Call Center Service Levels

1. Standard Call Center Service Levels

Since fast response times can mean everything to a call center’s success, the aforementioned 80/20 service level is the industry standard for good reason. Once again, this model requires that 80 percent of calls should be answered by an agent in no more than 20 seconds. 

The formula for calculating this is as follows:

Service Level = (Total # of calls answered within threshold/total number of calls answered) x 100

For example, if a call center answers 80 calls out of 100 within the 20-second threshold, the service level would be (80/100) x 100 = 80 percent.

But what about abandoned calls? 

Abandoned calls can certainly impact service level percentages depending on how they are counted. Some call centers count abandoned calls as calls received, while others consider them to be abandoned only after a certain point in the calling process is breached. 

Deciding whether to count abandoned calls as part of your SLA depends on your business priorities and customer expectations. You shouldn’t choose one or the other just to make your metrics sound better. 

2. Boosted Call Center Service Levels

Boosted service levels can be a challenge for call center teams, but they can also provide big value for clients. 

Unlike standard service levels, the boosted model uses abandoned calls to apply a stricter measurement of responsiveness to customer inquiries. 

The formula for calculating this service level involves subtracting your call center’s abandoned calls from the total calls answered before applying the standard formula.

Boosted Service Level = (Total # of calls answered within threshold/abandoned calls – number of calls answered) x 100

For example, suppose a call center receives 500 calls within the specified time frame. Agents answer 400 calls within the defined threshold, and 50 of those calls are abandoned. The boosted service level in this case would be (350/100) × 100 = 70%. 

This means 70% of the calls were answered within the designated threshold.

The boosted service level model can be very helpful for closely monitoring performance, especially when promptly addressing customer concerns is vital to your business.

By factoring in abandoned calls, you get valuable insights into the full spectrum of customer interactions. You can also use this data to identify and address pain points that get in the way of a better customer experience.

Remember, along with abandoned calls, using boosted service levels should also have you paying close attention to two other crucial KPIs, namely FCR and CSAT.

3. Relaxed Call Center Service Levels

Relaxed service levels are aptly named, as they involve a more relaxed approach to call center responsiveness—such as 80/60 instead of 80/20. 

However, it doesn’t mean being lazy or slacking off. Instead, this model includes advantages both for call centers and their clients. 

By allowing for a more extended response time than the standard 80/20 service level, relaxed service levels represent a more practical metric for companies whose business models and typical customer inquiries can tolerate a slightly slower approach.

The formula for calculating a relaxed service level is similar to the standard model, with the threshold adjusted accordingly.

Relaxed Service Level = (Number of calls answered within threshold/Total number of calls answered) x 100)

Consider a scenario where your call center gets 800 calls within a specialized time frame. Out of these, imagine your agents answer 600 calls within the defined threshold. The relaxed service level would be (600/800) x 100 = 75%.

This means agents answered 75% of the calls within the designated threshold.

Opting for a relaxed service model is often a strategic decision that balances service efficiency with other considerations like comprehensive issue resolution, personalized interactions, and specialized support.

If you don’t need to stick to the standard 80/20 model, a relaxed service level can offer many benefits, including the following:

  1. Less staffing pressure. A relaxed model can allow you to operate with a leaner staffing model. Since there’s more time to respond, you can efficiently manage workloads and reduce pressure to maintain high agent coverage during peak periods.
  2. Reduced stress for agents. Agents often work in high-stress environments when measured by rapid response times. A relaxed service level gives agents a more manageable pace. This can help create a work environment that promotes well-being and greater job satisfaction.
  3. Enhanced Agent Focus on Issue Resolution. With the flexibility of a relaxed service level, agents can dedicate more time to resolving customer issues. That can lead to higher rates of first-call resolution and improved customer satisfaction.
  4. Customized Customer Interactions. Some clients value a more personalized and in-depth form of interaction when calling for customer support. A relaxed service level gives agents more time to understand customer needs and provide tailored solutions.

3 More Models to Consider

The above SLA models are the most common in the call center industry. However, you might consider some other more specialized models depending on your individual or client needs.

90/10 Service Level

The 90/10 service level is similar to the 80/20 model but with stricter service requirements. This SLA aims to answer 90 percent of calls within the specified time threshold of 10 seconds.

This model is not for the faint of heart. It’s best suited for industries that require extremely rapid response times, like emergency services and health care hotlines.

Dynamic Service Level

This model adjusts the service level based on the natural ups and downs of call volumes. For example, during periods of high call traffic, the threshold might be extended to maintain a more lenient service level.

This model is best for call centers with unpredictable call volumes because it grants the flexibility to manage peak calling periods without judging performance too harshly.

Customized Service Level

A customized service level is just that, an SLA tailored to meet the specific needs of a particular client.

This model is best for call centers that have unusual performance requirements and businesses that demand a personalized approach to service levels. 

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