Calculating Service Level in Light of Customer Experience and IVRs

By: Peg Ayers and Turaj Seyrafiaan

Definition of Service Level: The percentage of calls answered within a set threshold.
Note: Service level applies to live contacts so the same definition can be used for other channels such as Chat or SMS. Other channels such as email, fax and even social media are measured based on elapsed response time.

Calculation: (Calls Answered within x seconds)/Total Calls Answered X 100

Example: Service level threshold is 30 seconds; 100 calls are answered, with 80 answered within 30 seconds and 20 answered in more than 30 seconds. Service level is 80/100 or 80% in 30 seconds.

Alternative Calculation: (Call Answered within X seconds)/Total Calls Offered X100
**Note: In this case, total calls offered includes the abandoned calls

Requirements for Setting Service Level Goals 

While most Contact Center metrics require just one decision to set a goal, service level requires two:

(1) How fast do you want calls answered?

(2) What percentage of calls do you want to be answered in that amount of time?

It’s possible to set a goal of answering 100% of your calls in 5 seconds, but you would have to keep so many agents available to accomplish this that you would pay a high price in overstaffing. More commonly, goals are 70% in 30 seconds or 80% in 20 seconds. As with other metrics, your goal must be based in part on the business you’re in. In a highly competitive business where the caller will quickly decide to go elsewhere, you’ll want to answer quickly. In Tech Support or Billing, customers will wait longer. Watching the rate at which callers abandon should give you an idea of whether customers are losing patience and hanging up. If they are, it may be time to increase staffing and pursue a more challenging Service Level goal.

Service Levels for IVRs

Many centers answer with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems before callers reach an agent. In this case, the service level is measured beginning when the customer goes into queue for an agent. The longer time a customer spends in the IVR, the more quickly they should be answered when they complete it because they are counting all of that time as time spent waiting for help.

Finding a Balanced Service Level

The balance is between Service Level and staffing. While you may be setting goals by day, week or month, someone needs to watch the results by day-part (15 minutes or sometimes a half hour). This will let you see where staffing might be shifted. It’s possible for a day, week or month to meet the Service Level goal by combining great results at one time of day with terrible results in another. Patterns of bad service levels during certain times or days may indicate a need for a change in staffing.


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