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Call Center Service Levels: Calculations, Metrics, & Industry Standards


The Team at CallMiner

March 23, 2020

Chart with positively increasing slope line
Chart with positively increasing slope line

Providing key metrics and clear numbers is primordial in any industry, and it becomes particularly challenging in the field of call centers. This is why managers have developed a number of techniques to quantify results and improve efficiency over the years. One of these methods is Call Center Service Levels.

The most basic definition of a service level is: a measurable number of services provided to a customer within a given time period.

In the context of call center performance metrics, this is often employed to measure the percentage of incoming calls that agents answer live during a set amount of time. However, with a number of different formulas and definitions, there remains a great deal of confusion on the topic.

In this resource, you find:

  • What constitutes calculating call center service levels
  • 5 different formulas call centers use
  • Best practices for calculating service levels
  • A short roundup of expert thoughts on call center service levels

Calculating Call Center Service Levels

Unfortunately, calculating call center service levels is a highly contentious issue. This is because the rate can easily be manipulated depending on the formula employed to calculate it. In the following examples, we will look at 5 different ways to calculate service levels and see how they offer different results.

5 Calculations for Call Center Service Levels

All the formulas are based on the same data. For this example, we will limit the time threshold to 30 seconds.

During these 30 seconds:

  • 1000 calls were answered
  • 60 calls were abandoned
  • 860 calls were answered within 20 seconds
  • 40 calls were abandoned after 20 seconds
  • 10 calls were abandoned within 5 seconds

Formula #1

The simplest formula for calculating call center service levels is the following:

number of calls answered within threshold / total calls answered * 100%

In our example, this is ((860)/1000))*100% = 86%

The service level rate of 86%. While this looks good, we should be aware that it does not represent the abandoned calls.

Formula #2

This formula is designed to take all calls into consideration. However, it also uses abandoned calls during the time threshold as a positive,

Total calls answered within threshold +calls abandoned within threshold/ total calls answered + total calls abandoned * 100%

Here, the result is (860+20)/(1000+60)*100% = 83%

Formula #3

This version tends to impact the results negatively, as it treats all abandoned called as a negative.

Total calls answered within threshold / Total calls answered + Total calls abandoned*100%

With our numbers, this gives a result of (860)/(1000+60)) *100%= 81%

Formula #4

The fourth formula ignores calls abandoned before the threshold, while abandoned calls after the threshold impact the result negatively.

Total calls answered within threshold / Total calls answered + Total calls abandoned after threshold*100%

Our data gives us the result of (860)/(1000+40)*100% = 83%

Formula #5

Finallythe last method uses a threshold that accounts for short calls, counting abandoned called before the threshold as a positive.

Total calls answered within threshold +calls abandoned within a shorter amount of time than the threshold / total calls answered + total calls abandoned * 100%

(860+10)/(1000+60)*100%= 82%

Finding the Right Call Center Service Levels

Since different Center Service Levels offer varying results depending on the data selected, you need to ensure all your parameters are well defined. This can easily be done by following this 10-point checklist:

  1. Decide how to classify abandoned calls: are they counted, missed opportunities or ignored.
  2. Select the appropriate formula: as we’ve seen in our example above, different formulas offer different results.
  3. Choose a time interval: different time thresholds will significantly impact your results.
  4. Decide how often you measure: ideally, you will want continuous monitoring. Since this is not always logistically feasible, you should ensure that you measure at intervals that accurately reflect your day-to-day operations.
  5. Use the right tools: using a dedicated conversation analytics and call center software could drastically improve the accuracy of your service levels. By collecting and processing huge amounts of data, the right software will help you make the right adjustments based on your measurements.

What the Experts Say About Call Center Service Levels

1. Service level calculations show you if you have enough. “Service level shows you whether your business has enough resources to fulfill customer needs. It indicates if customers are being quickly connected to team members and getting their problems resolved in a timely manner. If your service level is lacking, then it may be time to adopt new customer service tools or hire more employees.”  – Clint Fontanella, 7 Call Center Metrics to Measure Your Customer Service, HubSpot; Twitter: @HubSpot

2. Figure out the best metrics for your business. “There are multiple approaches to determining service levels, each involving how call centers define abandoned calls.

 They may be treated, for instance, as:

  • Missed opportunities (counted against the service level)
  • Ignored (unavoidable and a part of doing business)
  • Completed (where the caller would have been serviced properly without a premature abandonment of the call when the wait time is reasonably short).” – Margaret Rouse, What is Service Level?, TechTarget; Twitter: @WhatIsDotCom

3. Manage spikes in call volume.

“Some companies often experience spikes in their call center activities, following periods of calm. To cope with this change in pace, some companies use temporary workers, others subcontract all or part of their services while others opt for overstaffing. All these alternatives are unfortunately not conducive to the stabilization of service levels.

“Many factors can lead to rush periods in a contact center: festivities, promotion, new launch etc. In addition, the nature of the activity has an enormous impact on the number of calls. It can increase tremendously in a short period of time and it is quite difficult to manage it, especially when there is a lack of information on the external factors in question.” – How to Stabilize Service Levels?, PCS Call Center; Twitter: @PCSCallCenter 

Download our guide on how speech analytics can improve your call center’s performance!

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, Call Center Service Levels can be confusing, which is why it is important to ensure they are measured through the right method. As is often the case with call center data, this is an area where advancements in software technology, such as speech analytics and customer engagement analytics, can drastically help managers get a clearer picture of agent performance, as well as the overall performance of the call center.

A final point to note is that if you are working with clients who require Call Center Service Levels, your formulas should be made transparent with everyone in order to be understood. This point is usually defined during a contract between the call center and the client, and as a reasonable solution, most of them will include a clause to accept 10% variance between the results.

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