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Call Center Improvements: How to Set a Service Level Goal

If you have been working in call centers for a while doubtless you have heard it said years ago that the standard goal for service level was 80% calls answered in 20 seconds.

Nowadays businesses recognize that you can’t pigeonhole everyone with the same goal.

The goals must derive from the nature of your business and your market and what arsenal you choose to position yourself as a leader in your field.

Many managers and executives automatically assumed that if you had a call center your service level goal had to be this 80% answered in 20 seconds if you wanted to follow the standard.

But no one knew why it was set as the standard.

Consequently, companies started to choose different service levels for their call centers – this was a good thing: they recognize that the uniqueness of their business required a different goal.

When setting a service level goal, it is imperative that you realize that the occupancy rate of your agents is inversely proportional to your service level.

The occupancy rate formula is as follows:

Occupancy Rate = (Total Agent Logged In Time (or Staff Time) – Idle Time) / Total Agent Logged In Time

In other words, the busier your agents are the lower your results of Service Level will be.

Conversely the idler your agents are, the higher your service level.

The idler your agents, the more money it costs you to run your call center.

That is why many call center executives want to find the right service level at the right “price”.

Ask your business analyst to prepare an analysis comparing your service level results with your occupancy results for a period of 52 weeks.

Observe the relation between them – pay particular attention to the service level results of 80% answered in 20 seconds, and notice the occupancy rate.

Depending on the size of your call center, generally if it is greater than 100 agents, you will notice that whenever you achieve the 80-20, your occupancy rate might be between 80 to 85% which means your agents are idle between 9 to 12 minutes per hour.

That’s the cost of doing business at 80% answered in 20 seconds.

Remember how you treat your employees will reflect on the kind of service they deliver to your customers.

So the next time you are thinking about setting a new target for your service level, remember to consider the occupancy rate that will co-exist with it and the impact on your people.


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