Service Level is a metric used in customer service to assess its efficiency. It is essentially the rate of service the call center provides to the customer. Service level is always calculated in percentage terms.
Usually, a service level is the percentage of incoming calls that are answered (live) by an agent within a stipulated frame of time. For example, a service level of 80% in a call center means 8 out of every 10 phone calls have been answered by the agents before the agreed time limit expires (say 20 seconds). As per industry best practices, service level should typically take into consideration the abandoned calls as well.
Service level is a useful tool to increase productivity and confidence among agents. When measured consistently over time and defined clearly, it can enable data-driven business decisions to be taken. Many businesses, however, experience some confusion about how to measure the service levels. Below are some steps that businesses can take when measuring service levels for their call centers:
Ignoring abandoned calls is not recommended as it does not reflect the true performance of customer service. Once the abandoned calls are calculated, a formula should be worked upon and arrived at. The variations offered include calls taken and abandoned within a threshold, and the calls taken and abandoned after the threshold. Arriving at the ideal formula for the business objectives would keep calculations simple in the future, and provide clarity on various numbers.
Interval time is an important factor while measuring service level, and a clear definition of the start time should be shared with the teams. A few suggestions to keep in mind, when deciding on the start time, are:
The measurement of the interval time should be kept dynamic, and constantly checked. This type of practice helps in assessing the staff requirements and estimating performance week on week.
A business should establish the motive of service level – whether to increase customer satisfaction or increase the lifetime value of the company. Service level objectives should take into consideration customer expectations, patience, needs, and other factors; for example, callers are willing to wait longer when trying to contact an airline company than when contacting an eCommerce site. It should also be noted that customers reaching out to agents via mediums such as live chat are more likely to get irritated with long waits as opposed to the ones reaching out through phone calls. Likewise, employee workloads, satisfaction, average call volume, and budget should also be defining factors while defining the service level objectives of customer service.
In large businesses, call centers usually have different teams which handle various calls such as billings, orders, etc. Therefore, it is important that each and every department duly presents its service level data to arrive at an accurate measurement of the call center’s efficiency. The formula for each department should be different, based on the nature of the call received; for instance, the billing department would possibly have longer calls than the department handling address inquiries.
There are different user-friendly software applications available to track, collect and extrapolate service level data as per relevancy. Businesses should make full use of these programs to get useful insights in a matter of seconds. Such software not only negates human errors but also speeds up processes.
Service level can be interpreted as either a target or an actual measurement. Various contributing factors can have an impact on service level, such as longer calls, incorrect forecasting, inaccurate scheduling, fluctuations in volume, etc.
Service level data must not be kept a secret. It should be displayed for every agent/team to see and take note of. This will provide a clear picture to various teams and encourage them to gear up when needed. Sharing of data makes operations transparent and has a positive impact on business results.
Data is useless if it is not acted upon. The moment managers see a slowdown in service level, they should be prompt in taking corrective actions. Some measures that enable businesses to get back on track with their customer service are routing overflow calls to at-home agents, encouraging in-house agents to work a bit longer during the peak seasons, modifying agent break times, etc.
In this competitive business world, organizations are constantly changing and re-building their marketing approaches. Therefore, all service level goals should be adapted accordingly and in line with the company’s big picture.
There is no right method of calculating service level. For every business, this metric may vary, depending on the priorities and goals of its customer service. Meeting service levels might be a great enabler to achieving customer satisfaction, but it is not the only one; hence, care should be taken to ensure that other metrics are duly met to attain an overall high C-sat score. If agents respond quickly to calls but are unable to resolve issues, it will eventually lead to poor efficiency of customer service. Rather than rushing through the calls, it is much better to have customers waiting a little longer and close the issue in one interaction.
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