How to Better Meet Your Service Level Target

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Filed under - Industry Insights,

Richard Blewis of VCC Live shares his advice for meeting your contact centre service level targets.

Call centre service level is defined as the percentage of calls answered and abandoned within a predefined amount of time – target time threshold.

It can be measured over any period of time and for each agent, group, campaign or the contact centre as a whole.

Service level is one of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for call centres as it helps measure customer tendencies, call centre efficiency and the call centre business model, comparing value per interaction, customer retention value and staffing costs.

Call centre reporting will show the following helpful statistics for all calls:

  1. Handled calls within service level threshold
  2. Early disconnects – default is five seconds
  3. Repeated call count – same customer
  4. Total calls in queue
  5. Calls answered within threshold
  6. Calls answered after threshold
  7. IVR disconnects include amount and percentage
  8. Abandoned within threshold
  9. Abandoned after threshold
  10. IVR interaction and queue averages
  11. Dashboard alerts showing calls in queue exceeding the service level in real time

CX Technologies Improving Call Centre Service Level

Research suggests that it is traditional for call centres to target the typical service level of answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds.

With recent years’ tech advances, however, more and more technologies appear on the market, allowing call centres to improve their service level, efficiency and overall CX.

Intelligent Routing

Leveraging customer data is one important way to improve your service level. As callers have different profiles, it is now possible for call centres to segment and prioritize customers based on the data available in their CRM.

Based on the caller’s CLI or IVR session, for example, the associated account in the CRM is identified with an established priority level. This priority level considers ever-changing criteria, such as a contract expiration date, current balance or something else.

Intelligent routing will transfer selected callers to a priority ACD group. The effect is to increase the average value per interaction.

Average Handling Time

AHT (Average Handling Time) combines hold time (queue), talk time and after-call time. Each contact centre needs to focus on all three elements in order to improve their AHT.

With modern CX technologies, you can use several techniques to improve your AHT:

  1. Smooth out call spikes
  2. Integrate CTI with your CRM
  3. Leverage improved call scripting
  4. Score agent interactions
  5. Send the customer to the most appropriate agent (a skilled-based agent or a priority agent that is more prepared in handling escalated issues)
  6. Limit after-work time by applying hard limits and a soft limit alert


In telephony we often refer to peak hour traffic, those five hours during the day that account for the majority of the traffic. These peaks, however, are not constant but rather have an element of being stochastic, a random peak or in some situations, a non-random peak event.

You can use Erlang formulas to predict resources required (telephony and staff) to handle peak hour traffic but these calculations do not consider recent CX technologies, as mentioned previously in this article.

The Erlang measurement also treats all customers and their handling equal, even though CTI is more dynamic.

An interesting customer tendency shows that up to 75% of callers would prefer a callback rather than waiting in a queue for an unknown duration. Also, leveraging callback technology is beneficial for your call centre as well: when you keep a caller in the queue a channel is occupied for the entire time.

It’s often a toll-free 800 number billed at a premium per-minute rate.

However, by offering a callback to customers, you can free up your channels while also reducing your queue time by spreading out your call traffic and having your agents more prepared for the upcoming interaction.

Proactive Initiatives

In a callback interaction the customers are often advised to wait, let’s say an hour, for an update. To avoid jamming your call centre with follow-up calls, being proactive over different channels can reduce your inbound traffic.

If the ticket status has not changed or in fact if it has changed, isn’t it preferred to be proactive and to update the customer before they call in? Some channels that can be used for proactive initiatives are SMS, email, outbound IVR and interactive chatbot.

Call Deflection

Routing customers to different channels is a common practice for call centres to boost efficiency. Call deflection is one technique of rerouting customer calls to an alternative channel. If it’s done right, call deflection can be an effective way to reduce costs by moving customers to lower-cost ‘digital’ channels.

Customers, for instance, often find voice channels frustrating due to long hold times. In such cases, deflecting calls and offering customers the possibility to resolve their query via a self-service channel might improve the overall customer experience.

Also, deflecting inbound callers to an interactive message that updates a ticket status using text to speech can reduce unnecessary agent interactions.

Finding that balance between a better CX and lower operating costs can be achieved by making your call centre service level more efficient by evaluating tendencies and implementing a better call-flow, supported by technology initiatives.

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 18th May 2020 - Last modified: 19th May 2020
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