Why are you measuring service levels that way?
Last month, we looked at different approaches for evaluating consumer satisfaction. One way that consumer satisfaction finds its way into operations is the service level.
When we say ‘service level’ in this context, we are referring to what is rooted in the classic call center measure: what percentage of calls is answered within a certain time period. This usually looks like “70/30,” for instance – referring to 70% answered within 30 seconds. This is very much a phone service measure; measuring text message response time or email turnaround is usually done a bit differently.
We have a lot of conversations about service levels, primarily because they cost a lot of money. Having a high service level (i.e., answering the phone quickly for a high percentage of the time) requires people waiting to answer calls, which is not free. Over time, many teams reconsider their service levels to meet budget targets. While 80/20 may have once been the norm, many have found that they are comfortable with 70/30. As a customer, you may not have even noticed a change.
While service level targets are important for staffing models, we have seen that there are real drawbacks to focusing on service level as the most important consideration for a contact center operation. Service levels clearly have relevance for ‘real-time’ exchanges like phone calls or chat sessions. Other methods, such as text messages or email, are more forgiving. In all cases we see very different standards, self-service options that can make the initial contact, and changing consumer expectations.
There are probably two better questions to answer (and associated goals and measures) than “What should my service level be?”
The first question is: “How long will people wait until they hang up?” That doesn’t sound like quality service but it really defines the basic outcome – you don’t want people to wait so long they decide they have better things to do. Luckily, the Abandon Rate (percentage of callers who hang up before they talk to someone) is a pretty good measure of how well you are meeting your customer expectations for having the phone answered quickly. Abandon Rate also works well for chat sessions.
Second, as we previously discussed, almost everyone has a satisfaction survey and associated measures. By design, this is intended to answer the question: “Are we making you happy?” No matter if you are using Net Promoter Score, some Likert scale, stars, or happy faces, every approach gets at the heart of the matter – effective service.
If you combine Abandon Rate and satisfaction, you no longer need to guess what the ‘right’ service level is. And you may find that managing to actual expectations saves you some money on staffing to a higher service level than your customers expect.
If we can help you sort out your service level or satisfaction questions, please let us know!
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