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SERVICE LEVEL AS PLANNING TOOL
While most descriptions / definitions of Service Level have elements of truth , its major and more complex purpose is often missed . Service Level must play a major role in PLANNING for all Contact Center resources , from staff to tools .
Service Level is primarily a planning tool . It highlights the fact that Contact Center management is both an art and science . The art of Service Level links it to strategic objectives and building a case for resource requirements while meeting strategic business goals . These may include Customer Experience , Efficiency / Cost , and Concierge or VIP treatment . At the same time , higher-ups must be educated as to the meaning of Service Level and its role in delivering on brand promises .
The science of Service Level is its role in Workforce Management ( WFM ) and the Erlang C formula . Erlang C is the mathematical formula used for staffing the Contact Center : Service Level is one of its four elements : Talk Time , After Call Work , Volume , and Service Level . These elements are used to forecast resources required to handle a particular load during a particular interval within the day . ( See also July Pipeline Article , Carry That Load .)
If you have a Workforce Management System , Erlang C is the formula used . Those without a Workforce Management System can find Erlang C calculators available on the internet ( http :// powerhouse1 . com / calculator /)
to assist with a manual process . So yes , Service Level is a measurement and best used as a measurement of your plan and subsequently of your performance within that plan .
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DEFINING SERVICE LEVEL
Service Level is a statement - X percentage of calls answered within Y seconds - as in 80 % of calls answered in 20 seconds . An 80 / 20 Service Level is common for Customer Service operations . However , beware when selecting a Service Level and keep in mind : there is no industry standard service level ! Why not ?
First and foremost , there is no Contact Center governing body . Essentially , we are in an industry where anyone can claim anything as an industry standard or best practice . Contact Center leaders must take with a grain of salt any claim that something that is simply common is in fact a standard or a best practice .
Service Level objectives ideally represent the company ’ s strategic goals and the value of the call . It is also healthy to look at the cost of labor , caller tolerance , and the desire for marketplace differentiation . This is a decision best made by working backwards from your Customer Experience objectives to determining the Service Level that is right for you and your organization .
Many organizations have multiple Service Levels . The Sales line may have a very high Service Level ( 90 / 10 ) because the cost of resources is less than the revenue generated . On the other hand , the IT Help Line may have a low Service Level due to the cost of labor and caller tolerance .
FOUR IMPACT AREAS
Service Level has four key impact areas that create a framework for making a case to senior management for resources required to meet strategic objectives . Forget about telling management that your funding objective is to meet Service Level . It is unlikely that leadership has any in-depth clue as to what that means .
Rather when making a case for resources , lead with the impact areas : Caller Delay , Abandon , Agent Occupancy , and Cost .
Delay is the time a caller spends “ on hold ” in the queue before reaching an agent . It is determined by the number of agents available ( i . e ., hired , trained , and showing up ). When forecasting delay , we face the delicate balance between needs of the business and needs of the consumer .
It is important to study history to demonstrate the role of Service Level in addressing various caller needs ( e . g ., VIP vs . IT ). There are many reasons for varied Service Levels within one organization . Take the case of the Cancel
My Service menu option for cell phone and cable providers . This option is often routed to a team with very high service levels in order to “ recover ” the customer rather than lose them . It is important to insert those needs into the planning process by using the appropriate Service Level . This provides the ability to forecast delays based on the Contact Center ’ s load , staff , and experience factors .
Most higher-ups need to hear this : “ Abandon is a response to a condition ; it is not a condition in and of itself .” They also need to understand that abandonment is based on caller tolerance . Callers make decisions to remain on hold based on their unique need and motivation . ( See also January Pipeline Article , The Fine Art of Contact Center Management .)
It must be understood that you cannot fix abandonment rates as they are simply an outcome . The fix lies in whatever part of the plan needs adjusting . It is likely to include things like improving cross-functional relationships . This is the opportunity to demonstrate via charts , graphs , etc ., the data you have studied to conclude that abandons may be curbed by working with IT and making an investment in a faster network to reduce handle time . Or you might require that anyone companywide who wishes to publish the Contact Center ’ s number must first clear the timing , content , and tasks with the Contact Center planning team .
And just like Service Level , there are no industry standard “ abandon ” rates as situations and tolerances vary widely . You must study patterns to improve and communicate forecasts .
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