Service Levels

Service Levels (aka Grade of Service or GOS) is one of the primary metrics used in call centres that represents the percentage of calls answered within a given time frame.

Most commonly, you will see or hear Service Levels as two numbers like 80/30 meaning a target of 80% of calls answered in 30 seconds.

There is a direct correlation between your Service Levels and the amount of call centre staff you need:

  • Where you have high Service Level targets where a high percentage of calls must be answered (e.g. 90% of calls answered in 10 seconds) you will need more staff.
  • Where you have low Service Level targets like answering 70% of calls in 60 seconds you need less staff

Determining the exact number of staff you need in your call centre to achieve a particular Service Level can be calculated using an Erlang C Calculator.

What is the average Service Level target for call centres?

You will often hear 80/30 (so 80% of calls answered within 30 seconds) however there really is no industry standard.

The targets you set your call centre must be aligned with your business objectives by asking one simple question:

How critical is it for your business if customers have to wait?

In an emergency services setting, they have Service Level targets as high as 100/5 (100% of all calls must be answered within 5 seconds) whereby in the public service, where perhaps there is no alternative for the customers, Service Level targets can be more like 70% in 30 minutes (yes, that’s minutes!).

In a revenue-generating centre where every call can result in a sale, it makes commercial sense to have high Service Levels so you don’t lose sales.

In service call centres, it’s not as overwhelmingly obvious however nearly every study on customer experience suggests that when customers don’t like the service you provide, they will go elsewhere.

Ultimately, the right Service Level target for your business needs to weigh up a range of factors including customer expectations, budgets and more.

The most recent survey that specifically contained data on Grade of Service was back in Jan 2018 by a company called Fifth Quadrant that revealed the most common Service Level targets were:

  • 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds (22%)
  • 80% of calls answered in 30 seconds (15%)
  • 90% of calls answered in 10 seconds (8%)
  • 90% of calls answered in 30 seconds (6%)
  • 70% of calls answered in 30 seconds (7%)

How do you calculate the resources you need to achieve Service Levels?

It’s actually not that hard if you have the right tools!

Thankfully we have an Erlang C Calculator that will tell you exactly how many resources you need to achieve a certain Service Level.

We’ve written the instructions so it’s easy to follow along and model the impact of changing your targets so you can see how many less or more staff (and therefore cost) you need if you change your targets.

Get the call centre Erlang calculator.

Risks of using Service Level Targets?

The key missing element from the SL metric is it doesn’t tell you what happens to the customers that don’t achieve the Service Level metric.

So if the target is 70/30 we know that 70% of calls were answered within 30 seconds.

But what happened to the other 30%?

Did they wait an average of 50 seconds, 5 minutes or two hours?

GOS conveniently doesn’t tell us this which is why its a very dangerous metric to use on its own.

The other thing to be wary of is how often it’s measured.

Is it an average over a whole month, a day, or even an hour?

All come with various pros and cons so it pays to be very clear on the frequency of measurement.

Where can I learn more?

We offer a range of consulting services through CX Consult to help businesses improve their contact centre channel and you’ll also find a list of upcoming industry training courses and conferences on the Industry Events Calendar >>>.

We also offer public and private training courses like a one-day introduction to contact centre management course via our CX Skills website >>>

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