Calculating Call Center Service Level – A Detailed Guide

Surbhi Nahata

Jayadeep Subhashis

February 1, 20247 min read

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“How many calls did we answer in the last hour?"  

"How many queries were resolved in the past hour?"  

These seemingly simple inquiries are not mere statistics; they serve as the pulse check for call centers, offering a real-time assessment of the responsiveness and efficiency of the frontline agents.   

At the heart of these numbers lies the concept of call center service level — a metric as critical as the service it seeks to quantify. Because it's not just about the volume of calls managed; it's about how promptly and effectively you handle each interaction.  

Though fundamental, calculating call center service level is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Across industries, variations exist, leading to occasional debates and confusion among businesses trying to decipher the most effective calculation methods.    

In this blog, learn everything about call center service level — its definition, the intricacies of its calculation, the pivotal challenges and, crucially, strategies for maintaining and elevating them. 

Table of Contents

What is call center service level? 

Call center service level is a metric that measures the efficiency and responsiveness of a call center in terms of responding to incoming customer requests within a specified time frame. 

It reflects the percentage of messages — calls, emails or chat — answered within a defined target time, often expressed as a ratio or percentage. This target time is commonly referred to as the "service level goal" and is an important performance indicator for call centers of all sizes and across industries. 

For example, your call center's service level agreement (SLA) could include achieving an 80% answer rate for calls before the third ring, accepting 90% of chats within 10 seconds or ensuring that all emails receive a response within 24 hours. 

By aiming to answer a higher number of calls, emails and chat messages within the specified timeframe, call center agents can reduce customer wait times, resulting in increased customer satisfaction with your company's services. 

Call center service level calculation methods

To calculate call center service level efficiently, first determine the percentage of calls answered within the set goal. 

Method #1 

The most common formula for calculating service level is: 

Service level = (No. of calls answered within the service level goal / Total no. of calls received) X 100 

Here's a breakdown of the components of this formula: 

  • Number of calls answered within the service level goal: This is the number of calls that are answered by a call center agent within the predefined time frame. 

  • Total number of calls received: This represents the total volume of incoming calls received by the call center during a specific period. 

Example: Suppose you manage a call center that receives 600 calls in a specific period. Your service level goal is to answer 80% of these calls within 30 seconds. Now, let's calculate the basic service level for this scenario. 

Here's the data: 

  • Number of calls answered within the goal time of 30 seconds: 480 

  • Total number of calls received: 600 

Let's apply the service level formula to calculate the service level: 

Service Level = (480 / 600) X 100 = 80% 

So, the service level in this example is 80%. This means that 80% of calls were answered within the 30-second goal, meeting the service level target set by the call center. 

Method #2 

Call centers often struggle with abandoned calls — instances where customers disconnect before reaching a service representative. These abandoned calls are usually the result of long wait times, frustration with automated systems or unexpected interruptions on the customer's end.  

Call centers need to have a clear idea of the call abandonment rate as it helps them evaluate the effectiveness of their operations and pinpoint areas for improvement. The abandoned call rate is typically expressed as a percentage and is calculated using the following formula: 

Abandoned call rate = (Total incoming calls / No. of abandoned calls) X 100 

Understanding and monitoring the abandoned call rate helps call centers assess customer satisfaction, optimize call center workforce management and refine call routing strategies. A high abandoned call rate may indicate issues with service quality, which means you might need to adjust your staffing, technology or customer support processes. 

Let's consider a scenario where a call center receives 1,000 calls over a given period, and on 50 of these calls, customers disconnect before reaching a representative. To calculate the abandoned call rate, use the formula: 

Abandoned call rate = (1000 / 50) × 100 = 5% 

Here, the abandoned call rate is 5%, indicating that 5% of incoming calls were abandoned by customers. Call center managers can use this information to determine the impact of abandoned calls and find ways to minimize it.  

4 good service level standards for a call center 

Maintaining a high service level is the key to meeting customer expectations and ensuring their satisfaction with your business. Although service level goals may vary depending on the industry and company, here are some best practices to establish high service level standards in your call center: 

1. 80/20 rule 

For most businesses that rely on call centers, the 80/20 rule is a benchmark for service-level goals. Essentially, it means that 80% of incoming calls are answered within 20 seconds.  

This metric provides insight into the speed at which calls are addressed. However, it's important to note that it does not give you an accurate picture of customer satisfaction levels or the duration customers are willing to wait for a live agent to become available. 

2. 90/10 rule 

In customer-centric industries with higher service demands, a more rigorous standard is common. This is the 90/10 rule, which dictates that 90% of incoming calls must be answered within a swift 10-second timeframe.  

The adoption of this rule is particularly prevalent in sectors characterized by fast-paced customer interactions, such as emergency services, healthcare and e-commerce. 

For these industries, it's imperative that customer queries and concerns are resolved near-instantly due to the nature of their services. For instance, emergency services and healthcare organizations must address calls as soon as possible to ensure public safety and health.  

E-commerce businesses also need to offer quick assistance to ensure customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty. The 90/10 rule is, thus, a trusted call center KPI for facilitating rapid customer assistance and maintaining the highest possible service levels. 

3. Industry benchmarks 

Understanding the industry benchmarks for service levels helps you optimize the performance of your call center center operations. The table below outlines general call center service level benchmarks across various industries.  

Industry 

CSAT (%) 

Average handle time (minutes) 

Retail 

75 

5.4 

Telecommunications 

74 

8.8 

Finance 

78 

4.7 

Business and IT 

77 

4.7 

E-commerce 

80 

3.3 

These benchmarks are derived from the average performance of similar call centers in the same sector. Companies often align their service level goals with these benchmarks or try to exceed them. 

Must Read: Important Call Center KPI Benchmarks by Industry 

4. First call resolution (FCR) rate 

The first call resolution is a key metric that measures the proportion of customer issues that a call center successfully resolves during the initial interaction.  
 
According to standard industry benchmarks, the FCR average stands at 77%.  

5 challenges to maintain good service levels in call centers 

When it comes to achieving and maintaining good service levels, here are five of the most common challenges call centers encounter: 

  1. Fluctuating call volumes: Call centers experience peaks and valleys in call volumes throughout the day. This makes it hard to plan for and meet service-level goals. 

  2. Resource allocation: Allocating the right number of agents to handle incoming calls during peak hours is a constant challenge. Overstaffing can be costly, while understaffing leads to longer average hold times and unhappy customers. 

  3. Agent skill variability: Not all agents have the same level of expertise or efficiency. Variability in agent performance can impact service levels. 

  4. Technology limitations: Outdated call center technology may hinder efficient call routing and handling. 

  5. Unpredictable events: Unexpected events, such as system outages or natural disasters, can disrupt call center operations and impact service levels. 

Also Read: Top 17 Call Center Best Practices for Great Customer Service 

How to improve and maintain call center service level

To deliver a superlative customer experience and gain a competitive edge, it's essential to maintain a high call center service level quality. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you do it: 

  1. Define clear service level objectives: Clearly outline your service level objectives, specifying the target response times and performance goals. This sets a benchmark against which you can measure and improve service levels. 

  2. Call volume forecasting: Use historical data and predictive analytics to forecast call volumes. Doing so will help you proactively plan your resource allocation and avoid under- or over-staffing. Also, read about call center forecasting

  3. Optimal staffing with workforce planning: With an effective workforce planning strategy in place, you can optimize your staffing. 

    💡Good to know: Advanced workforce management software empowers you to predict future case volumes, handling times and SLAs accurately across all channels using historical data. Its added flexibility allows you to model events as adjustments, optimizing staffing levels for short, mid and long-term goals. Planning in advance not only aids in the hiring process but strategically reduces labor costs. 

  4. Offer call-back services: Provide customers with the option for call-back services during peak times. This will help you manage surges in call volumes and reduce customer wait time. 

  5. Adopt contact center as a service (CCaaS): Embrace Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions for an enhanced customer experience. CCaaS solutions offer advanced services, including chatbots, omnichannel routing and more. 

  6. Monitor average speed of answer (ASA): Keep a close eye on the ASA to ensure your agents respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner. If the ASA is sub-par, devise strategies to minimize wait times and boost overall call center productivity. 

  7. Manage average handle time (AHT): Keep an eye on your AHT so that your agents provide responses that resolve customer issues quickly without compromising service quality. Implement streamlined processes and provide your agents with the tools they need to do so. 

  8. Continuous agent training: Invest in ongoing call center agent training programs for agents to stay updated on product knowledge, communication skills and problem-solving techniques. 

  9. Implement call routing: Use call routing for efficient issue resolution. Consider Sprinklr omnichannel routing to ensure seamless communication across various channels. 

  10. Encourage self-service: Deploy customer self-service options such as IVR, knowledge base and chatbots. 


    💡 Do you know: Modern conversational AI platform offers a conversational interface designed to empower your business with swift and personalized customer interactions, including complex scenarios, without the need for live agent intervention. By significantly reducing wait times, you can meet and exceed customer expectations, amplifying satisfaction levels.  

Conversational AI Platform powered by Sprinklr Service

Read More: 8 Reasons to Use Conversational AI Chatbots for Customer Service 

With the right strategies and solutions in place, you can elevate your call center service levels to a point where customer experience, customer loyalty and brand equity soar.  

Final thoughts 

The quest for an optimal call center service level is constant in the intricate customer service landscape. The demand for swift, personalized interactions and the need to navigate the delicate balance between efficiency and customer satisfaction can be overwhelming.  

This is where Sprinklr Service comes in.   

Sprinklr's comprehensive product suite integrates seamlessly with your existing operations and gives you consistent, round-the-clock support that delivers high-quality services even during high-demand periods. Here is how you can excel with Sprinklr Service: 

  • Improve FCR rate:  Leverage automated routing software to efficiently direct cases to the most adept agents, minimizing the time agents spend deciphering the context for each case. 

  • Streamline agent handling times: Harness the power of Sprinklr AI+ to optimize each agent's capacity in managing fluctuating caseloads. 

  • Elevate CSAT and bolster agent efficiency: By unleashing real-time conversation analytics, you can automate quality monitoring, gain performance insights, and meticulously track service levels and customer satisfaction (CSAT) metrics. 

For more information, schedule a demo with our experts or take a 30-day Free Trial today! 

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