Service Level as a Measurement - WFManagement


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Service Level as a Measurement

The phrase
“Service Level” has been the grim reaper of the contact center industry for many years. Most  discussions around them are hardly of a friendly nature. Of the 100 or so grey hairs I have earned over the last few years probably 99 are as a result of chasing those golden numbers.

The common missConception around it is that it is priority number one for driving Customer Experience. There are enough articles around that to excuse me from going into the detail of that. My view on it is that while it may not be the thing that gets you a high CSAT rating or a tick in the NPS box – if you get it wrong it will be the thing that will give you a hiding when it comes to measuring customer experience.

Over the years my understanding of the measurement has changed – from being a strict measure of how many in what period to a balanced scorecard view. It is almost a real time indicator that shows that everything, at that point in time, is working out as planned and all is well with your call center for that moment. The recipe being your plan, the individual elements being your ingredients, the customer demand your heat and the cake the result of your efforts (service level). If you don’t follow the recipe or get the ingredients wrong your service levels with flop.

Service level targeting seems to be a debatable issue as well. Some common misconceptions that I have found (I may be wrong here and am open to debate):

  • Adjust your targets in-line with your average abandon rate – logic tells me this means frustrate your customers to the point where they are just about to give up and then answer. There is also a normal distribution around average abandon rates which means that there is a significant amount of customers who abandon before the mean generating repeat calls or volumes into other channels.
  • Reducing your service levels will save you cost. I have seen that the lower your service levels are the more you will struggle to keep them within a specific band (operational efficiency) as your occupancy levels will increase and therefore your margin for error decreases. The slightest change outside plan inevitably leads to an avalanche of issues which lead to repeat calls and increased volumes.
  • Your WFM department owns the service level performance the reality is it is the responsibility of the contact center as a whole to play their individual roles and share in the accountability.

Some realities of service levels:
  • Never use service levels as a stand-alone absolute indicator of your staffing levels there are many other variables to consider before making a judgement call on capacity. The number of times I have heard the sentence “90% service levels today – you are overstaffed.”
  • If you are targeting 80% you have to accept that a service level of 75% is just as good as 85% and similarly a service level of 90% is just as bad as 70%. If not your service level target is not a target but a minimum threshold and staffing has to be calculated accordingly.

To wrap it up, there are a number of critical elements, numbers and levels of insights required to run an operationally efficient call center. Performance against your plan for the day and understanding the root causes of the deviations to enable your planning going forward to be more effective is the most critical part of operational efficiency. Managing your stakeholder through education and effective reporting will delay the onset of your natural highlights.