4 Reasons Contact Centers Don’t Meet Service Levels

A service level, as a contact center metric, refers to the contact center’s ability to answer incoming calls in a timely manner. Most organizations try to maintain an 80-20 or 80-30 service level, which means  80% of all incoming calls should be answered within the first 20-30 seconds. And maintaining a certain level is a key component in measuring the effectiveness and overall success of a contact center.

Some organizations, like those that take a high percentage of revenue-producing calls, such as sales organizations, might want to provide a higher service level — maybe even 90-10. Other organizations find that a lower service level is acceptable.

The term “intraday management” describes the people, processes and tools used to manage the contact center — usually with a large focus on monitoring service levels and reacting quickly if they begin to drop. A quick response is important, so that companies can act to get service levels back up before customer hold times increase. This would lead to abandoned calls, frustrated customers, lost sales opportunities and an overall negative impact on the business.

The Big Four

To respond quickly, you need to understand the root cause of the problem. A decline in service level is always caused by one of four problems.

  1. Understaffing: If there aren’t enough agents to meet the demand throughout the day, service levels will suffer.
  2. Unavailable agents: If there are enough agents, but they’re not available for the queue, service levels drop. This can happen when agents are on break, in training or off the phones. If workforce managers don’t anticipate this happening, actual staffing levels could be insufficient for handling call volumes.
  3. Unexpected call volume: If the contact center suddenly experiences an unexpectedly high number of calls, agents might not be able to respond in a timely manner. For example, a towing company might experience high call volumes during a sudden storm. A credit card solicitation sent to millions can cause a spike in contact center call volume.
  4. High average handle time (AHT): Even if the call volume is what was forecasted, and the correct number of agents are available, service levels can still drop if call handle times are higher than expected. Calls start to back up when there are new agents who might take longer than experienced agents. If there are new processes, it could take longer for agents to figure out the rules. Many times, when other IT systems like billing, claims or CRM systems are running slowly, you’ll experience long handle times. In fact, sometimes IT departments only learn about performance issues when they receive a call from the contact center.

The challenge is determining — as quickly as possible — which four factors are causing the immediate problem.

Real-Time Monitoring Prevents Problems

A real-time comparison of forecast versus actual is the ideal way to quickly identify root causes of problems. You can even use this to avoid problems, heading them off before they affect service levels — and before customers become frustrated and abandon calls or take their business elsewhere.

Most forecasts are done in 15- or 30-minute intervals. Comparing planned to actual at these intervals makes it easy to see whether the variance is in the number of agents, their availability, call volume or AHT.

The key is to have metrics that are immediately actionable. And that requires context. Many contact centers do some form of monitoring, but most don’t compare results to the original forecast. Without this element, there’s no context.

Having a real-time view of actual performance vs. workforce management forecasts is a powerful tool for understanding root causes and enabling intraday adjustments to maintain service level and create a positive customer experience. Visit us online to learn more about PureInsights Hosted Database in the Genesys AppFoundry Marketplace, or to start your free trial. You can also view the on-demand webinar at your convenience for a quick overview.

This post was co-authored by Bill Leasure, one of the founders of PureInsights, Genesys AppFoundry Growth Partner of the Year. He has over 25 years of experience in contact center and enterprise software and has advised contact centers globally — from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Bill’s experience includes 5 years at Genesys leading the Business Consulting Group for North and South America.