Demystifying service level calculation

Our supervisor’s guide to service level calculation will explain the formula used for calculation, the call metrics involved and how to fix a service level target.

Dalai Lama says that the purpose of life is to be happy. If you are to ask call center supervisors what their purpose of life is, they might affirm that it is to keep their callers happy and keep the CSAT (customer satisfaction) score always high. And, this is where service level calculation comes in.

What is service level calculation?

Service level calculation is a measure of the percentage of calls that were answered by your call center agent within a set threshold time limit.

For instance, a service level of 80/20 means that 80% of the calls were answered by a human agent within a 20 seconds of a threshold.

Note the term “human agent”? I am a great fan of chatbots, live chat software, and other automated Starchild of the digital world. But, in the real-world of telephony, the true service level is still calculated from the second your callers get to talk to you a real agent — a real human agent who has the empathy to the caller’s problem, courtesy to talk them with patience and expertise to offer the right solution.

The process of monitoring your service level targets on a timely basis is referred to as service-level monitoring (SLM). Since SLM takes into account the call handling efficiency of your agents, it can be considered as a realistic yardstick of your call center’s performance.

The purpose of service level monitoring

Torture the data and it will confess to anything. Torture your real-time data and it will lead you to the exact crime scene.

Your call center will not be able to maintain peak performance every day. The performance is bound to rise and fall like a sinusoidal curve. There will be several reasons that could be influencing your call center performance positively or negatively.

Service level monitoring gives the real-time pulse of a call center’s performance. It helps a call center supervisor to know:

  1. Whether the call center performance is satisfactory, and
  2. Whether the agents are efficient in handling calls.

SLM helps point a finger on the efficiency with which agents respond to calls that reach them. It indicates what composition of the calls that rang the agent’s phone was attended to calls within the set service level target — like XX% of the calls were answered under 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, etc. If all the agents are able to meet the call center’s service level target, it implies that they are promptly responding to calls contributing to the call center’s overall performance — and subsequent customer happiness.

SLM is usually done on a regular basis. A champion call center software usually refreshes the service level target data every five minutes. If the target level is not met, the call center supervisor can take countermeasures to optimize call center performance.

Now that the purpose of SLM is established, let’s look at the formula used for service level calculation.

How is service level calculated?

Service level is calculated from the moment the caller is transferred from an ACD or IVR menu to the agent’s call queue.

The image below explains the junctures at which short abandons occur when a call gets transferred to the call queue and from when service level calculation begins.

service level calculation journey

The process of calculating the service level for call centers is fairly simple. There is no mathematical mayhem involved. You have to use a formula to calculate the service level target and use it as a measure.

But, before we get into discussing the formula, you ought to know a few terms that will be thrown around in the service level calculation process. Some of which include:

  • Service level target – A pair of numbers — like 80/20, 60/20, 50/50. The first part denotes the percentage of calls, while the second part denotes the number of seconds. Together, they indicate the overall performance of a contact center.
  • Threshold – The predefined amount of time beginning from the time the call is connected from an IVR to the agent within which a call has to be answered
  • Breach – Instance(s) when the threshold limit to attend a call was exceeded.
  • ACD system (Automatic call distributor system) – A system that receives incoming calls, assorts them based on preset conditions and transfers the call to the right agent, team or IVR menu
  • IVR (Interactive voice response system) – A keypress triggered response system that directs callers to menus or agent for information retrieval
  • Abandoned calls – Those calls which reached your agents call queue, but were not attended
  • Short abandons – Calls that were abandoned (disconnected) by callers after the IVR but before they were connected to the agent. Short abandons usually happen within 5 seconds after being transferred from the IVR

The formula for service level calculation

Service level calculation can be done with the help of 4 formulas. Each formula takes into consideration several aspects of the call metrics which alters the end result.

As a supervisor, the onus is upon you to decide which formula would be apt for monitoring and reporting purposes.

In what is to follow, we would be discussing four formulas usually used for service level calculation.

They are:

  • Formula #1: The basic formula used for service level calculation
  • Formula #2: Service level calculation factoring in abandoned calls
  • Formula #3: Service level calculation factoring in calls abandoned after threshold

Be it mind-numbing trigonometry or a simple arithmetic calculation, an example can help clear the fog of confusion. So let’s take a closer look at how the service level calculation formula works with an example.

Here is a collection of fictional call data that will help us understand the process of calculating service level:

Total number of answered calls = 800

Calls answered within threshold = 640

  • Calls abandoned after threshold – 180
  • Short abandons – 10
  • Voicemails – 10

So, total number of abandoned calls works out to (180 + 10 + 10) = 200

Total number of calls that reached the call center – 1000 (800 + 200)

Here is how the data will be used in each of the formulas.

Formula #1: The basic formula used for service level calculation


basic formula for service level calculation

When this formula is used, your service level would be 640 / 1000 * 100, which is 64%.

This might be the simplest formula to calculate the service level. If you want to include abandoned calls as well in your service level calculation, the second formula should be used.

Formula #2: Service level calculation factoring in abandoned calls


Service level calculation formula factoring in abandoned calls

When abandoned calls are also factored in for service level calculation, the service level would be calculated as:

640 / (800 + 200) * 100 = 64%

The third formula takes into account calls abandoned after the threshold. This is an ideal way to calculate since it points at the accurate composition of calls that reached the agents but was not attended to.

Formula #3: Service level calculation factoring in calls abandoned after the threshold


Service level calculation factoring in calls abandoned after threshold

When the third formula is used, the service level would be calculated:

640 / (800 + 180) * 100 = 65.30%

Abandoned calls could also be caused due to short abandons. Most probably, some of the calls could also end up as voicemail recordings.

Taking them into account will facilitate an accurate service level calculation that reflects your call center’s actual efficiency.

3 pointers to fix the right service level target

As a call center supervisor, to measure your call center’s performance with accuracy, you must fix them right service level. Here are 3 pointers that will help you fix it right.

  1. Fix the service level target
    Experts-suggested industry standards may not necessarily be applicable to you. Depending on the type of calls that your business receives and the complexity involved in solving it, it may not be possible to achieve an 80/20 service level target. Fix a service level target that is achievable by your call center. Even a 60/20 target is fine if you have fewer agents to take calls.
  2. Fix a reasonable threshold
    Emergency support services might require a 10-second threshold window, customer support might need a 20-second window, feedback calls might require a 30-second window. What might be an ideal threshold for one scenario, may not be ideal for another. To fix a reasonable threshold for your call center, you have to consider the available resources and average call handling time.
  3. Treatment of abandoned calls & voicemails
    DO NOT ignore your abandoned calls. Decide early on how you are going to treat abandoned calls that were abandoned within the threshold limit and after the threshold limit. Also, voicemails by themselves mean that those customer calls were not answered. So it is recommended that you include them as part of abandoned calls while calculating the service level.

service level monitoring blog

How Freshcaller helps you with service level monitoring (SLM)

Life is easy when you have a reliable sidekick by your side. Like Robin for Batman. Hobbes for Calvin. Scooby for Shaggy. Watson for Holmes. Tomato ketchup for French Fries…

Well, if you are a call center supervisor, admin or someone who is curious to know your call center service level — Freshcaller can be your reliable sidekick.

Here is how Freshcaller helps with service level monitoring.

Be in the know of overall performance
Freshcaller gives you a real-time feed of key metrics that will help you drive your team’s on-the-call productivity.

The SLM dashboard will give a feed of:

  • Service level target
  • Average talk time
  • Average wait time
  • Longest wait time
  • Average time to answer
  • Service level achieved
  • Average handle time

Freshcaller service level monitoring dashboard

Set global & queue level service level targets
A bird’s view from 30,000 feet or a 3-inch up-close view – choose your pick. Freshcaller can help you set and monitor global level or individual queue-level service level targets.

Freshcaller queue level service target setting

Team-wise service level target monitoring
Know which team is hitting the target score with Freshcaller’s built-in service-level monitoring tool. You can also spot the laggards and know the exact reason what’s causing them to slow down. If the service level targets need to be revised, you can always reset them by editing the service level.

Time zone-based reporting
Freshcaller does not consider a non-business hour or holiday calls for service-level monitoring. You can choose between user time zone and account time zone upon which the service calculation will be set.

Spot anomalies to take corrective actions
A quick toggle of the “Service level breached” filter is all it takes to have a list of calls that did not meet the threshold limit. You can dig out more information about each breach and decide if the breach was warranted or not.

Freshcaller service level calculation breach

A call for betterment

Without data, one is blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway.
When you have so much call data, how can you let it go to waste?
Let data guide you home and ignite your call center’s brilliance.
Let Freshcaller help you fix that.

With service level monitoring, you can get closer to attaining the purpose of every call center — make every caller happy. Want help with setting up a service level dashboard? Write to us: 🙂

Illustrations by Nikhil Kanda

Animation by Vinoth Krishnan