Defining Service Goals part 1/2

    There are different ways for a client contact centre to define the response rate and there are more factors that influence the quantitative service goals. This first part will focus on various diverse methods to calculate the response rate. Part two mainly focuses on the factors that influence the response rate.

    Standards with regard to the response rate

    The response rate or the waiting time can be calculated in three ways, based on service level (SL), average speed of answer (ASA) and average delay or delayed calls.

    Service Level

    The service level is the most commonly used method to measure the response rate within client contact centres. A service level is expressed in x % of the calls that are answered within y seconds. A service level target of 80/20, which you will regularly see in client contact centres, simply means: “80% of the calls have to be answered within 20 seconds”. So a call that is answered after 30 seconds does not count towards this target.

    In image 1 the percentage of calls answered within a specific time can be easily calculated. If the waiting time should be 20 seconds or less to meet the target, simply write down the number of calls with a waiting time of 20 seconds or less in the queue and compare this with the total number of calls received. In this example nine in fifteen calls meet this target, which leads to a service level of 60% in 20 seconds. When this is the case for total number of calls on that day and the target was established at 80/20, this service level did not meet the target.

    The service level is typically reported as a regular (cumulative) average on a daily basis, or as a weighted average based on the percentage of distributed calls. If we use the figures from image 2, on the one hand the service level can be reported as an average of 82.1% based on a simple regular average. On the other hand, the average can be reported as a weighted average, which leads to an average of 78.9% in this example. The weighted average is a more accurate measuring instrument and is preferred in most cases.

    Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

    Another often used methodology to measure the length of the queue or the waiting time is the average speed of answer, or the ASA. The ASA describes the average waiting time of all calls in the measured period, including the calls that did not have to deal with a queue. If, for example, half of all calls arrive in a queue and is in that queue for 60 seconds on average and the other half of the calls are answered immediately by employees (waiting time of 0 seconds), the ASA is 30 seconds. In image 1 the ASA is 28.8 seconds.

    Delay or Delayed Calls

    Finally, the response rate can be quantified calculating the delay or delayed calls. This is the average waiting time of the calls in a queue. This methodology is less frequently used, but is useful for evaluating the client experience in a queue. After all, this average does not take the clients who are helped immediately into account, but focuses all the more on the clients that had to wait! In image 1 the delay or delayed calls are 61.7 seconds. So quite a long time.

    A critical note

    From the above it has been found that taking several service goals into account adds value as service goals are often interrelated. Looks can be deceiving if only one service goal is used. The ASA from image 1 outlines a situation in which the performance only barely fails to meet the target. It is however remarkable that the delay or delayed call measurement paints a much less positive and therefore different picture. Most clients were helped immediately, but on average the less fortunate have to wait more than a minute to get someone on the line. Most clients are undoubtedly satisfied with the response rate. But the clients that are not helped fast enough also help determine the image of an organisation. After all, complaining clients not only lead to longer calls and more queues but these clients also increasingly use social media to express their dissatisfaction. It is not without reason that several high-profile organisations such as Google and the Dutch Railway NS pay increasing attention to these types of signals and special teams have been set up to help these clients as quickly as possible.

    A workforce management planner can also contribute positively in this process by not taking these service goals into account, but also by making the relation between the service goals insightful. Remember that we are dealing with people, not figures. The 5% that wait for a long time are indeed a “statistical minority”, however, these are often the clients that deserve most attention, require most time and lead to the most outspoken situations when they are neglected. Is this dissatisfaction of the client unjustified? No, because let’s be honest: we all want to be helped quickly and effectively?

    Marc Stultiens, consultant at

    Source: Call Centre Staffing. The Complete, Practical Guide to Workforce Management.