Defining Service Goals part 2/2

    Defining the response rate or service target is an important part of the workforce management process, because it has a lot of direct influence on how many staff will be deployed on a 30 minutes basis. There is no “industry standard” for the speed or level of service. Service goals in a client contact centre are based on several factors and are greatly influenced by client expectation, influence from competition, market position, image and ultimately budget guidelines too. Because often the workforce management planner is also involved, part 2 of the article aims to provide more insight into this part of the process.

    Client expectation

    First of all, a client contact strategy, including determining the response rate, has to meet the client’s needs and client expectation. Client expectation is based on personal experiences with all kinds of services. Therefore it is important to take this expectation into account when determining a service goal aimed at client expectation. Market research, preferably conducted regularly, can add the value you are looking for. What is the expectation of the client with regard to the delivered quality and the response rate? Perhaps you are convinced that the client wants to be helped quickly, but the research shows that clients may be prepared to wait longer for good service. Sometimes it helps to align the response rate target with the various skill lines, instead of working with one value. A client with an invoice question may be prepared to wait longer than a client with a question about your various subscriptions. Note: this client will inform the competition if you don’t respond fast enough! The response rate or the waiting time can be calculated in three ways, namely based on service level (SL), average speed of answer (ASA) and average delay or delayed calls.

    Influence of the competition

    A lot of client contact centres are inclined to measure their performance versus other, equal, client contact centres where it concerns client satisfaction and response rates. How easy a client can be attracted to your organisation is of major influence, but can also be lost to the competition. In other words: how loyal is your client? When the client contact centre is part of a very competitive market and clients can choose between several service options, an aggressive strategy (high response rate that maintains high quality) seems a realistic choice. If the client contact centre has a monopoly with their product or service, a less aggressive strategy is possible. Several strategies are also possible within one client contact centre. A travelling agency will focus on a maximum response rate on the sales line, but perhaps deploy fewer staff and so accept a slower response rate on the claims line. In this example people mainly focus on the core business. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with this choice, as long as it is taken into account that a waiting client will be not more satisfied but more prone to be dissatisfied the longer they have to wait. In the previous part we already discussed where this may lead to.

    Market position and image

    Some cases support a high response rate to improve the general image of the brand. Think for example of commercial parcel delivery. Organisations that are known for their fast delivery, high flexibility or response time etc. all benefit from setting high service level goals for their client contact centre and enhancing and supporting their brand image in these areas.

    Budget guidelines

    In an ideal world the staffing requirements (amount of staff scheduled per interval) and the budget will both be driven by the service goals. In reality, the situation is often reversed and the budget determines to a large extent which service goals there are and to what extent these are applied. Perhaps a client contact centre wants to provide 90% service within 10 seconds, but there is simply not the budget to fulfil or maintain this objective. Therefore it is important to choose an objective that challenges but is also feasible in light of the budget guidelines.


    As you have read above, there are various factors that influence the choice of the right response rate. This is an important choice, because a significant part of the resources and the budget of a client contact centre are determined in this way. Think especially of staff and the associated costs. A pitfall is to determine a service goal and losing sight of it over time. In these dynamic times and in a rapidly changing market it is important to regularly verify whether the service goals still match client expectation, budget guidelines and the mission and the objectives of the brand. Unfortunately, it still often takes place that service goals are established, an organisation or project grows significantly due to the success, but the service goals are not re-evaluated, resulting in outdated objectives that pose an unnoticed potential disaster for the (financial) success and the growth of the service. It is therefore recommended that organisations evaluate these service goals at least once every two years, and in a rapidly changing environment even annually.

    By: Marc Stultiens - source: Call Centre Staffing. The Complete, Practical Guide to Workforce Management