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Is the 80/20 Industry Standard Realistic for your Contact Center?

An 80/20 service level for a contact center means that the objective in place is 80% of the calls are answered in 20 seconds or less. But what does that mean realistically?

Is the 80/20 Industry Standard Realistic for your Contact Center?

What is the 80/20 objective in a Contact Center?

How many contact centers obtain this result on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis? In over 20 years working in the contact center industry, I have rarely witnessed contacts centers keep this objective on a continuous basis.

So why do we strive for a goal that can be difficult to maintain and can be overall costly?

The Origins of 80/20

In the contact center world, Service Levels provide the industry with a universally understood methodology about how quickly calls are answered by agents. Its origins can be traced back to over half a century ago!

The logic behind this standard has been lost over time. It would appear that it was not based on careful analysis but rather arbitrarily chosen on the original call center platforms of the 1970s.

The 80/20 standard has no correlation with the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of results (output) comes from 20% of causes (input). According to this preconceived notion, it is enough to prioritize 20% of factors that will produce the best results or to identify the best assets of an entity and use them effectively to create maximum value.

80/20 and today?

The longevity of the 80/20 service level is astounding considering the huge changes that have taken place in technology over the past few decades. Even today, most call centers target this specific value.

And while a call center may hit their 80/20 goal without difficulty, that says very little about other more important metrics, like Customer Satisfaction or First Contact Resolution (FCR).

There can also be some danger in sticking to the default 80/20 goal if that is not the right service level for your organization. If you strive to achieve the wrong goal, resources will not be allocated properly, and your organization could suffer...

What is the optimal service level?

To determine the optimal service level for your contact center, you need to balance your company's desire to provide excellent Customer Satisfaction with the cost that you are willing to pay to achieve it. To do this, you must:

  • Identify the acceptable and maximum occupancy rate;

  • Identify the customer tolerance threshold and target the service level below that threshold;

  • Then determine the costs related to this level of service;

  • And finally, be prepared to adjust your results when you receive new data.

For example, the occupancy rate according to different Service Levels:

Graphic - Occupancy Rate According to Service Level

What does it mean?

The graph has a lot of numbers, but let's narrowed some of them down:

  • For a service level of 75% in 120 sec, the occupancy rate would be 82%.

  • For a service level of 80% in 20 sec, the occupancy rate would be 75%.

  • For a service level of 80% in 20 sec, the occupancy rate would be 75%.

​Occupancy Rate and Service Level: A Reverse Relationship

The higher the occupancy rate, the less available agents are, callers wait longer, and the service level decreases. Also, a high occupancy rate will result in an increase in the after-call time and, in the longer term, an increase in absenteeism and the turnover rate of the CCC.

A lower occupancy rate indicates that agents are more available, that calls are answered more quickly, and that the service level increases.

Another factor to consider would be the industry sector that your organization falls under. It would be illogical for Emergency Services (i.e., 911) to have an 80/20 service level given the nature of their calls. Such a service should opt for a target of 100/1.

In conclusion

A service level goal should not be set arbitrarily, or by default. Several factors must be taken into consideration among which a balance must be found! Therefore, a careful analysis would be in order.

Do not hesitate in contacting us for assistance in your process of determining the optimal Service Level for your Contact Center.

Redacted by: Caroline Mbanga - WFO Specialist, Customer Experience Team

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