Call center service level: Formulas, standards, sample agreement

by Andy Nguyen
service level call center

Tracking call center performance can be challenging due to the varied nature of businesses and different customer profiles. 

That’s why call center managers use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and metrics to analyze their team’s efficiency.

And one such KPI is service level, which considers several factors like the percentage of incoming calls attended in a call center. It can help you measure call center productivity and the quality of customer service.

But how do you calculate service level call center?

More importantly, what are the service level standards

In this article, we’ll cover what call center service level is and how to calculate it. We’ll also go over industry standards and how you can achieve your service level goals. As a bonus, we’ll share a sample call center service level agreement you can customize for your needs. 

This article includes:

(Click on a link to go to a particular section)

Let’s dive in.

What is call center service level?

Generally, service level is the percentage of how many KPI goals the organization has reached or surpassed.

But in most call centers, service level is taken as the number of incoming calls answered within a predetermined threshold. The threshold is the minimum time within which an agent should attend to the customer. 

In the case of call centers, service level influences customer satisfaction and agent productivity. 


Service level call center can help you view the number of calls your agents attend. 

Based on this, you can answer more calls, reduce customer’s wait time, and cut down the number of unattended calls. This way, you can provide better customer service.

How to calculate call center service level 

Calculating a call center’s service level can be tricky as it varies depending on the business. 

In most cases, here’s how you can easily calculate the service level:

1. Decide on a service level objective

You should first determine the objective of your service level. You can do that by considering your customer expectations and business requirements.

For example, an airline company may prioritize solving a customer issue over attending all calls. Consequently, they may have long waiting times and low service levels.

On the other hand, an e-commerce platform may aim to attend as many calls as possible in less time. This could mean that they may have a high service level.

2. Select start time and threshold

Start time and threshold are crucial for service level calculation.

The start time is when the call starts ringing, and the service level threshold (the time within which an agent should attend the call) is usually 20 seconds. 

Some common start times in call centers are:

  • When the call enters the ACD (Automatic Call Distributor).
  • When the ‘wait queue’ greetings end.
  • When the customer answers the last IVR (Interactive Voice Response) questions, etc.

The number of calls attended 20 seconds after the first ring is important for calculating the service level

3. Select a measuring interval

You should calculate service levels at regular time intervals to track your business progress and adjust staffing accordingly.

Call centers that need high service levels usually assess it as frequently as every minute or hour. This way, the call center can reallocate agents to the required departments to attend to a maximum number of calls. 

Some call centers have longer measuring intervals (like once a month) because they need service levels only to estimate their overall performance.

Ultimately, the period of time you use to measure your service levels depends on your business requirements.

4. Collect data

You can collect the necessary data from the respective departments manually or automatically to calculate service levels. 

You may need the following data to calculate the service level of your incoming calls:

  • Total number of answered and abandoned calls.
  • Total number of abandoned and answered calls within the given time (threshold).

5. Calculate the service level

You can calculate service level using the following steps.

A. Classify abandoned calls

The calls that get disconnected even before they connect to your agents are called abandoned calls. To calculate service level, you need to determine whether to count abandoned calls or not. 

You can do this by classifying abandoned calls into: 

a. Missed opportunities

Call centers can consider abandoned calls as missed opportunities if your call center generates income from sales calls, as each call can be counted as a potential sale. This can negatively affect your service level. 

b. Ignored

In this approach, call centers consider abandoned calls as unimportant. So, they don’t affect the service level and aren’t a part of service level calculations.

c. Counted

Call centers with short wait times don’t ignore abandoned calls. Here, the abandoned calls affect service level positively as they’re seen as offered calls. 

Call centers following this approach believe that the call was disconnected due to an inconvenience from the customer’s side like poor network, other engagements, etc., not because of their long waiting times.

B. Create a formula

After you’ve decided how to consider abandoned calls, you need to construct a formula. 

Generally, the service level is calculated as the percentage of total calls within the service level threshold divided by the total number of calls made during the same time frame.

To understand the calculation better, we can use an example.

Consider your call center receives 2000 calls in 30 seconds, and the threshold is 20 seconds. 

Of the 2000 inbound calls:

  • 1010 calls were answered.
  • 70 calls were abandoned.
  • 870 calls were answered within 20 seconds.
  • 40 calls were abandoned after 20 seconds.
  • 10 calls were abandoned within 5 seconds.

Based on how you’ve considered the abandoned calls, here are the three different formula of service levels:

a. Abandoned calls influence service level negatively (missed opportunity)
Abandoned calls influence service level negatively

Your service level will be (870/(1010+70))*100 = 80.55%

b. Abandoned calls influence service level positively (counted)
Abandoned calls influence service level positively

Here, calls abandoned within the threshold are the total calls abandoned after the threshold subtracted from the total abandoned calls, i.e., 70 – 40 = 30. 

Then, your service level will be ((870+30)/(1010+70))*100 = 83.33%

c. Doesn’t consider abandoned calls (ignored)
Doesn’t consider abandoned calls

For this example, your service level will be (870/1010)*100 = 86.14%

You can also use software like Freshcaller and CallMiner to track, collect, and calculate service levels automatically. This way, you can get the result in seconds and also negate human calculation errors. 

6. Take appropriate action

After you understand your call center’s service level, you can take the actions necessary to reach your goal. 

Some of them can be:

  • Rethink your business process and strategy to achieve your goal.
  • Evaluate individual agents’ performance and reward them depending on it.
  • Schedule agent shifts based on call volumes.

Call center service level standards & benchmarks

All customer service channels like email, live chat, and social media have certain set service level standards and targets.

Like these channels, there’s a standard service level that most call centers aim to reach. However, the right service level for your call center depends on your business and its objectives. 

According to a survey conducted by Call Center Helper, call centers target to answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds (80/20). 

But some call centers have either relaxed or boosted this target for various reasons.

Now, let’s take a look at these modified service level targets of call centers:

A. Relaxed service level

Some call centers relax their service level to 70/20 or 80/60 from the benchmark 80/20.

Reducing service levels can benefit call centers by:

  • Lowering cost: When you lower your service level target, you may not have to employ as many agents as when the service level was 80/20. This way, you can save the money that you spent on salaries and other employee benefits. 
  • Reducing stress: Your agents may feel stressed when they have to achieve a high service level like 80/20. By reducing the target, your agents can provide better service quality as they don’t have to rush to attend another call. This can greatly improve your CSAT or customer satisfaction score.

B. Boosted service level

Quite a few call centers set service levels that are higher than the standard 80/20.

Setting a service level target above the standard can benefit your call center by providing:

  • Lower abandonment rate: Your agents may attend more calls in lesser time when the service level is high – which can decrease the abandonment rate. This can give your call center a competitive edge over competitors.
  • Better customer experience: Most customers don’t like to wait in long queues when calling a call center. When the service level target is high, agents attend calls quickly – reducing the waiting time and consequently improving customer experience.

3 practical tips to meet call center service level targets

call center monitoring

Let’s look at a few ways in which you can meet your service level target:

1. Reduce attrition rate

You lose the time and money you invested in hiring and training an agent when they resign. 

Additionally, agents working with you for a long time are likely to be more productive due to their experience. This means that they can contribute more to achieving the desired service level than new agents.

You should ensure that your agents are happy and satisfied working in your call center so that they continue to work with you for a long time.

You can increase employee satisfaction by:

  • Giving incentives like medical insurance, paid leaves, bonuses, etc.
  • Motivating them to improve by offering rewards.
  • Providing emotional support when needed.
  • Interacting with them regularly.
  • Taking steps to prevent employee burnout.

2. Use call center software

Call center software includes tools you can use to simplify processes, increase agent productivity, and improve call center performance.

Some of them are:

a. Automatic call distributor (ACD)

ACD automatically receives incoming calls and connects them with free agents. This software helps reduce the time required to attend calls — which, in turn, increases service level and customer satisfaction.

b. Workforce management software (WFM)

WFM software helps maintain service levels by managing agent schedules and forecasting labor requirements in real-time.

c. Time tracking software

Time tracking software helps you understand where your agents spend time, based on which you can guide them to manage time and service levels better.

Time Doctor is a popular employee performance and productivity tracking tool used by small businesses like Thrive Market and major companies like Ericsson. 

From tracking time spent answering calls to managing distractions, Time Doctor offers several features to boost agent productivity. This way, your agents can stay more focused during working hours, which can increase the service level. 

3. Align KPI targets

Service level metrics of a call center are influenced by other KPIs like:

  • Average speed of answer (ASA): The average amount of time taken to attend a call.
  • Average handle time (AHT): The average length of a call.
  • Average resolution time: The average time taken to resolve a call. 
  • Schedule adherence: The measure of how often agents stick to their assigned work schedule.

You should ensure that your KPI targets support each other since they’re mutually dependent.

For example, if your service level target only allows you to spend a minute on a call, your AHT goal should also be a minute or less than a minute.

Here are some other essential call center metrics you can use today.

A sample call center service level agreement

Clients should ensure that their customer service provider offers a certain set standard of service level. They can do that by signing a service level agreement (SLA) with the provider.

A call center service level agreement between the call center and its client lists the services standards. 

An SLA makes it easy for both parties to trust and work together. It can also help the client hold the call center accountable when their demands aren’t met. 

Let’s look at a sample call center SLA template:

1.0. Introduction

This is a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between [Client] and [Service Provider]. This document is valid from [MM/DD/YYYY] to [MM/DD/YYYY].

SLA to be reviewed and renewed by [MM/DD/YYYY].

2.0. Purpose

The purpose of this SLA is to specify:

  • The roles and responsibilities of [Service Provider].
  • Mutually agreed on targets.
  • Responsibilities of the [Client].

3.0. Service agreement

The [Service Provider] will provide [Client] with the following services:

  • Attend customer calls with an abandon rate below [target]%.
  • Maintain a service level of [target]% throughout.
  • 24/7 customer support.
  • Offer customer service in languages like English, Spanish, and Chinese. 

4.0. Responses and responsibilities

Here are the responsibilities of both the [Service Provider] and the [Client].

[Client] Responsibilities:

  • [Client] should provide the necessary information and assistance to help the [Service Provider] reach the agreed performance standards. 
  • [Client] shall inform [Service Provider] when any changes are to be made that may necessitate a review, modification, or amendment of the SLA.

[Service Provider] Responsibilities:

  • [Service Provider] will primarily provide the services mentioned in clause 4.0 to the [Client].
  • [Service Provider] will inform the [Client] regarding service outages due to maintenance, troubleshooting, or other reasons. 

Disclaimer: This call center SLA template is only for reference and isn’t a legal document following the local, state, or federal laws. Neither the author nor Time Doctor assumes any legal liability that may arise from using this sample SLA template.

Wrapping up

A call center service level is a valuable KPI, making it important to use the right method to calculate it.

Besides doing the right calculations, you also need to set an apt service level goal depending on your business and customer expectations. You can use the tips and software mentioned in this article to attain your service level goals with ease.

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