Ask the Workforce Wizard


We are in the midst of re-evaluating our service level targets for various business units across our organization – and I’m trying hard to dispel the myth around the 80/20 “industry standard” service level, which is what we operate under today. I’m wondering if you have any information you could share about how other call centers determine their service level goal. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


We asked how an organization’s service level goal was determined in one of our quarterly SWPP surveys, and got some interesting information that should be helpful as you go through this process. Here are some of the responses:

  • At the time this goal was established, benchmarking was conducted between various competitors of similar size call centers. Our goal was created to mirror that of the benchmarking results.
  • We have association guidelines that we have to use.
  • There is no goal defined in our organization.
  • It’s always been that way.
  • We determined what the customer would tolerate compared to our budget.
  • We did a comparison of Customer Satisfaction results with varying Average Speed of Answers, and then determined our Service Level targets.
  • We use the global norm of our client organization.
  • It came from historical records.
  • It was given to us by senior leadership with input from my team.
  • We faced new business and payroll constraints so when our volume hit, we were not reaching our 80/30 goal. We were however, more often than not hitting at 80/60. We ran models and determined that we could meet customer volume demand, payroll, and more consistently meet the 80/60 goal.
  • Our goal is based on a combination of industry trends, competitive analysis, and annual budget.
  • The philosophy behind it was to enable most customers to receive a live answer by the second ring. It was a customer service driver, and is part of the reason why we don’t use an IVR.
  • We use the industry standard.
  • I inherited it.
  • There has never been any analysis and the analysis I’ve submitted is ignored. The SL agreement is what the CEO of our largest member company says it is.
  • Our goal is based on a combination of operational costs, desired service experience, and other factors such as total number of calls and priority based on business type of calls.
  • We worked with an 80/20 goal for quite a while, then our Marketing department came out with a campaign touting our customer’s ability to speak with a representative within 60 seconds, effecting a change in our metric. Lots of fun!
  • Our goal is commission driven.
  • We look at standard turnaround time comparable to a retail store situation and customer expectations/behavior study.
  • An outside consultant came in to determine our goal.
  • We aligned abandon rate with impact to servicing of customer as calculated using Transaction Based Surveys.
  • We monitored average abandon rate.
  • We looked at the mandated ASA for each state, then chose an ASA slightly lower than the lowest to insure we would always hit the goal. Our toughest mandate is 50 seconds, so we chose 45 seconds to insure that we would meet every state’s mandate.
  • Our independent customer research indicates customers that wait up to 120 seconds to be answered do not rate the company lower than those answered more quickly if their reason for calling was addressed on the first call. In essence, customers would rather wait longer and have their issue taken care of than have a short answer time and have to call back later for the same unresolved problem.
  • We used to measure Grade of Service (GOS) as a Service level target. The GOS target for the company was 80% of calls answered in 15 seconds. This was measured on a monthly basis. However, Average Speed of Answer is also measured on a weekly basis, which is not a service level target but a good performance indicator. The Service Level parameter has now been changed and GOS is no more a service level measure but the contact center is now measured on the Call Abandon Rate.

By the way, we did ask what the service level goal was in each center, and learned that the most common goals are 80% in 20 seconds (11%), 30 second ASA (10%), 80% in 30 seconds (7%), and 20 second ASA (6%). Other goals range from 60% in 30 seconds to 95% in 60 seconds. No goal had an overwhelming majority.

Good luck as you re-evaluate your service level goal!