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Demystifying SLA in Call Centers: A Comprehensive Guide

Uncover the significance of SLA in call centers. Explore metrics, strategies, and best practices to ensure exceptional customer experiences.

By: Andrea Meyer, Content Manager

SLAs, or Service Level Agreements, are an important part of operating a call center. With an SLA, there is a clear understanding of the required standards and metrics. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the SLA call center definition, key components, common SLA call center metrics, how to improve SLAs in your call center, and a few key takeaways.  

SLA Explained and Key Components of SLA 

SLA, or Service Level Agreement, is a formal agreement around the service quality level and performance standards that a customer can expect from a call center. SLAs in call centers help guide management decisions and ensure that certain benchmarks are met and that customers receive a consistent and satisfactory experience.  

There are a variety of key components of an SLA in a call center – below are a few of the most common: 

Service Level Metrics: This specifies performance metrics, which can include response time, resolution time, abandonment rate, and customer satisfaction scores. These metrics help quantify the quality of service provided. 

Service Level Targets: These are the goals or benchmarks that the call center aims to achieve for each specific metric. For example, the SLA call center formula may define a target of answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds or resolving 90% of customer issues within one hour. 

Escalation Procedures: SLAs often include procedures for when service levels are not met. One example: if the call center consistently fails to meet response time targets, the SLA may outline a process for escalating the issue to higher levels of management or even terminating the contract. 

Legal and Compliance Considerations: Depending on the industry and regulatory requirements, there may be legal and compliance considerations that need to be addressed within the SLA, such as data privacy and security.

SLA Metrics and Measurements 

Below are some of the most common SLA call center metrics and their formulas. It’s important to regularly track and analyze these metrics to drive continuous improvement in call center operations. 

Service Level (SL) 

This percentage of calls answered within a specific time frame. This is typically stated as X% of calls answered in Y seconds. This is measured by calculating the number of calls answered within the defined timeframe divided by the total number of calls and multiplying by 100. 

First Call Resolution (FCR) 

The percentage of calls that are resolved without the need for the caller to make a follow-up call. This is measured by calculating the number of calls resolved on the first contact, then dividing by the total number of calls, and multiplying by 100. 

Average Handling Time (AHT) 

The average time it takes an agent to handle a call from start to finish, including hold time and after-call work. This is determined by taking the sum of the total time spent on all calls and dividing it by the total number of calls. 

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)  

A measure of customer satisfaction based on post-call surveys or feedback. This is typically measured by asking customers to rate their satisfaction on a scale (1-5, 1-7, etc.) with the average score calculated.  

Net Promoter Score (NPS)  

A metric that measures customer loyalty by asking how likely customers are to recommend your service to others. Like CSAT, this metric involves customer feedback on a scale (usually from 0 to 10) where respondents are categorized as Promoters (9-10), Passives (7-8), and Detractors (0-6). NPS is the percentage of Promoters minus the percentage of Detractors. 

Types of SLAs 

There are different types of SLAs in the call center, including: 

Response Time SLAs focus on the time it takes for a call center agent to answer an incoming call or respond to a customer’s inquiry. For example, the SLA may specify that 80% of calls must be answered within 20 seconds. 

Resolution Time SLAs set targets for how quickly call center agents should resolve customer issues or inquiries. This could include metrics like resolving 90% of cases within two hours or providing a first-call resolution rate of 75%. 

Service Availability SLAs are often used for call centers with 24/7 support and define the minimum percentage of time that the call center must be operational and ready to assist customers. For example, it might require the call center to be available 99.9% of the time. 

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) SLAs set targets for achieving a certain level of customer satisfaction, often measured through post-interaction surveys or feedback forms. For instance, the SLA might aim for a CSAT score of 85% or higher. 

Service Quality SLAs focus on the overall quality of service provided by call center agents, such as etiquette, knowledge, and adherence to scripts or guidelines. 

First-Call Resolution (FCR) SLAs measure the percentage of customer inquiries that are resolved on the first call without the need for follow-ups or escalations. The SLA may set a target FCR rate, such as 80%. 

Benefits of SLAs in a Call Center 

An SLA in a call center is tremendously beneficial. Overall, a call center SLA gives leaders a big picture of the customer experience and enables them to identify and address gaps. A call center SLA also ensures enhanced service quality, clear expectations for both clients and staff, better resource management, cost control, targeted performance monitoring, and ultimately, improved customer experience and retention rates.  

How to Improve SLAs in Your Call Center 

Improving SLAs in a call center is an ongoing task, but there are strategies to make this an attainable goal. We’ve shared a few top recommendations below: 

  • Clearly define SLAs. Make sure everyone in the call center understands these goals. 
  • Ensure that SLAs are realistic and achievable. If the goals of SLAs in the call center are too ambitious, this can lead to employee burnout and decreased customer satisfaction.
  • Invest in technology. Implement software that can help track and manage SLAs, such as workforce management tools and reporting and analytics solutions. 
  • Monitor performance. Real-time monitoring and reporting help keep a close eye on call center performance. Regularly review SLA call center metrics to identify trends and areas for improvement.
  • Train and coach agents. Meeting SLA call center goals starts with a well-trained frontline workforce. Explore tech platforms that leverage AI and provide targeted microlearning, augmented coaching, and fast training content creation.  
  • Empower agents. As part of training, empower agents with the authority and resources they need to resolve customer issues quickly and effectively, such as access to knowledge bases that enable them to meet SLAs. 
  • Implement quality assurance programs. Such programs help ensure that agents adhere to SLAs in the call center while providing excellent customer service. 
  • Recognize and reward. Give kudos to teams and individuals who consistently meet, exceed, and improve on call center SLAs. When addressing failures, focus on root causes and solutions rather than blame. 
  • Gamify the experience. Tying gamification to the employee experience, including learning and goals, helps motivate agents, keep them engaged in their work, and boost their performance.  
  • Create a culture of learning. Document and share best practices among your call center staff, and encourage employee contributions, where staff shares their own tips and tricks with colleagues. 

Watch the Centrical Employee eXperience Platform in action with a quick preview.  

Meet Centrical Сall Center Solutions — Deliver Daily Experiences That Make Your Agents Engaged and Effective 

The Centrical Employee Performance eXperience Platform delivers modern, scalable, and optimized solutions to boost SLA performance. Centrical also supports robust training and coaching programs with AI-powered, targeted microlearning and augmented coaching capabilities. The platform also provides Voice of Employee capabilities to gather agent feedback and helps enhance QA processes with customizable and personalized forms, advanced gamification, and a “single pane of glass” for score transparency.  Finally, Centrical helps make training material creation processes simple and efficient for admins with AI Microlearning capabilities.

Summary and Key Takeaways 

We’ve just covered some basics around SLAs in the call center, including SLA call center metrics and formulas, the benefits of an SLA in a call center, and some strategies to help call centers meet their SLAs. A few key takeaways: 

  • SLAs in a call center are an important part of conducting business. They help deliver a consistent customer experience that meets expectations, resulting in customer trust and retention. 
  • SLA call center metrics commonly include goals such as CSAT, NPS, FCR, AHT, and other KPIs that translate into a service level. Metrics should be clear to staff, realistic, and reachable. 
  • Top strategies for reaching SLA call center goals include training, guiding, and empowering agents, investing in the right technology, creating a culture of learning, and having a robust QA process in place. 

For over a decade, Centrical has helped leading organizations across industries and the globe meet and exceed their SLAs. Learn more about how our Employee eXperience Platform can help your organization with a quick preview, or by requesting your personalized demo today. 

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