What’s the Benchmark?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

Last year, in the post, Can You Prove It?, one of the call center evaluation methods mentioned was benchmarking.  The results of a properly conducted benchmarking analysis are a reliable gauge and reference point, quantifying your call center operation with respect to others.  For the call center industry, benchmarking is the process of comparing and contrasting measurable contact center metrics with the best-in-class performers from a peer group.

To illustrate, consider the eternal call center question, “What should my service level be?”  Most call center managers know that the answer to that question is 80-20, or 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds.  But what is the basis for this answer?  The truth is that no one really knows the origin of this “standard” or even if it is reliable or verifiable.  Yet the answer is so often bandied about, that its veracity is accepted as non-negotiable fact.

If it hasn’t already happened, your boss will someday ask about your service level — so you had better have an answer — other than the stock “80-20” response.  Even worse, your boss might inform you what service level you need to achieve to earn your next raise!  If his or her target service level is unattainable, you will need a quick and ready refutation.  Planning for this is essential.

The first step is to determine your call center’s current service level.  At first, this seems simple.  In reality, there are many issues, such as if early abandons will be considered, if automated call answering should count, and so forth.  The point is to agree on a standard methodology.

Once you know your service level, you need to compare it with the service levels of other call centers (who have measured theirs in the same manner).  But don’t look at the average; no one wants to work in an average call center.

The balanced, ideal solution is to consider those call centers with overall excellence and look at their service levels.  This “best-in-class” group is who you want to benchmark your self against, not only to develop a target service level, but also to contrast your entire operation.

Now you have a reasonable goal and the facts to back up.  Then only remaining step is to strive to reach it.

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