Seven Tips To Build An SLA For Your Call Center Service Provider

For a call center or a contact center, SLA is an important document. Service Level Agreement (SLA) is the commitment to the client by the contact center provider. The commitment to maintain a certain standard of service during the tenure of the engagement. SLA also defines the extent of accessibility of a contact center to their client. As a result, whenever clients execute the agreement with a contact center, the SLA is documented in bold. Service Level creates a huge influence on the overall service quality, which in turn directly influences the revenue of the client & call center provider. So, if your call center service provider has been showing trends of breaching terms of SLA, then it means that service standard is not in accordance with documented SLA. Before it gets worse, you can follow the tips given below to build an SLA. These tips could be also used for creating SLA from scratch.

1. Assessment of current requirement: You have to develop an estimation based on the current requirements. For example, how many customers you have? How many calls expected in a week, month and quarter? What will be the required headcount to service the calls? What will be the duration of service availability? These are some of the basic estimations you have to make, which will help you to build the SLA for the call center service provider. In case you have already created an SLA but it was not effective, then probably you need to take stock of the current situation. It is possible that the mentioned estimations have changed, and now created SLA is no longer effective. For example, customer base grew and as a result, even call volume grew. In this case either you can make some changes to existing SLA or create a new one based on key estimations. One of the best ways to overcome an ineffective SLA is to survey the customers which will let you know about the shortcomings in service.

2. Assess the capacity of the call center service provider: In case your existing SLA has been ineffective or you are building up a new one from scratch, you need to assess the overall capacity of the call center service provider. This includes workforce availability, quality of service, hours of operation, analysis of historical data. You might ask for unclassified reports which will show the historic call volume trends, along with the call handled during a particular period, historic data on service level, agent availability, agent logging time, agent talk time. These reports will help you to understand, that whether the current workforce of the call center provider can handle the given SLA or not. Alternately, based on these reports you can set a realistic SLA. In case the SLA has not been effective, these reports will help you to analyze where it has actually failed. In other words, you can actually do a root cause analysis if an existing SLA has been ineffective.

3. Realistic and Achievable: Just imagine, what an unrealistic SLA can do? It can kill the service quality completely. It can degrade the overall performance, and at last, you will have only dissatisfied customers. An unrealistic SLA could be something like 95 percent of calls should be answered within 20 seconds of landing. Now, this is going to be difficult. It might be achievable in a shorter term, but in a long run, this is going to be simply unachievable. Another an example will be picking up the call within 5 seconds of landing. One or two times, an agent might be able to answer the call within 5 seconds of landing, but can that be maintained for a quarter or a complete year. The answer is no. It is not possible. Moreover, this kind of unrealistic targets put a lot of pressure on the agents or the employees, and as a result, their performance degrades as well. As a best practice, always consider the call forecast trends and agents available for setting the SLA. This will help you to set a realistic as well as achievable SLA.

4. The proper definition of terms & conditions in agreement: Before commencing the operations, the client executes an agreement with the call center service provider. Clearly define which are the services which will be provided by the call center, and the ones which will not be included. This would mean that SLA will be applicable only on those services. Apart from that the service availability needs to be defined, that means the hours of availability, whether it will be available after hours or not, whether availability will be there during holidays or not etc. The penalty clause should be clearly defined and communicated to the call center provider. This would mean that if the SLA level drops to the mentioned percentage in the agreement, then the service provider has to pay penalty. A penalty clause is important, as it keeps a check on the SLA.

5. Optimization of the Occupancy Rate: Occupancy rate is the amount of time an agent spends on call and after call work (like updating notes, creating records on CRM tools, updating existing records etc.). The SLA is inversely proportional to the occupancy rate. If the occupancy rate is high then it means fewer agents are available for calls, and the caller has to wait in the queue. This ultimately lowers the SLA. Training the agents, providing them on-call support and timely interventions can reduce the occupancy rate and improve the SLA.

6. Define proper procedures: A complete set of procedures need to be defined, which needs to be followed right from the time the call has landed. This is also known as SOP or Standard Operating Procedure. SOP needs to be designed in such a way so that it optimizes the SLA. Also, the escalation process should be defined in case the SLA falls below the documented level.

7. Improvements in Call Forecasting: Proper, if not accurate call forecasting always help to maintain the SLA. If the forecasting is not correct, it can result in a spike of call volume thus lowering the SLA. Consider the key inputs for forecasting, such as upcoming product promotions and event, holiday seasons, industry trends, sudden changes in the environment etc. A comprehensive call forecast ensures proper availability, which in turn help in maintaining the SLA.

Service level agreement legally binds the service provider and the client, that functions as enforcement on the service provider to maintain the agreed level of service. Hence, it is extremely important to build up the SLA before the commencement of operations and execute it in form of an agreement between the two parties. The client sets his expectation to the service provider in the form of an SLA, while the service provider becomes aware of the client’s expectation. Hence, it could be said that SLA forms an important entity of call center operations, and it also provides a layout to the overall service structure.

Source: http://www.callcentertimes.com/Articles/tabid/59/ctl/NewsArticle/mid/407/CategoryID/1/NewsID/21777/Default.aspx

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