What Are Service Level Objectives?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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Service level objectives are measurable performance indicators that are often included as a part of a service level agreement. These agreements are usually made between two businesses that enter into some sort of partnership with each other. This is often seen in the customer contact center and call center outsourcing industry, where one business operates as the other's customer care department.

Since many of these call centers are responsible for delivering service and support to the clients' customers, the service level agreement establishes acceptable performance targets that are otherwise referred to as service level objectives. In the case of a call center, one of those objectives may be that a certain percentage of incoming calls is answered within a certain period of time. For example, one of the service level objectives may state that 70 percent of calls need to be answered within 20 seconds.

This type of service level objective refers to how long customers must wait on hold before they reach a live customer service agent. In an inbound call center, calls will line up in a queue. Agents are typically notified when queues begin to back up beyond acceptable service level standards. This may prompt them to become more efficient in resolving the calls. In order to keep customers from becoming irate, the wait time for the majority of inbound calls needs to be kept at a minimum.


In a call center scenario, the objectives help both the vendor and the client determine how many agents are needed at different periods of the workday. It helps guide decisions about the number of people to hire, how many types of agents are needed, and when breaks and lunches can be scheduled. Call volume spikes are monitored and observed in order to determine if staffing levels need to be adjusted.

Not all service level objectives are quantitative or numbers based. For example, the quality of customer service that is provided during customer contact may be an additional stipulation that is outlined in the service level agreement. First call resolution, taking ownership of the call, adhering to established policies and procedures within reason, and documenting essential pieces of the conversation may be additional objectives.

Most often, vendors or outsource companies are rated on their ability to perform according to service level objectives. Whether the client continues to allow the vendor to handle its business following the end of a contract period may be dependent upon the vendor's performance. If the vendor fails to meet the objectives that are spelled out in the service level agreement, the vendor may lose the client's account.


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