First Call Resolution: Difficult to measure, dangerous to ignore

Getting precise measurements on First Call Resolution (FCR) is about as easy as getting work-at-home agents to shower on a daily basis. The good news? Neither are essential for optimum contact center performance and customer experiences.

Callers don’t know and don’t care if an agent hasn’t changed out of his pajamas in three days, provided said agent provides courteous, efficient and effective service. And callers don’t care if your center knows how to precisely measure FCR – they just want you to achieve it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can just sweep FCR measurement under the rug. You still need to make an effort to gauge where your contact center is at with FCR in order to know if you’re getting better or worse at achieving it (you know, the whole “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” cliché).

Unfortunately, because FCR is such a difficult metric to measure, many managers just throw their arms up in frustration and ask rhetorically, “What’s the use in trying?”

The connection between First Call Resolution and customer satisfaction

I’ll tell you what the use in trying is: Few other contact center metrics have as big an impact on Customer Satisfaction. A study conducted by Customer Relationship Metrics found that “CSAT ratings will be 35%-45% lower when a second call is made for the same issue.” Another study, conducted by Service Quality Measurement Group, revealed that for every 1% improvement in FCR, you get a 1% improvement in CSAT. Findings from a study on FCR conducted by ICMI further support that claim: More than three in four study respondents that reported an increase in FCR over the previous 12 months indicated a resulting increase in CSAT.

Add to all this the fact that improving FCR lowers operational costs (fewer callbacks = less $) and decreases agent burnout (fewer callbacks = fewer customer tirades), and it’s pretty easy to see “what the use in trying” is.

The main point is this: It doesn’t matter that precise FCR measurement is next to impossible; what matters is that you keep digging at it to get close – and keep implementing improvement initiatives to continuously drive the FCR rate up (and customer dissention, agent attrition and overall costs down).

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Some effective First Call Resolution measurement methods

Top customer care organizations use a combination of measurement methods to ‘catch FCR at all angles’ and, thus, arrive at what is the most accurate rate possible.

Among the various FCR measurement methods are:

Repeat-call tracking technology – tracks whether or not a customer calls the contact center a second (or third or fourth…) time regarding an issue they previously called about. While this technology is a very useful tool, it’s not the be all and end all in in FCR measurement, as some customers may not call back even if their issue wasn’t resolved. For instance, they might instead contact the center via another channel (e.g., email, chat, social media), or perhaps even defect to the competition out of frustration.

Post-call customer surveys – conducted (via IVR, live surveyor, or email) immediately or very soon after a call and asking the customer whether or not the their issue or inquiry was taken care of completely. This is an effective, customer-centric FCR measurement method, but relying solely on surveys won’t provide the most complete FCR picture possible. For one, not all customers (not even CLOSE to all) opt to complete post-call surveys. Secondly, often a caller will think their issue was fully resolved during a call and will indicate so on the survey, but then the agent or somebody else doesn’t follow through with what needs to be done to complete the resolution, resulting in a later callback.

Quality monitoring – entails having internal quality monitoring staff listen to and rate the call as “resolved” or “unresolved” (as well as to confirm that it was the caller’s first contact with the contact center on the issue in question). The trouble with this measurement method is that it fails to take into consideration a crucial component: the customer’s perspective. Only the customer really knows if their issue has been completely resolved. Having internal QA folks deem whether FCR has occurred requires a judgment call – really just an educated guess.

First Call Resolution improvement initiatives

In addition to utilizing all three (or at least the first two) of the above measurement methods to get a good idea of where things stand FCR-wise, top contact centers conduct root cause analysis (often using speech analytics) to gain insight into when and why FCR isn’t happening. Armed with such data and insight, the center is able to implement focused FCR improvement initiatives.

Such initiatives typically entail:

Educating staff on the importance and impact of FCR. FCR won’t magically improve because you want it to or because you simply start measuring it. Agents need to know what FCR means and understand how improving it will not only enhance the customer experience, but also reduce agents’ urge to cut themselves on calls and during breaks.

Providing agents with the training and resources to effectively resolve contacts.Even if staff fully understand the importance of FCR and how it impacts them, if they lack the skills and knowledge to resolve calls, or lack immediate access to the information needed to do so, your FCR rate is going to be lower than Tiger Woods’ typical score on a front nine.

Ensuring that there are no conflicting performance objectives hindering FCR achievement. Making FCR a key performance goal in your center but then punishing agents for not handling a certain number of calls per hour, or for going a little over the desired AHT average, will hinder your center’s chances of achieving FCR success and enhance the chances of an agent strangling you with his or her headset cord.

Empowering agents to improve FCR-related processes.Your agents know customers and customer care better than anyone, assuming your hiring and training programs don’t blow. Smart managers actively solicit suggestions and insight from agents regarding how to enhance FCR performance.

Given the opportunity, agents will tell you what tools, training and workflows are lacking. They’ll also tell you what processes, metrics and torture devices are interfering with their ability to effectively resolve customer issues.

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