Everything You Need to Know about First Call Resolution and How to Improve It

To keep existing customers satisfied, a high level of call center service is extremely important. One of the key metrics to measuring customer satisfaction is FCR (First Call Resolution). It shows whether the customer’s problem or issue was resolved during the first interaction with company representatives. If the customer needs to make several calls in order to solve the problem, it leads to frustration and dissatisfaction. Let’s try to figure out how to make the FCR rate as high as possible.

What Is FCR and How to Calculate It

First Call (Contact) Resolution or FCR is a percentage measure that shows how many customer queries the call (contact) center managed to answer at the first time of asking.

How do you calculate this metric? There are various approaches so you can choose one that suits your business needs.

Call Centre Helper recommends using one of two formulas:

Another expert resource, Contact Babel, lists four methods on how to calculate FCR in their recent research The Inner Circle Guide to First-Contact Resolution:

  1. The total number of contacts resolved correctly on the first attempt divided by the total number of contacts in a given period of time
  2. The total number of contacts resolved correctly on the first attempt divided by the total number of contacts in a given period of time that can be resolved correctly on the first attempt
  3. The total number of contacts resolved correctly on the first attempt divided by the total number of first contacts
  4. The total number of contacts resolved correctly on the first attempt minus total contacts reopened, divided by the total number of first contacts

Why Is It Important?

After reading these formulas, you may think: “Is it necessary to calculate this tricky metric? My agents can’t fix everything with a magic wand!”. Yes, your agents aren’t wizards. But many customer requests don't require too much effort and can be solved quite quickly. Otherwise, your customers will lose their temper and go elsewhere. Moreover, a low FCR rate means that you may lose your agents as well. Why? Well, it’s hard to keep your cool when dealing with angry callers who contact you due to the same problems again and again. Also, a low FCR rate means extra spending on IP telephony because it is you who pays for inbound calls to your toll-free numbers.

Let’s take a look at these two graphs from Contact Babel’s research, mentioned above.

The first picture shows how business sees the FCR importance.

Figure 1. How the US (left) and the UK (right) businesses view FCR. Source: Contact Babel

As you can see, 42% of the US respondents put the first-time resolution in the first place and 24% consider it the 2nd most important factor to customers. In the UK these figures are 52% and 20% accordingly. Figure 2 shows us that customers’ view is somewhat different. Even in the youngest group (18-34 years old), more than half of the US respondents (53%) put FCR in the top three, while the older customers consider it even more important: in the oldest age group (65+) this number amounts to 71%. In the UK, these numbers are 47% and 44% among the youngest groups (16-24 and 25-34 accordingly) and 70% in the oldest age group (65+).

Figure 2. How the US (left) and the UK (right) customers view FCR. Source: Contact Babel

This gap may seem not so huge but only until you look at how the board or senior management perceives FCR. When they were asked to name a CX metric upon which they judge the success of the CX program, only 3% of them (6% in the UK) mentioned First Contact Resolution. Figure 3 shows that executives value the end product of the CX program - customer satisfaction (34% of respondents in the US and 36% in the UK) more than FCR although it’s one of its key drivers.

Figure 3. How the US (left) and the UK (right) board / senior management views FCR. Source: Contact Babel

What do all these numbers mean for you? First contact resolution is a really important factor for your customers. We live in a time-poor world where every call transfer, every extra minute we wait on hold matters. If your customers see that you value their time and don’t make them contact you time and again on the same matter, they’re more likely to stay with you. That’s why your business should pay attention to FCR and track it regularly. One of the ways to succeed in doing this is using efficient call center software.

How to Collect Data for FCR

Another question that arises as soon as you want to calculate the FCR rate in your call center is how to collect data. To find out how many customer queries were resolved first-time is not so easy as it may seem. You can use different methods like:

  • Agent feedback / Logging. Agents ask customers if they resolved their issue or if customers called about it previously. After that, they mark each call with a relevant disposition code. Also, agents can tag repeat calls in the CRM system which can then be reported upon. This way of determining FCR may seem the most accurate one but you should use other methods as well. Firstly, your customers may not want to come across as impolite even though they aren’t satisfied with the response. Secondly, if their problem requires extra steps to solve they won’t know whether it’s been resolved at the end of the call. And finally, agents could abuse their right to mark calls as resolved (especially, if they are rewarded for high FCR).
  • Post-call surveys. This type of survey is typically used for measuring customer satisfaction when a customer is asked to evaluate the quality of service. However, it can help you in collecting data for FCR as well. For example, you can use outbound automated surveys when a customer’s phone number is put into an outbound dialer’s queue, which calls them and offers an IVR survey. All they need to do is to choose one of the options from the IVR menu. This survey saves you time and resources as your employees don’t need to be involved. It’s also highly accepted by customers: according to Contact Babel’s report, the acceptance rate is up to 70% if a call-back is made in minutes. Another option is SMS sending. Text messages don’t require too much time to answer, so customers accept such post-call surveys as well. Other types of post-call surveys include system-generated emails, web forms, outbound agents’ calls, automated IVR surveys at the end of the call.
  • Quality monitoring and assurance. Call monitoring tools give your managers a range of opportunities to control call quality. For example, the Voiptime Cloud call center solution offers you quality cards that can be easily created based on your criteria. Your quality team can score calls based on whether they have been resolved first-time by simply adding a new block to a card’s template. However, this method should be combined with other ways of data collection because it’s impossible to listen to 100% of recorded calls.
  • Interaction analytics. It means an automatic evaluation of calls by using natural language processing. With interaction analytics, you can search for keywords and phrases like “called before” to find the conversations where callers have indicated that they have called earlier. Further analysis will help you to find how FCR can be improved by optimizing processes outside the call center.
  • Tracking of reopened issues. Some workforce optimization solutions allow you to count calls from the same phone number, customer account, or ticket number within a specific amount of time. This feature can provide the basis for FCR figures but you should take into account that some customers may contact you for different reasons.
  • Repeat contact reasons. This method means that you create individual FCR rates at a contact reason level - billing, fulfillment, etc. - through analyzing the CRM system. It allows businesses to achieve two goals: to see if their focus on fixing the broken processes works at an issue level; to define whether the problem is at an agent level or a process level.

As you can see, you have a range of data collection methods that can give you some material for FCR calculations. We recommend using at least a couple of them to get more accurate results. And after getting these results and calculating your FCR rate, move to the next step - improving it.

How to Improve FCR in Your Call Center. Best Practices

1. Create a checklist

Although there is some common definition of First Call Resolution, you should specify it for your business. Here is a possible checklist from Contact Babel:

  • Does a fully resolved contact mean that the issue was closed and that the customer satisfied with the response? (e.g. a customer turned down for a bank loan is unlikely to rate themselves as being satisfied with how the call was handled)
  • How do you wish to classify calls where a supervisor joined the conversation or otherwise coached within the call?
  • How do you wish to classify calls that were transferred to another agent within the same tier?
  • How do you wish to classify calls that are transferred to an agent in a higher tier?
  • How do you wish to classify calls where the caller contacted the wrong department and has been transferred?
  • What about calls that are abandoned by the customer in the IVR or phone queue?
  • For emails: is there a maximum number of emails in a conversation before the contact is marked as not having been resolved first-time?

2. Find the reasons for repeat calls

Once you’ve detected repeat calls, it’s time to figure out why customers contact you again. According to a business consultant Stephen Perry, 50-70% of incoming customer contacts may be caused by a failure within systems and products. For example, if many customers call into the wrong department, there may be some problems with IVR settings. If you have many escalated calls, your agents may need additional training or greater empowerment. Sure, repeat calls aren’t always your contact center’s fault. The root of the problem may be in other departments as well so be ready for lots of communication and cooperation.

3. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes

How do your customers feel when contacting your company? You’ll never know that until you try. Such occasional calls to your contact center will allow you to see your company from a customer’s perspective. You can spot the most common IVR mistakes, weak points in a call script, assess the level of agents’ training, and so on. That, in turn, can be the reason for a low FCR rate.

4. Keep the balance between different metrics

No metric is an island. Too much focus on FCR may have adverse effects on other KPIs. Your agents will spend too much time to make sure that the issue is 100% resolved that may affect Average Handle Time (AHT), queue lengths, cost per call, and call abandonment rates. In their research, Contact Babel recommends tracking both FCR and AHT in a call center that may help you to identify the most inefficient processes or contact reasons.

5. Gather feedback from agents

Ask your agents about the issues your customers contact again and again. Their answers may shed light on low FCR reasons. They should have a good understanding of what’s going wrong but many companies underestimate them as a source of information.

6. Deliver quality training

Cross-train your agents as widely as possible. They should have comprehensive knowledge of your products and services as well as an understanding of what other departments actually do. Decent training gives them more confidence and makes them more able to meet customer expectations.

7. Update your knowledge base regularly

No training can replace the core of your support effort - a knowledge base. Regardless of target users (customers or employees) it has to be user-friendly and informative. Your agents have to be informed about new caller issues and ways of handling them, new product launches, marketing campaigns, changes in pricing, and other company policies that may cause questions from customers.

8. Leverage self-service options

Such self-service options as the IVR menu, chatbot, or FAQ section on your website will help you to reduce the number of simple and repetitive questions. It allows your employees to focus on tasks that require their involvement. However, it also means that your agents have to handle only the most difficult requests that, in turn, may affect your FCR as well.

9. Build better links with the marketing department

We’ve mentioned that your agents have to be informed about all the changes in company policies that may affect them. However, it’s quite a common situation when a call center learns about a new marketing campaign from...customers. It puts extra pressure on agents and harms your brand image. The close cooperation and constant communication between these two departments are therefore extremely important.

10. Keep your employees motivated

When your agents are motivated they will be more eager to assist your customers. And one of the best ways to increase their motivation is financial rewards for meeting KPI targets. Unfortunately, as the Contact Babel research shows, many contact centers don't take FCR into account when rewarding their customer-facing employees financially. The average number of those who do it is 15% in the US and 11% in the UK. It gives you the chance to stand out from the competition. However, FCR should be only one of the metrics used to reward agents. Otherwise, it may be skewed to boost earnings.

Conclusion

First call resolution rate is one of the most important call center KPIs. Its neglect can harm your customer satisfaction and, as a result, on your bottom line. Fortunately, efficient call center software can help you to significantly improve your FCR. Contact us and we will be more than happy to help you.

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