First Call Resolution Rate: the Most Complete Guide

Customer service quality can be easily measured and tracked with the help of specific contact center metrics that point to problems and imperfections in your customer service strategy and performance. These metrics are closely connected to such factors as customer expectations, service level, and potential customer retention and customer lifetime value. Thus, these metrics can help you to find out where you have to move, what you must change, and what you should implement. Anyhow, there are always metrics that can be classified as more important and less important. By the way, it will be more precise if we say that there are more wide-covering metrics that point to the most important aspects of customer service, and others, more specific, that point to efficiency of each single process.  The main metric of customer service is customer experience. In short, it consists of four main metrics: Customer Effort Score, Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, and finally, First Call Resolution(FCR) rate(often named as First Contact Resolution rate). This fourth metric is our topic for today. Why first contact resolution rate, not something else, like DSAT or CES scores?  Firstly, FCR rate is the main influential aspect on customer satisfaction, that’s what makes customers happy. Secondly, it is also the key to a low customer effort score. Finally, the highest industry standard and the main goal for every customer service department is one call resolution and first contact resolution rate over 85%. Isn’t this enough to take a closer look at FCR rate? Numerous queries remain unanswered - what is first call resolution, what is FCR meaning in call center, what is first call resolution industry standard, and what are effective first call resolution tips? You ask - and we provide answers.

What is the first call resolution definition?

First call resolution (FCR) definition can be described as: the overall number of customer questions or complaints resolved during the first contact. Thus, the higher the FCR rate is, the more satisfied customers are. 

FCR rate has an easy formula: (number of customer calls resolved during the first contact/overall number of customer calls) • 100 = FCR rate.

The FCR rate industry standard isn’t universal and the rule “one score for all occurences” doesn’t work here, no matter what some specialists say. Yes, there is a position that the FCR rate should be between 75% and 80% for all industries, but nothing in this world is so simple. For eCommerce and logistics FCR rate can be even higher, over 85%, while for more complicated industries, such as high-tech, healthcare, financial services, and so on, FCR rate that is lower than 75% is absolutely normal. Another influential factor is the number of complicated customer requests- if there are more than 30% of such requests, FCR rate will also be lowerWhat makes FCR rate calculating and tracking a challenging task?

Seems like FCR rate calculating, tracking, and management isn’t a very difficult task, isn’t it? But look closer - nothing is as easy as it seems to be. First of all, let’s say that even though the FCR rate formula looks simple, we still don’t have exact and precise answers to some vital questions that can determine all the customer experience (CX) strategy and its implementation. 

So, when can we say that a customer request is totally resolved? The answer could sound as “Well, when the root cause of the customer problem is no more and the customer says “Yeah, all is alright, thanks”. Is it really how it should work? Absolutely not. 

Let’s answer another question, that determines the right answer for the previous one - who decides when a request is solved? Customer? Agent? Call center manager? All of them? Or maybe the SLA paragraphs? 

The true question is that you have to achieve synergy between customer expectations and customer satisfaction and your objectives in business strategy and its level of quality. Thus, when a customer says that an issue is resolved, you also have to understand that they are satisfied with the process of resolution, not only with the fact of it. Has the customer service agent been kind and careful, was the resolution time fast and comfortable for the customer, did you send a follow-up message - all these factors are important, not only the fact that you resolved the issue from the first try. 

There are also situations where agents are trained to achieve the highest FCR rate scores, and they hurry up and use all possible tricks to close a request during the first contact - no matter the cost. Even with an FCR rate over 80%, contact one call center of this kind of FCR rate hunters and you will see that the word “customer service” is absolutely unfamiliar to them. Is it worth the consequences? 

Also, you have to decide whether to include or not such factors as outbound callbacks, dropped calls, call escalations\call transfers, and customer contacts in other contact channels as parts of the FCR rate calculation? We can only state that there are different approaches to this common issue: ones count those kinds of contact, others don’t. Finally, it’s your choice how to count the FCR metric, but generally accepted strategy covers only inbound calls and contacts via other initial contact channels - all what’s besides this approach is your personal responsibility.

 

Benefits of improving a FCR rate

We have already stated that the first call resolution (FCR) rate is an extremely important part of CX strategies, and basically one of the main components of customer experience itself. But what are the measurable benefits of improving the first call resolution (FCR) rate in your contact center? What can you earn from it? 

Spoiler: more than you could expect. 

Higher customer retention

What is the most important thing for any business to keep scaling up, get more revenue and stay stable in any circumstances? Customer retention. It is stated numerous times, in numerous studies, that customer retention is up to 25 times cheaper than customer acquisition. Well, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to acquire customers anymore, but paying attention to customer retention is the only way to become successful, and what’s more important, retaining the success of your business. 

Why is first call resolution rate (FCR) so crucial for improving customer retention rate? Firstly, customers don’t want to spend much time on resolving their issues or getting needed service - and the first call resolution (FCR) rate is a synonym to saving customers’ time. Secondly, first call resolution (FCR) shows customer care - and who leaves the business that cares about its customers? Finally, there are not that many firms on the market who can provide stable FCR services - and that means you can overplay many competitors by showing an unreachable level of customer service. 

Increased customer satisfaction

What satisfies customers? Careful service, fast service, effortless service, and finally, non-annoying service. Now think about what connects all these characteristics - maybe, first call resolution (FCR) rate, doesn’t it? 

Customers are tired from lazy, inflexible service that can’t adapt to their needs and wishes, as well as it can do almost nothing but consume valuable time. After all, what does any customer dream about when calling a call center? We bet that not about three call transfers, one “link me to your manager” and zero issue resolution at the end. 

Another important point is to collect customer feedback, both positive and negative. You can do it via phone survey, web forms, or any other way, but remember the main tip - the only way to get the true customer satisfaction rate is to ask your clients about it.

Lower customer effort

What makes service effortful? A need to repeat or just do unneeded tasks, spend hours on being transferred from agent to agent, and inability to get the service in expected way. It is quite easy - when you offer to reduce overall resolution time by providing a high first call resolution (FCR) rate, you reduce customer effort during customer interactions. 

Customers are more and more willing to get effortless service, automated, fast, and effective. What can be more effective and fast than resolving customer issues during a first contact in every single interaction? 

Better agent performance and faster professional growth

Let’s be honest, if you set a goal for agents to solve 85% of customer problems during first contact, they will have to do their best to reach this objective. Not every agent can be that effective in providing FCR customer service as you can guess - some workers just can’t be as adaptive and flexible as needed. 

Moreover, the first call resolution (FCR) call center metric is often difficult to reach in some industries - if we talk about high scores, from 80% and higher.  Imagine that a customer calls and says that his purchased software doesn’t work, but the real reason for the problem is that you have server maintenance going on and it will not end until tomorrow. Moreover, a customer says that he needs the working tool here and now because it is needed to close a vital business deal. Is it possible to solve the trouble within a first contact, especially if an inexperienced agent has taken up the phone? 

Anyhow, it is normal to have 15-25% of customer inquiries unresolved, and in some cases this percentage can be even higher. By the way, all businesses are different, and this doesn’t mean that having a first call resolution rate lower than 75% in an architectural agency is a bad thing - just the industry is too specific to be measured with generally accepted industry standards. 

Money saving

Surprise! Isn’t it? You could think that investing in a higher first call resolution rate means spending on agent training, investing in more advanced software tools, reviewing your SLA or involving an outsourcing call center, but that’s not the case. 

By decreasing the number of calls you have to process on the path to providing a great customer service experience and resolving a customer issue, you decrease costs. Sounds obvious, isn’t it? But not every manager takes this factor into account when building a customer experience strategy. 

Now we will show you a little calculation. If you need three calls on average to resolve a customer issue, and the cost of each call is X dollars, how strongly will the cost of resolutions decrease if you achieve a two times boost in first call resolution rate? You can easily predict the answer. 

How to improve first call resolution rate?

Now we have moved to the most interesting part of the story. You know what first call resolution is, you know what FCR acronym is, and you know that first call resolution (FCR) is beneficial for your business. But what is the secret of a high FCR rate? Is it possible to achieve it without investing thousands of dollars and hiring new experienced agents?

Spoiler: yes, it is easier than you could imagine. 

Train your agents

First of all, let’s say the truth - first call resolution depends on the person who handles the first call. Who is it? You call center agents, who face a difficult task - handle the customer calls and resolve them from the first try. Ask yourself - are all of your contact center agents ready for such a task at this moment? The answer can be a bit upsetting. 

But there is no situation that has no way out of it. Agent training and coaching is the best way to let agents understand their task, show the ways to tackle this task and help them gain all needed skills to deal with this task. Main agent skills that are needed for a high first call resolution rate include:

  • Adaptability - a skill that allows agents to talk to customers in the way customers talk to them;
  • Conflict resolution - ability to deal with conflict situations without unneeded escalation
  • Empathy - empathy is needed to avoid conflicts and make customers more “soft” and ready to cooperate;
  • Communication skills - sometimes it is needed to have a small talk when another specialist is dealing with the issue. Won’t the agents be silent for a few minutes, will they?
  • Stress resistance - some customers can destroy even the most positive person’s day. Agents should know how to keep their emotions under control and deal with stress and angry customers.

Self-service options

What if we look at the first call resolution strategy from another perspective? Let’s think about it - first call resolution rate depends on the number of calls, doesn’t it? What if the number of calls reduces? It will reduce the chance of getting a customer call that won’t be resolved from the first try - and that means that the FCR rate won’t be lowered. 

What can reduce the number of calls? There are some different ways to answer this question, but the best option is to implement a few self-service tools in different contact channels to let customers deal with their problems on their own.

We have to say that letting customers deal with their issues without your help isn’t bad - customers love self-servicing, and this is proven by many studies. But what self-service tools can you use?

  • IVR system - a well-known solution to not only route calls, but provide self-service information via menu sections.
  • Chatbots - a fastest in response online service that is loved by younger customers.
  • Knowledge bases - a useful tool both for customers and agents to get answers to any questions about products and services, company, and so on. 
  • Video manuals - an entertaining way to provide useful information to your customers. Isn’t it better to watch videos on YouTube than reading a long article? 

Use intelligent call routing tools

What determines the success or failure of a call? Agent’s skills and professionalism, as we have already mentioned. But what if the call is just linked to an inappropriate agent? What if this agent is good at handling refund requests, but bad in technical issues processing? Is an agent a bad specialist? No. Will the call be resolved during first contact? It is doubtful whether. 

But there is a solution that can eliminate such situations and link calls only to appropriate agents who are best-fitting to each exact situation. This solution is called smart call routing, and it exists in a few types of implementation. Intelligent call routing can be skill-based routing, priority-based routing, or just cycle-based routing. 

First type of routing routes calls based on agent skills set and its compatibility to the nature of customer request. For instance, if the agent is a technical specialist, and a customer calls with the issue of a software bug, linking this customer to this agent will be justified.

Second type works based on each customer’s priority. Customers are divided into groups, like VIP clients, common customers, first-time customers, and so on, and agent groups are also divided to handle each group of customers. 

Cycle routing isn’t an intelligent type of routing, it works as it is called - agents are handling calls in turn, and when the cycle is over, the process repeats itself. 

Intelligent call routing will not work without two main systems - IVR solution and ACD(Automatic Call Distribution) system. The IVR system gathers info about customer queries based on the customer's menu selections, and ACD performs the routing process itself after getting this data from the IVR solution.

Conclusion

As you can see, FCR rate is really important to improve customer experience, boost customer loyalty, decrease customer churn, and save some money too. But to boost the first call resolution rate, you need some tools that can provide smart call routing, collect customer data, and help you train agents. After all, a high FCR rate is unachievable without the right software tools - but where to get them?

Good news is that all needed tools can be purchased as an all-in-one solution, called cloud-based contact center solution. Besides FCR rate-boosting tools, you will also get outbound dialers, reporting and monitoring tools, and third-party software integration capabilities, such as CRM system integration. Want to know where such a diamond is hidden? We’ll answer - it can be found exactly with this link. 

 



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