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What is first call resolution? Benefits, challenges, examples, & best practices for improving FCR


The Team at CallMiner

September 24, 2019

Smiling beautiful black businesswoman working in call center as a customer service agent with her multiethnic team
Smiling beautiful black businesswoman working in call center as a customer service agent with her multiethnic team

Updated May 31, 2022

Definition of First Call Resolution

First-call resolution (FCR) is an important call center performance metric and element of customer relationship management (CRM). The term is self-explanatory: a contact center’s ability to resolve customer problems, questions or needs the first time they call, with no follow-up required.

FCR not only helps gauge customer satisfaction – the higher your first-call resolution rate, the more satisfied your customers tend to be – and, as a result, drive customer loyalty, but also measures your agents’ efficiency and, ultimately, acts as an important factor in contact center profitability.

Often, FCR metrics are considered along with talk time (the average time spent on a customer call). High FCR rates, paired with low talk time, is a common goal for contact centers.

How to Improve First Call Resolution

Research from The Ascent Group shows that 60% of companies that measure FCR for 1+ year report a 1 to 30% improvement in their performance. And that doesn’t even touch on improvements to the customer experience.

Download our report on how to improve first-contact resolution and begin improving contact center efficiency and customer satisfaction!

The key to improving first-call resolution is vigilance. You must evaluate current FCR, develop achievable goals, and then put a plan into place. After your plan is in place, it’s important to be attentive, measure performance, and track your metrics.

  • Set Program Goals: Your steering committee should define FCR goals and desired outcomes.
  • Train your Agents: After setting goals, agent training is the most important step in achieving improved FCR.
  • Track Performance: Continuously!
  • Measure on Multiple Channels: A high FCR on phone calls, but a low FCR on chats does not a good overall FCR make. Make sure you’re measuring across all contact channels.
  • Develop Incentive Programs: Agent incentive plans encourage agents to work harder to resolve issues the first time.
  • Set Realistic Customer Expectations: Updated wait times, backlog reports, monitored turnaround – these help set realistic customer expectations [so they’re not expecting resolution in a day, when the standard is, say, a week].

Examples of Improved First Call Resolution

Speech analytics can have a great impact on FCR. Take this example: Aberdeen published a benchmark study in which it tracked two groups of contact centers: the “leaders,” which represented the top 30% of the sampled group, and the “followers,” which were defined as the bottom 70%.

Surprisingly (but not), the Leaders using speech analytics averaged a 76% first-call resolution rate; comparatively, the Followers had a 23% average FCR.

So, what is it about speech analytics that helps to improve FCR rates? Simply put, FCR can be a tough call center KPI to track: How do you determine whether an issue is fully resolved during the first contact? Enter speech analytics, which capture real conversation, integrate speech with caller identifiers, and in that way correlate repeat calls with specific agents, products, or issues. By identifying the reasons behind repeat contact, you can then take action to resolve these underlying issues that affect FCR and the entire customer experience.

Download our whitepaper, 10 Ways Speech Analytics Empowers the Entire Enterprise, to learn more about how speech analytics can empower not only your call center, but your enterprise as a whole.

Benefits of Improved First Call Resolution

The primary benefit to tracking FCR is the ability to identify issues that lower FCR rates, and then resolve them. Fewer issues mean better FCR rates and, at the end of the day, improved FCR means happier customers.

In addition to customer satisfaction, improving contact center FCR is directly related to improved agent performance, and therefore increased efficiency and business performance.

Challenges of Improving First Call Resolution

As with many contact center metrics, the challenges of improving FCR reside in the how? How can you identify room for improvement and when you do, how can you improve FCR?

Again, this is where technology comes into play. Gone are they days (or, at least, gone they should be) when agents themselves input resolution statuses after a call. Today, through the use of speech analytics, customer feedback, and other tech, you can streamline how your contact center collects, understands, and responds to raw data on FCR. Then, you can make a plan (see “How to Improve FCR,” above).

Best Practices for First Call Resolution

When it comes to first-call resolution, it boils down to consistency. Once you understand your FCR goals, know how to track FCR properly, and have a plan to improve, you have laid solid groundwork. From there, encourage your contact center follows first call resolution best practices, so your goals stay current and realistic:

  1. Look at the Whole Picture: Remember that your customers don’t just call you on the phone; they’re engaged in an omnichannel journey, from email and chat, to social media and self-service options. Define FCR goals for each channel, and assign agents with expertise and FCR ability in each of those channels.
  2. Leverage Interaction Analytics: Put interaction analytics, and especially speech analytics, in place, and you’ll have immediate insight into customer-agent communications across channels.
  3. Respond and React to Your Customers: Customer feedback is your key to improving agent performance, boosting the customer experience, and in the process, improving FCR. Collect customer opinions via social media, surveys, and other methods, and then leverage that feedback to improve policies and refine goals.

Tips for Improving First Call Resolution

Even while following the best practices for first-call resolution, you’ll find that the metric may still be improved. Even if a call center is performing well, bettering FCR can help your team reach new heights of customer satisfaction.

Here is a short list of tips for improving your FCR.

Find common issues for delayed resolution

There are issues which may not reach a resolution on the first call. For instance, an outage for a phone company. If a customer calls with an unexplained outage, it will likely take a couple of calls to get a technician scheduled. That said, many issues can be alleviated once identified as common.

To use the same example, a phone company can employ a call-back system to alert customers once issues have been resolved — reducing the number of customers who would need a second call.

Use segmentation to filter common issues

Once you’ve identified those issues, it’s a good idea to segment calls that may require more than one call to reach resolution. Having dedicated processes and team members to handle these issues, may reduce the number of calls while improving your overall customer satisfaction for these tougher issues.

Take more off of a customer’s plate

It’s always a great idea to remove the number of steps it takes for customers to resolve an issue. While some steps are often necessary like call routing, extra steps should only be included when it reduces overall call time. A phone company that offers a call back when service is restored or when an appointment is booked is a fitting example of reducing customer workload.

Measure FCR performance

Measurement has been mentioned multiple times in this article, because you can’t objectively improve what you aren’t tracking. While FCR is somewhat difficult to attract, using omnichannel contact center software and regularly reviewing the metrics works.

The data from measuring first call resolution can be used to:

  • Set goals for FCR improvement
  • Improve training and correction of agents
  • Highlight issues in the overall call center process

Avoid transfers as much as possible

Moving from one agent or department to another, even in the most well-run call centers, will result in a number of issues. These issues are the exception, not the rule. However, every switch of the phone line potentially risks decreased customer satisfaction and worse FCR stats.

For instance, switching lines:

  • Causes some customers to hang up, depending on the amount of wait time between agents
  • Could result in sending the caller to the wrong department, either via confusion or operator error
  • Carries the uncertainty that the person receiving the transferred call is even there, at the moment the call comes through

By and large, these issues are rare, yet inevitably happen.

3 Ways to Include Agents (and Improve Individual Performance)

  • Give agents time for education: Chances are, you’re a call center owner or manager. Agents benefit from reading content (like this article and many other call center resources). Allow time for your agents for reading informative resources for professional development purposes. You might even suggest materials that you find particularly informative or enjoyable.
  • Encourage and seek agent feedback: In addition to education, call centers should learn from agents who are seeking to assist customers. This practical experience may naturally gravitate toward the easiest solutions to customer issues.
  • Cross train agents: There are issues which one agent won’t be able to resolve. However, many inquiries can be resolved on the first call, even if the agent doesn’t know it. Cross training empowers agents to handle more incoming calls without transferring or needing a second call to complete.

3 Experts Weigh-In on First Call Resolution

1. Use FCR to improve your overall customer satisfaction.

“Any metric in your reporting strategy is only helpful if you’re able to use it to improve your performance. And with FCR, this is certainly the case.

“First, you can calculate FCR for individual channels within your support strategy to determine which are the most efficient. If your email support has a higher FCR than live chat, for example, this signals that your team is better at providing satisfactory and comprehensive resolutions on this channel. You can then use this insight to structure your team and focus on the most efficient channels.

“Beyond that, you can use FCR to establish clear-cut goals for your team. Measuring support can be a somewhat subjective undertaking, which doesn’t lend itself easily to goal-setting. But once you’ve calculated the FCR, you can use it as a benchmark of your current performance and use that benchmark to determine a reasonable goal for your team.

“The clearer you are with your expectations and goals, the easier it will be to motivate your team to achieve them.” – Everything You Need to Know about First Call Resolution (Guide), Freshworks; Twitter: @freshdesk

2. Be in it for the long-haul.

“At this point, your job is not over. It’s not like riding a bike which doesn’t require much more once you’ve learned how to ride. You need to take the proper measures to maintain and constantly develop your call center’s ability to solve customer problems.

“Perhaps the most important metric linked to FCR is the quality of the call. Different companies have various ways of rating this but the important thing to remember is to focus on quality. Are your agents following the right processes? What did they do right/wrong? What can they improve?

“Other important metrics to keep an eye on are those that concern employee satisfaction. After all, they are the ones directly interacting with your customers. Are your employees motivated and engaged? How often are they absent? How high is your turnover rate?

“No matter how well you’ve prepared, never be satisfied. It is vital that you continue to ask questions regarding your operations. Only by addressing these can you find ways to improve the customer experience.” – Aki Merced, Contact Center Best Practices: How to Improve First Call Resolution, Tenfold; Twitter: @growtenfold

3. FCR should help retain customers.

“The spillover effects from an unresolved customer complaint or issue are too threatening to ignore — 82% of customers leave a company because of a bad service experience.

“Solving for a customer’s pain point — ideally the first time the customer reaches out about the problem — can mean the difference between customer retention and customer churn.” – AJ Beltis, What is First Call Resolution? Everything Customer Support Pros Should Know, HubSpot: Twitter: @HubSpot

First-call resolution is one of the most important metrics for call center efficiency and customer satisfaction. By implementing these best practices as well as call center best practices, you can reduce repeat calls and increase customer satisfaction by resolving issues and concerns without repeat contacts. See how you can increase these metrics with better speech analytics.

What tactics do you find most effective for improving first-call resolution?

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