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


The Team at CallMiner

September 24, 2019

Contact center efficiency
Contact center efficiency

Updated March 16, 2023

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 call center’s ability to resolve customer problems, questions or needs the first time they call, with no follow-up required.

First call resolution 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, first call resolution 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 call centers.

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How to improve first call resolution

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 first call resolution goals and desired outcomes. This includes understanding your baseline FCR and agreeing on where you want your FCR resolution numbers to be over an agreed set of time.
  • Train your agents: After setting goals, agent training is the most important step in achieving improved first call resolution. And training isn't just a one-time solution. Continual training overtime leads to continuous agent and metric improvement.
  • Track performance: Continuously! This includes tracking the performance of 100% of calls, not just a small fraction. Most contact centers today using manual scoring can only review 3-5% of an agent's calls every month. Automated call scoring, such as through a platform like CallMiner's, means 100% of an agent's calls are being captured and scored, leading to more comprehensive performance tracking.
  • Measure on multiple channels: Most contact centers today are inherently omnichannel. A high first call resolution on phone calls, but a low first call resolution 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. Gamification also helps agents understand how they're performing against their peers, and how their performance is improving over time, which often leads to greater satisfaction and retention.
  • 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

Conversation analytics (speech analytics) can have a great impact on FCR. Take this example: Aberdeen published a benchmark study in which it tracked two groups of call 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 conversation analytics averaged a 76% first-call resolution rate; comparatively, the followers had a 23% average FCR.

So, what is it about conversation 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 conversation analytics, which capture real interactions, 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.

Benefits of improved first call resolution

The primary benefit of 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 fact, research found that for every 1% increase in FCR, there’s a 1% increase in customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) as well.

On the other hand, there’s a 15% decrease in customer satisfaction every time a customer has to contact the company for the same issue.

Improving first call resolution can also boost customer retention and customer experience. Research from Accenture showed that 67% of customers said they’d stay with a company that addressed a customer service issue in a single interaction. However, nearly one-fourth of customers (23%) are likely to discontinue doing business with a company if their call is unresolved.

FCR can impact operating costs, too. Because a higher FCR means your agents are resolving customer service inquiries faster, call centers can realize a 1% decrease in operating costs for every 1% increase in FCR.

In addition to customer satisfaction, improving call 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 the days (or, at least, gone they should be) when agents themselves input resolution statuses after a call. Today, through the use of speech analytics 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, ensure your contact center follows first call resolution best practices and set realistic goals:

  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 conversation analytics: Put conversation analytics in place to analyze every interaction, 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.

Understand customers’ needs

Asking the right questions at the start of an interaction ensures that call center agents have the information they need to properly address the customer’s concern. It’s also a good idea to ask, “Is there any other relevant information that you think I should know?” before moving on to a resolution. Sometimes, it’s the details that customers think are unimportant that provide clues.

For instance, say a customer changed a setting in a software application, but an unrelated feature no longer works. If this simple adjustment is causing the issue, agents who know about it can address the customer’s issue quickly. A small detail that seems completely irrelevant might just reveal the solution.

Find common issues for delayed resolution

There are issues that may not reach a resolution on the first call, such as 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, identifying these issues and implementing measures to reach a faster resolution will improve customer satisfaction and, with some tactics, avoid repeated interactions.

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

Offer robust self-service options

Develop self-service options like a comprehensive knowledge base, FAQs, tutorials, blogs posts, and other easily accessible content. Often, customers will look for ways to fix their issue on their own before contacting customer service. Keeping your self-service information resources up to date and ensuring that they’re easy for customers to find can help to improve FCR.

For instance, a customer may have worked through several steps to resolving an issue before they call, so they really just need guidance with the last few steps. Self-service options also reduce the number of calls into the call center, which means you have more qualified agents with time to spend resolving more complex issues — during the first interaction.

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. Keeping an eye on metrics like customer effort score (CES) can provide measurable insight here.

Ask customers if their issue is resolved

There are some situations in which a call center agent resolves the most pressing issue but fails to address a secondary question or concern before ending the interaction. Agents should ask customers:

  • Is there anything else I can help you with today?
  • Have I fully answered your question/resolved your problem?
  • Can I send you some additional information that can help you avoid this and similar issues in the future?

By getting confirmation that the customer is satisfied with the outcome reduces the likelihood that they’ll need to contact customer service again for the same problem.

Measure FCR performance

You can’t objectively improve what you aren’t tracking. Using omnichannel contact center software and regularly reviewing the metrics provides valuable insights into interactions that result in first-call resolution and those that result in mulitple interactions, as well as the impact these interactions have on customer satisfaction.

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, can (but doesn’t always) result in a number of issues. 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
  • Requires the customer to explain their issue from start to finish to a new agent (unless you implement omnichannel customer support)

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). 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 that 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. Analyze customer behavior to anticipate customer needs

“The more you know about your customers, the better. Understanding why your customers are calling for support is a key factor in ensuring your support team is prepared to meet their needs.

“Anticipate the issues your customers might encounter, before they occur. This will improve customer satisfaction and FCR. To do this, you should analyze customer feedback and note down the frustrations they encounter when using your product or service.

“This data will provide insight into common concerns the customer might have after the call. You can anticipate their needs during the first call and save them from having to reach out again in the future.” - Kate Vogel, 8 first call resolution best practices: Benefits, challenges, and more, Ring Central; Twitter: @RingCentral

3. Ramp up your self-service options

“Let's begin with the core of your support effort: the knowledge base. In an ideal world, this help center should hold all of the product knowledge and answers to your most commonly asked questions. If you have a fantastic knowledge base center, your customers should be able to arrive at these articles and find the answers they need without having to look much further. Well, you might argue, it doesn’t actually help increasing your first call resolution. Because thanks to these articles, customers won’t even have to call you. While that’s technically right, in many cases, simply sharing the links to these articles will be sufficient to help customers reaching out to you via email, chat or social media to solve their problem - without having to contact you again.” - 10 best practices to improve your first call resolution, Wix Answers; Twitter: @wixanswers

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.

Contact Center Operations Customer Experience North America EMEA Speech & Conversation Analytics