What is First Call Resolution? Benefits, Challenges, Examples, & Best Practices for Improving FCR

Definition of First Call Resolution

First-call resolution (FCR) is an important contact center 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.

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 recently released a speech analytics benchmark study, in which it tracked two groups of contact centers: the “leaders,” which represented 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 metric 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.

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 profitability.

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 spread across channels, 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.

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. Even small improvements can have an incredible impact.

“So, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about the 1% here? In the context of this article, the “1%” refers to a 1% increase in call center performance – specifically, FCR – and the benefits that having just a 1% increase can have.

“And what is the benefit of 1% FCR improvement, you might be wondering? Well, according to SQM Group, a 1% increase in your FCR equates to about $276,000 in operational savings every year.

“Suddenly, 1% just got a whole lot bigger.

“Let’s think about what goes into something like that. A 1% increase is more than just trying 1% harder, it’s a whole lot of efforts coming from a number of areas. We already know how important customer service is to the health of your organization, and the contact center has a set of expectations put in place by the customer. Before they even pick up the phone, open a new message, or connect to a live chat, a customer already knows what they want from their contact center experience – they want their situation resolved with as little wait time as possible and as painless as possible. Doing so doesn’t just ensure you have a happy customer, it ensures a loyal one too.” – Daniel James, The Power of 1% in First Call Resolution, FurstPerson; Twitter: @FurstPerson

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.