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First Call Resolution:
Key to Customer Satisfaction
An extract from Achieving First Call Resolution 2011, a new research report published by the Ascent Group, Inc.
How many of your customers’ issues are resolved on the first contact? It sounds like it should be easy to measure, however many companies have found it difficult to define first contact resolution, much less measure it consistently. Tactics to measure first contact resolution vary greatly from company to company. Our survey confirms this. While some companies are measuring first contact resolution, many are not and would like to.
Customers expect to bring a problem or question to your attention and have it resolved in a timely manner. Not all inquiries can be resolved immediately or on the first contact. However, advances in technology, increasing employee empowerment, and scrutinizing evaluation will increase the number that can.
80% first contact resolution performance sounds good. Yet with an 80 percent first contact resolution, 20 percent of customers require multiple contacts with your company to achieve resolution. An 80 percent first contact resolution means your customers average 1.2 contacts to resolve a question or issue. The 20 percent repeat contacts represent increased call volume and field visits, inflated operating expenses, and most importantly, dissatisfied customers. Dissatisfied customers are more likely to defect and more likely to tell others about their experiences.
First Contact Resolution (FCR) is a critical determinant of customer satisfaction, making FCR one of the more powerful customer care metrics. Improvement in FCR brings the best of both worlds—improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. You don’t have to worry that you are sacrificing quality because you are reducing costs, or vice versa. When you improve FCR you’re improving quality, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction, all at the same time.
Measuring First Contact Resolution is the first step towards improvement. Due to the nature of what is being measured—an outcome—it can be challenging. Our research identified four primary measures—three of which are internal approximations of First Contact Resolution, the fourth provides true customer feedback and perception. While each approach has its appplication, customer perception is king—the customer’s evaluation is what matters most.
Customer feedback surveys also have the potential to find out whether issues are ultimately resolved to the customers’ satisfaction. Internal measurement can only assume, by the lack of a repeat contact, that the issue was resolved. You really don't know for sure if it was resolved or if the customer just gave up, unless you ask the customer. And the timing of when you do ask the customer is important too—has everything happened that needed to happen to resolve the problem?
Internal FCR metrics are necessary for root cause analysis and process streamlining. Call quality FCR determinations and FCR call stats are great for identifying training and coaching needs, and process improvement opportunities. Most CRM systems facilitate the tracking of customer contact. That is after all the goal of a customer relationship management system—to know everything possible about customers and their interaction with the company. Other customer support systems may not be structured to so easily track and measure contacts and resolution.
Agent logging can also gather FCR performance by contact type, however it's really not appropriate for measuring individual agent performance due to the built in bias of agents determining whether the contacts they handled were resolved or not. If you do use agent-driven measurement, audit the results periodically and/or use it in combination with other measures, such as a customer satisfaction measure of FCR and a call quality monitoring measure of FCR.
Repeat-call calculations, agent logging and tick sheets, and call quality-monitoring determinations are all approximations of customer experience. Most companies have found that internal first contact resolution measures are overstated—the customer’s view of first contact resolution is usually lower than an internal measurement. In other words, don’t get too comfortable with your measurement of your performance, ask your customers too. If you’re primarily relying on internal measures, use customer feedback periodically to calibrate your performance.
Keep in mind that internal metrics are more prone to manipulation and may be more self-serving, depending upon how the data is collected, the scope, the qualifying window, repeat-call calculation definition, and subjectivity of the determination. Internal metrics are also subject to data integrity issues due to the difficulty of collecting and manually categorizing the data.
Ultimately, customers are more concerned with issue resolution than contact resolution—the call is just the means to the end, hopefully. Recognizing this, customer surveying should be geared to the type of issue that was reported. For instance, if it was a billing concern, it makes the most sense to contact the customer for resolution feedback after they have received the next bill rather than 2 days after they called the contact center. They may think their issue has been resolved but don't really know for sure until they see the correction on the next bill. An after-contact follow-up surveying approach that is geared to check back with the customer after a milestone has been accomplished probably makes the most sense for issues that take some time to resolve. Post-call surveys can easily be deployed to tackle one-and-done calls, to ensure that your agents are handling them effectively and to the satisfaction of callers.
A multi-source FCR measurement approach is best. Because it can be challenging and costly to measure first contact resolution, a multi-measure approach is more flexible. For instance, customer satisfaction surveys can be used to determine overall FCR performance, by contact type, while call quality monitoring results and post-call surveys can deliver agent-level FCR performance and at the same time, point out developmental improvement opportunities. Internal call statistics can be used to calculate overall center-level repeat-call performance, and if your system permits, agent and team level repeat-call performance. Try a set of measures to gather as much information as possible about your customer service response.
Just Measure It!
Once you have a good idea of your FCR performance, you can drill down to identify the call types that are not being resolved consistently in one contact. Then decide if it’s even possible or desirable to resolve these types of calls or contacts in one call. If so, root cause analysis and process streamlining, automation, or more self-service options will boost your first call resolution performance, reduce repeat calls and rework, and ultimately reduce operating costs.
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