Have you ever contacted customer service or support, been told that your issue has been resolved, and then been forced to call back because — turns out — the proposed solution didn't work?

This is an example of a company failing to meet the expectations of first call resolution, sometimes called "first contact resolution" or simply FCR.

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Most businesses can't afford to under-deliver on first call resolution — it's often equated to poor customer service, which in turn is responsible for a loss of $62 billion for American businesses each year.

Read on to learn more about first call resolution, how to quantify it, and what best practices to follow for an optimal customer experience. 

Why Is First Call Resolution Important?

Optimal first call resolution is an essential focus for all companies that strive to deliver quality service to their customers. Here are a few specifics as to why obsessing over FCR is healthy for growth-minded businesses:

1. Good first call resolution helps retain customers.

The spillover effects from an unresolved customer complaint or issue are too threatening to ignore — 67% of customers list poor customer service as their primary reason for churning.

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.

2. It can change the mind of a dissatisfied customer.

If you can address the concerns of a customer in a swift and friendly way, you might be able to turn a potential detractor into a possible promoter for your business.

On average, the dissatisfied customer will tell up to 15 people about a negative experience with a business, so making the interaction positive and helpful the first time around might negate any pre-call frustration or post-call chaos.

And when customers are willing to spend 16% more for better service, it certainly can't hurt to provide that service for every support inquiry.

3. It helps get the most out of your support staff.

If a problem is solved the first time a customer calls or emails, this means they won't be calling or emailing again about the exact same problem.

This means fewer repeat calls, thus fewer total calls in the day. The result? Shorter wait times for customers to get answers to their calls and emails and a more productive customer service team.

1. Document answers to common problems.

If customers are calling about an answer to the same question consistently, it might be worth investing in a company knowledge base or FAQ section to serve as an online library of answers to common questions about your product or service.

For example, HubSpot's knowledge base contains answers to questions like “How do I import my WordPress blog posts onto HubSpot's blog?” and “How do I see the historical values of a contact or ticket property?”

A knowledge base can help improve FCR in a couple of ways.

First, knowledge base articles outline a step-by-step solution to questions that don't require a hyper-personalized response. They're effective customer education tools that answer the specific question someone has by pointing him or her to the solution. This solves the problem the first time around and leads to a stronger FCR.

Second, knowledge base articles can be easily found online or on your website if listed properly. 

2. Optimize your internal documentation for ease of access.

The easier it is for your customer support staff to find answers to questions they may not know, the easier it will be to resolve the customer’s issue without needing to escalate the call, lengthen the time it takes to resolve the issue, or resolve the issue on another call. 

3. Route calls and contact touch points to improve experience. 

The larger your company and the more services you provide, the more different types of customers and customer inquiries you’ll have. By implementing call routing based on language and/or customer inquiry type, you’ll be able to reduce the number of times the customer is transferred to another department or left waiting for a response. 

Consider routing billing issues to your finance department, general questions to your customer success team, and technical issues to your technical support team. This decreases the average time it takes to solve customer issues and reduces strain on your resources.

4. Respond to support inquiries quickly.

Seventy-three percent of customers say that time is a critical factor in how they determine a good customer service experience from a poor one. In fact, speed of response and speed of resolution are among the top desired qualities in a customer experience.

5. Gather as much information as possible and repeat it back to the customer.

Miscommunication can waste time and cause frustration. By actively listening to the customer and asking questions, you’ll be able to get a better picture of what their issue is. Identify two things as they are describing the problem: 

  • What their goal is
  • What is preventing them from achieving it

Continue prompting the customer until you feel as though you have a handle on those things. Then, repeat it back to them: “If I’m understanding you correctly, you want X but you are experiencing issues with Y.” 

This gives them a chance to elaborate with further details if you’ve missed the mark or confirm that you both reached an understanding before continuing.

6. Provide clear instructions on any actions the customer needs to take.

After you've both reached an understanding about what the issue is, identify what action needs to be taken. If the action is on your end, let the customer know what you will be doing and when they can expect a resolution. If they need to take action, clearly articulate what steps will be involved and what will happen once those steps have been taken. 

For complex issues, consider sending additional documentation and video tutorials. Alternatively, you can save a little bit of time and hassle by walking them through the steps on a video call or screen share (if applicable).

7. Ask if there is anything else.

This should be an obvious one, but having agents ask “Did this solve your problem?” or “Was there anything else I can help with today?” can drastically improve FCR. It ensures that the proposed solution works and reduces the chance someone would call back for a similar issue.

Plus, this is a simple proactive best practice companies should follow. It's better to address now what could be a big problem later.

How to Improve First Call Resolution

Using the above best practices, you can establish a good baseline with your reps for what great customer service is and, as a result, how to improve FCR. After everyone is on board, now it comes time to implement ongoing improvement, not just among individuals but within the entire organization. Here are some tips:

1. Set up a customer service portal.

It can be difficult to track all support interactions without software. The task becomes even more tedious when documenting which calls were resolved the first time around to calculate FCR.

Tracking tickets, calls, and emails is easier and more systematic with a customer service software or portal, especially when it's integrated into your company's CRM. This makes responding to inquiries simpler for agents and provides more data-rich and actionable information when analyzing the results.

2. Define your escalations.

Different companies have different definitions for first call resolution, so define and specify your business' parameters for when an incident counts as resolved with regard to FCR.

For example, if a problem is escalated to a supervisor, is it escalated beyond the first contact?

Do tickets need to be closed within the day to count? If so, what if the problem is a bit more complex and needs to take two business days to address rather than one?

Make your FCR expectations clear when it comes to the time, method of outreach, and number of people involved for clear record-keeping.

3. Staff your team.

When a support department is understaffed, it can put pressure on support agents to rush to get to the next ticket without solving a problem thoroughly.

Additionally, customers who have to deal with excessive wait times could become frustrated with your service.

In order to boost your FCR, make sure you have a support staff large enough to match the volume of calls, emails, and chats you receive so customers get the right answers without a long wait.

4. Train your staff.

Support agents should never stop learning about your product or service. This is especially true for employees and SaaS and tech companies, where products and services change constantly.

Failing to provide a foundation of knowledge in addition to frequently updated training sessions can set your support team up for failure. They could offer a solution that might not be accurate anymore or — even worse — was never correct.

5. Structure your team appropriately.

When building or rebuilding a support team, talk to your employees to see where their strengths lie. For companies that have simple support needs, it might make sense to have every support employee be a generalist, having more breadth of product knowledge than depth into specific features.

However, for companies with more niche and complex solutions, it makes sense to divide and structure teams by individual employees' knowledge. For example, a company like Xfinity might have support agents specifically for internet, cable, phone, and billing and account information. In this situation, support employees can become experts in one facet of the business rather than having a blanket understanding of many topics.

This depth of knowledge means the right employee can get to the root of the problem easier and hopefully provide the best solution the first time a customer calls or emails.

6. Use phone surveys and follow up emails to see if customers were truly satisfied.

After a ticket is closed, ask customers to hang around to answer a phone survey or send them a follow-up email if that's how they reached out to support.

This outreach can provide insight into FCR immediately and can prompt either support agents or team leads to reach back out to the customer to fix the problem the right way.

Plus, if your company counts issues resolved within the day as a successful first contact resolution, this could help improve FCR.

7. Motivate your team. 

Richard Branson once said, “If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients.” 

Your customer success team has a challenging role in your company, talking with customers who have issues or are, in some cases, irate. If you want to provide great customer service, that starts with a great customer service staff. Ensure that they are happy at work, feel motivated, and are empowered to solve for the customer. 

Consider also creating incentives or challenges to encourage better metrics and achievement.

8. Analyze trends.

Once you set up the software, hire employees, and train your team, start analyzing the results that come in from your support calls and emails.

But don't just monitor the FCR — dig deeper than that. Ask the questions that, when answered, could result in a better customer experience. For example:

  • Is one support agent reporting a lower FCR than his or her colleagues?
  • Is one common issue continuing to arise?
  • Which day of the week is most common for support calls?

Looking for the answers to questions like these can help you make changes to drastically improve first call rate. 

9. Make changes as needed.

What good is all this information if it won't be used to better your business, your FCR, and your customer experience?

  • If one support employee's FCR is lower than it should be, maybe place that employee in another round of training or on another team in the support department.
  • If one issue is consistently a topic of support calls, consider writing a knowledge base article on the problem.
  • If one day of the week sees an enormous number of support calls, staff up accordingly.

These are just a few examples of the many ways support data can be used to increase FCR.

Measuring Success With First Call Resolution Metrics

First call resolution can be difficult to achieve consistently, but dedication to improving it really does make a difference to a business. In fact, just focusing on FCR can lead to improvement — the majority of companies that simply measure FCR for at least a year see up to 30% improvement in FCR performance.

That improvement quickly trickles down into the bottom line, as a 1% increase in FCR equates to a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction — keeping customers more likely to do business with you.

If you are ready to benefit from those numbers but need a jumping-off point, the following metrics are all helpful in measuring your efforts and identifying areas of improvement: 

  • Total number of support calls
  • Total number of support inquiries per channel
  • Total number of satisfied resolutions (based on qualifying criteria)
  • Total number of first-call satisfied resolutions
  • Escalation rate per each type of inquiry
  • Longest average resolution times per inquiry type
  • Inquiry types rarely resolved
  • Average NPS per inquiry type

All of these are great examples to dig deep on what’s holding down your most important metric: first contact resolution rate.

How to Calculate First Contact Resolution Rate

To quantify your business' first contact resolution, use the first contact resolution rate formula.

The formula for first contact resolution rate, or FCR, is the total number of cases resolved in the customer's first outreach divided by the total number of cases in a day.

FCR = Total Resolved Cases / Total Number of Cases

The higher the number, the better your team is at resolving issues the first time they arise. 

For example, let’s say Company A received 1,327 calls in January. Of those calls, 714 were resolved on the first contact. This would calculate to a 53.8% FCR rate. 

Company B received 798 calls in January and resolved 584 on the first contact. This amounts to a 73.2% FCR rate. 

While Company A resolved more calls, Company B achieved a higher FCR rate, which means that Company B resolved customer issues more efficiently.

If you notice your FCR rate slipping or it is lower than you would like, you know that you’ll need to dig deeper to find out what hurdles your support team is encountering. While FCR rate will vary by industry, a good benchmark to shoot for is 70-75%.

While scaling a support team and building a loyal group of delighted customers isn't easy, it can pay for itself with more vocal loyalists for your brand and your business, resulting in more profit for the company.

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 Customer Service Metrics

Originally published May 4, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated May 04 2020

Topics:

Customer Support