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 -- 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.

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 consumer 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.

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. If you notice this number is slipping or is lower than you would like, follow the best practices in the section below.

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 claims more simple for agents and analyzing the results of those claims more data-rich and actionable for managers.

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 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. 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. Since 51% of customers want to see this FAQ section on websites, it definitely speaks to an existing need for customers.

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.

8. 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.

9. 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. Check out the next section to see what those changes might look like.

10. 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.

Improving First Call Resolution Rate

First call resolution can be a head-scratcher, 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.

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.

To learn more, read our list of the best help desk software to try next.

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Originally published Nov 30, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated November 30 2018

Topics:

Customer Support