14 December 2015

How to Measure and Improve First Contact Resolution (FCR) in your Contact Center

Over the last several years, an increasing number of our clients have asked for advice on

  • how to measure First Contact Resolution 
  • how to improve First Contact Resolution 

This increased focus on FCR (that is, fully addressing a customer’s need the first time they contact a company about an issue) is well placed for several reasons that I’ll enumerate below, but it’s chiefly because of the relationship between FCR and customer experience scores. Specifically, our clients are concerned by the strong correlation between repeated contacts for the same issue and negative customer satisfaction scores.

self-service_x2Providing good customer service is reason enough to track and improve FCR, but there is a financial incentive too. Repeated contacts for one issue raise costs: two interactions are more costly than one, obviously, and the second conversation is likely to be longer as the customer explains the details of the first contact. Worse, customers are more likely to request a supervisor in these follow-up interactions adding either time to de-escalate or cost if the customer is transferred. FCR makes good business sense.

How to Measure?

There’s no perfect way to measure FCR, and as a result, there are several ways that contact centers do so. In the not-so-distant-past, the most prevalent method of measuring FCR was to review logs and records to find instances where the same customer made repeated contacts within a time frame. This approach necessitates that organizations

  • Have the ability to relate two contacts to the same customer when they are initiated in different channels or from different phone numbers (or email addresses, etc.)
  • Know how much time should elapse after an initial contact before we consider it to be resolved.

Measure Based on Multiple Customer Contacts within a Given Time Period

Relating multiple contacts across channels or from different phone numbers is straightforward for a contact center that has a modern, robust solution for storing customer records. You may or may not refer to this system of record as CRM, but it must provide you with the capability to store everything you know about a customer including name, phone numbers (as many as the customer has), addresses (physical, email, and social) as well as a complete interaction history with that customer, including all interactions (both inbound and outbound) across all channels. The “all channels” criterion reflects all the ways that a customer may choose to interact with you (including social), whether they fall under your purview (from an org chart perspective) or not. If you don’t have a solution that meets all these criteria, you should.

The timeframe in which two contacts constitute a missed FCR opportunity varies widely across our customers who measure FCR in this way due to the differences in the way those customers do business and interact with their customers. For example, a customer wishing to enroll in automatic bill payments may call a utility twice in the span of forty-five days for that issue while an active trader may interact with a brokerage multiple times in a day about distinct trades. That said, whatever your business is, there is no magic number (or hours or days) that will accurately delineate two interactions about distinct issues from multiple contacts about the same issue.

Some of our clients rely on their agents and their case management systems to correlate related interactions – in this case, two interactions about the same case. This approach improves on the “timeframe” approach by allowing agents to discern related from unrelated interactions. A drawback is that it is based upon an agent’s perspective using only information available at the time. Instead, we recommend that FCR reflect the customer’s perspective of whether the issue was fully resolved.

Measure FCR by Survey             

More and more of our clients now measure FCR from the customer’s perspective through surveys. These surveys may take place immediately at the conclusion of an interaction or after a pre-determined number of days and include a question about whether the customer’s issue was fully resolved. While surveys allow customers to determine FCR, they also face challenges.

Customers who called their banks before contacting you about a charge may consider their email to your team to be a second contact, even if your employee resolved the issue. A customer who indicated that an issue was resolved while filling out the survey may later have a question that triggers an additional contact that might have been avoided. And these issues pertain only to customers who respond to the survey. Contact center managers lose a lot of sleep wondering whether all those unanswered surveys are potential ones or fives.

If you are measuring FCR in any of these imperfect ways, congratulations, you have a metric that is correlated with customer satisfaction that you can baseline, track, and demonstrate improvement against.

intelligent_routing_v2.600x0-is-hidpiHow to Improve FCR

So, how does one improve FCR? There are many ways, and I enumerate a few below. But the most important first-step to improving FCR is to empower your staff to spend a little extra time on each interaction to ensure that the customer’s issue is resolved. This isn’t for the faint of heart, and requires buy-in from contact center leaders, supervisors, coaches, and the quality team to accept that getting serious about FCR may mean an initial increase in handle times in exchange for the promise of reduced volumes in the future.

One of our clients has dedicated concierge teams (for some customer segments) that handle every customer’s need from beginning to end. While the concierge agents have been given additional training to handle most interactions, when they encounter an issue that they cannot resolve, they place the customer on hold, make as many calls (or chats) as needed before getting back to the customer with a resolution. This model does not work for every contact center but reflects the investment some are making to resolve issues on the first contact.

The other half of agent empowerment is to provide them with the information and authority to resolve issues. Below are a few ways to do this:

  • A good solution for storing customer information will go a long way to providing agents with customer information needed to understand the issue.
  • A unified desktop will easily present the agent with previous interactions with the customer in order to provide context.
  • A robust knowledge base can provide agents with information about how to resolve infrequently occurring issues.
  • A modern interaction recording solution will capture both screens and voice to improve the efficacy of quality reviews and coaching.
  • Reduce the number of actions that require “supervisor” approval and instead trust your agents (or the quality process) to make good decisions.

Even if you have directed your team to resolve issues and provided them with the tools to do so, most agents are reluctant to spend extra time on an interaction if there are a lot of items in the queue that have been there for a while. Your routing strategy should initially target the very best match of customer and need to agent, automatically route but include a provision to target the “next best” agent if service levels are in jeopardy.

This feature of automatic overflow evens out the peaks and valleys of intra-day interaction volumes allowing your team to meet its service level commitments while providing the service you aspire to. To learn more, please download my SpeechTEK presenation. 

Authored bY

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