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Expert's Angle: Supercharging Your First-Contact Resolution Initiative

Job number one for a call center is to achieve first-call resolution (FCR). It is the "silver bullet" metric and key driver in attaining high levels of customer satisfaction. It has an enormous and positive correlation with customer loyalty, profitability, employee retention and the ability to cross-sell. So, what’s not to like?

This article will focus on:

  • How to define FCR
  • Why FCR matters so much
  • Ways to measure FCR properly
  • Best practices for improving FCR

Imagine the savings you can deliver when you improve FCR by 10 points and reduce costs by 10% or more. Whether you have been working on FCR for years or are new to the term, there are ways to supercharge your FCR initiatives, improve customer satisfaction, boost sales conversions and reduce expenses. In the process, you’ll discover how to measure FCR correctly, learn new ways to configure and analyze FCR data to compel action, and gain fresh insight to get buy-in from departments.

We often define FCR as: "Resolving the customer's inquiry or problem during the first contact." The definition seems simple. The average company achieves FCR 67-70% of the time. Best in class companies report 80% FCR rates with world-class companies achieving 90% FCR. It is important to know your industry averages and those of your competitors. Unfortunately, however, these are all call center averages and averages are misleading.

Why FCR Matters So Much

In its purest form, FCR drives customer satisfaction, quality and profitability. Shift the FCR lever and you dramatically change company performance.

Think about the impact of moving your company FCR rate from "average" to "best-in-class." Your company will realize gain share in several critical categories. Satisfaction with the customer service representative (CSR) will improve by 20%. Sales conversion rates will improve 20-33%. Costs of operations will improve by 20% and at world-class levels by 30%. Moreover, revenue at risk is reduced.

Consider these staggering statistics:

  • A Customers' likelihood to switch to a competitor or competitive product is just 3% with FCR
  • Customers leave at a 12% rate with 2+ call resolution
  • Companies feel a customer exodus of 38% when issues are unresolved

Why Else to Measure FCR

Studies show that there is a one-to-one correlation between FCR and employee satisfaction. That’s because when the CSR achieves higher levels of FCR the customer provides them with positive feedback thus making them feel better about the job they do.

Measuring FCR

There are seven common practices of measuring FCR. Several include: Supervisor or QA monitoring, IVR or email survey, and end of call script by the CSR.

The problem with many of these measurements is that self-reported FCR usually grades 20 points higher than external customer survey. Internal QA correlation with customer satisfaction is 12%. Customer QA correlation with customer satisfaction is 54%.

The inherent FCR disconnect is that the CSR, Supervisor and QA staff fully believe that the question was answered, but the customer doesn’t. What happens next? The customer calls back to "shop the system" and see if they get another answer to their question. Another reason why monitoring assessments rarely match is that the CSR believes that the issue is closed because they requested action to be taken, but it is not. And many times the CSR has not even heard the secondary issue. What does it all mean? The only way to truly know how your customers feel is to ask them.

Best Practice Recommendations

Some of the best practices to improve your FCR include:

1. Measure FCR at All Levels.Only 50% of all organizations measure FCR at all. Even then, most organizations only measure two to four of the seven criteria for a Key Performance Measures. Recommendation: Make FCR a true Key Performance Measure and monitor it frequently at the CSR level, product level, and call type level to drive sustained results faster.

2. Set Realistic Customer Expectations. Many financial institutions have 300-400 standards for customer expectations on turnaround timing. It is imperative to ensure that the turnaround time expectations are: competitive, current and accurate, and reflect current backlog conditions. Recommendation: Create a centrally monitored turnaround and backlog report. Online updated pop-up timelines should be provided to advisors’ desktops. Also have advisors quote dates instead of days and weeks for turnaround expectations. This ensures customers aren’t calling back too early looking for the resolution.

3. Eliminate Callbacks. Callbacks generate a 10% reduction in customer satisfaction. However, within the same service skill group, the outbound ratios often vary from 0 to 80% depending upon CSR. Recommendation: Design a call back and transfer workshop, perform root cause analysis and eliminate callbacks where possible.

4. Stop Taking Bad Business. Get Marketing, Sales and Operations on the same page to use agreed upon criteria for risk assessment to forecast problems and reject bad business prior to rollout. Recommendation: Rank product and policy change rollouts. Give awards to high performing product managers. Teach low performing product managers how to implement more effectively.

The following are additional best practices to keep in mind (these will be reviewed in depth these during my ACCE presentation):

  • When Creating Incentives, Consider the Effect on FCR
  • Fund Repeat Caller MIS at Center and CSR level
  • Reconsider Email Customer Service
  • Concentrate on Tail FCR
  • Apply to FCR Award Programs for Call Centers
  • Eliminate the Deadly Phrases that Drive Low FCR