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'Tis the Season for First-Contact Resolution

It's that time of year again! The holidays are all but here, and consumers are inundated with marketing messages encouraging them to spend money…lots of money. In mere weeks we will be in the annual shopping madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And then the countdown to the holidays will really be in full swing! Consumers are encouraged from every angle to buy presents for their loved ones, get pretty festive things for their homes, and purchase travel to exotic places…in my case back to Wisconsin to see friends and family.

These major sale events can and should be fantastic experiences. Consumers get what they want to gift, and often at great prices. In turn, businesses clear out excess inventory, have a good revenue push at year-end, and are introduced to a new (and hopefully loyal) set of customers.

This only happens though, if the customer experience is a positive one! During this time of year, that experience is even more vital, and often times more challenging. The holidays have a tendency to reduce tolerance for shipping delays, backorders, damaged products, or delayed travel.

Within the contact center, we are also busier than usual with questions about shipping status, and product details, and technical support for newfangled electronics and computers.

To compound this challenge, our contact centers are often staffed with temporary or remote teams during the holiday season in order to handle the increased volume. While these agents are usually perfectly skilled and capable, they simply don’t have the same product, system, and company experience that the tenured agents do. And tenure can’t solve all the issues. Marketing often introduces new products and prices in the fourth quarter, so even our best agents may be caught off guard with something unfamiliar.

This is where first-contact resolution (FCR) really comes into play.

While you can’t expect an agent to remember everything, you can provide them with access to most of what they need to know. Empower them with knowledge and decision-making parameters, so that they can own the customer experience and mitigate the issue in that initial interaction. An agent can't speed up shipping during a snowstorm or personally manufacture more products, but if they have accurate information and alternatives, they will be able to keep that customer from having to repeatedly call back.

Recently ICMI held a webinar, Achieving First-Contact Resolution and Quantifying Its Top Line Payoff to address the importance of FCR. In the presentation, John Goodman, Vice Chairman of TARP Worldwide and Tony Fassette, Vice President, SAP Business Communications focused on three important things:

1. Reducing dependencies on script adherence – give your agents solid training and boundaries so that they can sound confident while still providing a personalized customer experience. The second they sound scripted or robotic, a customer will feel motivated to ask for a transfer, or hang up and call back in.

2. Providing the necessary tools and support – a simple yet detailed knowledgebase can be a lifesaver for an agent, particularly a new one. Give your agents access to customer FAQs and company policies, so that there aren't any miscommunicated expectations that result in additional customer contacts. And make sure the agents (and ideally the customer) have a visual into the lifecycle of a product backorder, shipping status, or technical resolution. If that isn’t entirely possible, then ensure you have supervisory resources on hand through IM or in-person for agents to connect with. When necessary, let the agent manage the escalation so that the customer isn’t forced to.

3. Failing to collect the needed data to diagnose why FCR is not achieved – make sure to survey your customers after they interact with you. Even though you may not be able to solve all issues THIS holiday season, you may be able to prevent them going forward. Every customer response is an opportunity to learn.

The key here, is providing the frontline agents with the right resources and the right tools to provide the RIGHT information the FIRST time. There are quite a few technology options out there, but here's a little idea of what the SAP Business Communications Management solution can provide:

  • Virtual Contact Center – tools for remote agents to access company-wide resources and escalation support no matter where they are located
  • Integrated IVR and CTI – speeds up the identification of the customer, their history and context so the agent can better personalize the experience and get to their resolution faster
  • Skills-based Routing and Collaboration – by routing customers to the best skilled agent for their interaction, you can eliminate transfers and reduce the time customers are in queue
  • CRM Integration – equip agents with the right information so that you increase the accuracy of their responses and reduce miscommunication and callbacks

FCR is always important in the contact center, but this is the season to pay special attention to it. Delight your customers, and give them AND your agents the gift of resolution.