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First Call Resolution: A Gold Standard Customer Service Metric

First Call Resolution: A Gold Standard Customer Service Metric
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First Call Resolution (FCR) is one of the most important metrics for any contact centre to monitor accurately. There’s no mystery to the definition, it’s simply the ability to resolve customer problems, questions or needs the first time they call, with no follow-up action or response required. It’s frequently expressed as percentage of total calls incoming.

Obviously that’s what customers want — to get their query resolved, their questions answered, without delay. To the customer there are no big or small problems, no straightforward vs complex ones — there is simply their own concern, and that’s what they need sorting out. If they get that done, then the call has probably been a successful one for them, and they’re a happy customer. They can express that satisfaction through various lag indicators, which are also important to track — such as NPS scores, online reviews, user surveys, etc. All of these metrics provide retrospective value however, whereas FCR can and should be tracked continuously, so any declines can be promptly identified and addressed. If you wait until sentiment analysis reveals that reviews are going downhill, a lot of damage could already have been done to your brand.And of course, resolving issues in a single call is efficient for the business too — less time wasted backtracking and recontacting, instead the agent can get straight on to supporting the next caller in line. So, improvements in FCR are a win-win, for the business and its customers. This article highlights the why First Call Resolution is important, along with few standard benchmarks.

Research conducted by The Ascent Group in 2019 indicated that 60% of companies measuring FCR for a year or longer reported improvements of up to 30% in their performance. The saying ‘what gets measured gets managed’ is attributed to many smart people including management guru Peter Drucker, and contains a great deal of truth.You may also like to read: Answer rate, NPS…which customer service call indicators should I track?

How to measure First Call Resolution rates

To track changes, what matters is consistency of the data over time. Exactly what you measure and how you express it can vary, according to the nature of your business and the kind of enquiries you typically receive, and while there might be industry-based standards for FCR, you need to be careful when comparing to other organisations who may measure things in different ways to you.For meaningful data you’ll need to agree on whether a measured callback includes callers who were recontacted via chat or email, in our omnichannel era, and you’ll have to address qualitative decisions like, “do we count it as a successful FCR if the caller is transferred to another agent?” or, “does an escalated call include calls where a colleague was conferenced in?” Only once you are measuring the same thing consistently across all contacts will your analytics be relevant, and it follows that comparisons with competitors or benchmarking against other organisations are less likely to be helpful.What matters is resolving YOUR customers concerns, first time, as often as possible — whatever that looks like in your organisation. And what it looks like to them is what matters, so consider including some kind of follow-up survey of check-in with them on a regular basis… Just because the agent thinks things are sorted, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the customer feels the same way. For FCR to truly reflect in customer retention and improvements in their long-term customer value, you need to make sure they’re truly satisfied.

How to improve First Call Resolution scores

If you identify that FCR scores are low or declining in your contact centre, there are many factors which could be in play. It’s essential to take a data-driven view of the situation, and make sure you’re fixing the right problem.

Agent motivation and job satisfaction

Most people have had experience talking to people who clearly take a very narrow view of their role and responsibilities, when it comes to fixing people’s problems. In the early days of telephone banking in the UK this was a huge issue, with callers frequently bounced from one agent to another — often with long waits and having to explain their query over and over — only to be told by each that that wasn’t their job, and they’d have to be put through to yet another person... By contrast, a dedicated customer service professional who is committed to getting to the bottom of the issue and making the customer happy, is a joy to deal with. To transform one into the other, the agent needs the right kind of leadership and incentive, whether that’s career progression, or monetary reward — people’s motivations vary, but the satisfaction of making someone happy should be a big driver for any good CX agent, if they’re in the right job.To do that job well, they need access to the tools and information necessary to solve as many problems as possible for the customer, for example a business phone system which connects directly to the CRM. This will serve up relevant support information to them right in the moment, instead of them needing to go and find out and make a call-back — so they know they’re making a great impression on callers, and demonstrating that the organisation cares enough about them to keep track of their entire interaction.

Product pain points

Of course you may have the world’s most motivated customer service team doing their utmost to make callers happy, but struggling with a fundamental issue with the product — which hinders them from doing their job, and gets in the way of customer satisfaction. In this case there might be a product issue that needs fixing at source, or, perhaps the agent is struggling to understand and support one crucial aspect of the user experience and simply needs some training and review.RingOver’s supervision tools enable you to activate recording and review of calls, even to listen in discreetly in real time. So, you can get to the heart of sticking points, and compare one agent’s approach directly with another — does everyone end up needing a call-back when they present with a particular issue? Are there features which regularly require a technical escalation and referral, but could instead be dealt with by the first agent, if they had the right product knowledge and support? You could even use RingOver’s powerful API tools and webhooks to build a custom integration that better supports your customer service agents, to access relevant contextual information more rapidly, from product documentation to user histories. Empowered and motivated agents, who have the right information at their fingertips, have the greatest chance of serving your customers impeccably — and fixing their issues first time, every time.

Understand your customers

Good customer service means meeting your users where they are, and, whatever the temptation, not attributing their problems to any deficit on their part. If they keep breaking or misusing your product it can be frustrating, but by really getting to know the customers and their issues you can find out why.Remember that as more and more customer service can be done in a self-service way (for example, using the RingOver bespoke IVR to address routine issues), the customers you end up talking to directly will increasingly be the edge cases — those with complex problems, perhaps with extra support or communication needs, and having unusual difficulties with the product that you have not created routine support for.Getting to know them through user research and market research can help you improve the efficiency of your customer service on various metrics, as well as generating increased sales and satisfaction for all. But do bear in mind, if you are — as you should be — offering more and more ways for customers to help themselves solve their routine and straightforward problems, then your FCR tracking might be confounded over time, as only the most complex and difficult are ever dealt with by an agent in the first place. These queries are more likely to involve extra time to sort out, possibly escalation to technical support specialists, and a need to dig more deeply into each ticket to resolve it in a way which satisfies the customer.But do bear in mind, if you are — as you should be — offering more and more ways for customers to help themselves solve their routine and straightforward problems, then your FCR tracking might be confounded over time, as only the most complex and difficult are ever dealt with by an agent in the first place. These queries are more likely to involve extra time to sort out, possibly escalation to technical support specialists, and a need to dig more deeply into each ticket to resolve it in a way which satisfies the customer.

The changing role of the agent

Therefore, when you seek to improve your FCR, it’s critically important to identify first where there is room for improvement, so you work to correct the deficit in the right place. You need to view the metric in context with others, to make sense of qualitative shifts in the customer service environment.Last year, Research from Salesforce (one of RingOver’s popular CRM integration partners) highlighted the way that the job of being a customer service agent has evolved into something far more strategic and important, than the entry-level position it once was. I recall a student job from long ago in the days before mass consumer internet, answering phones for an insurance company and taking callers through a series of on-screen prompts to generate quotes for insuring their car. It was low-paid and unfulfilling work, where we were continually monitored for time spent on call, and time (to the second) wasted between calls. There is no sense whatsoever in any business paying even student wages for a human being to do this in 2020 of course, where a self-service toolset like an IVR will do it more consistently, quickly, accurately, and whenever the customer wants it.Today, businesses which recognise the increasingly strategic role that a highly trained and well-supported customer service agent can play, are successful businesses: the Salesforce research showed that 63% of agents spend most of their time solving complex problems, on the most highly performing team. (Compared with underperforming teams, however, where a similar share of agents (57% spend most of their time on mundane tasks).Unsurprisingly therefore organisations which rely on unsophisticated metrics like average call times to evaluate their agents’ performance are missing the point, and years behind the way the industry is working now.

First Call Resolution and the future

As we move into the future, FCR will continue to be a vital metric of what is increasingly called ‘customer success’ — as businesses align their customer’s success with their own, and place increasing value on satisfaction as an outcome, rather than tickets cleared or other such meaningless data.Voice systems like RingOver will increasingly form part of an integrated matrix of omnichannel communications, as customers expect to communicate with brands via a growing blend of modes and pathways, switching from one to another at will, just as they do with their consumer communications apps. While people will always want and need to talk to a human being from time to time, this will form part of a mixture of self-service and multidirectional interactions with businesses, that don’t depend on age or generation but instead on the customers need state and urgency: Both Baby Boomers and Millennials are 100% comfortable using self-service interactions like an ATM to withdraw cash for example, but had better be able to speak to a personal banker the moment either of them notice an irregularity on their bank statement.That voice agent is therefore more and more likely to be talking to a customer who is distressed, anxious, or has unique needs meaning they cannot use self-service tools, so they’ll need to be empowered and prepared to address a diverse range of interesting and far from routine questions. But they’ll be empowered by AI augmentations which serve up relevant documents and context for them right in the moment, using natural language processing to listen to the call and predictively identify what the caller really needs, or what the agent needs to solve their problems. They’ll have to be comfortable switching channels as rapidly as they do on their smartphones with friends — for example, hopping on a screen share video call with a customer to walk through a solution, or replicate their errors in real time. But the contextual information their integrated phone system will serve up discreetly in the moment will make them seem superhuman and omnipotent, even when they are supporting very complex and specialist products.This is a future we’re moving towards, where customer satisfaction remains at its heart — and first call resolution remains one of the most critical areas of focus, for everyone who cares about making their customers happy. The way that happiness gets delivered will become increasingly sophisticated, but human nature and need for resolution will always be consistent.

Want to learn how to achieve an excellent First Call Resolution rate?

Contact our experts to help guide you step-by-step at +44 20 7509 6665 or send an email to sales@ringover.com. Start your free trial today.

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