First Contact Resolution – The Ultimate Guide to Achieving It For Your Organisation

First Contact Resolution (FCR) is one of the most important metrics you’ll utilise in the customer service environment. Customers want to have their problems resolved at the first time of asking and typically consider any customer service that requires multiple interactions to be sub-standard.

Consequently, customer satisfaction often depends on FCR. With this in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to take an in-depth look at the best ways to improve your First Contact Resolution rate.

Ensure accurate measurement by developing a working definition of first contact resolution

First things first – you must first establish a working definition of FCR. A definition gives employees the criteria they need to accurately determine when a call is “resolved.” Without such a definition, it’s impossible to measure, analyse, and improve FCR with any accuracy

A working definition of FCR will always take into consideration the specific characteristics of your customer service environment. For example:

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  • How are customers most likely to contact your business?
  • How realistic is FCR in your current system?
  • Why are customers opting to use certain channels as a means of first contact?

However, there are general definitions that you can adapt to your specific workplace. For instance, FCR is often described as “the percentage of contacts the service desk resolves on the first interaction with the customer” (ThinkHDI)

Why your specific FCR definition matters

Before the emergence of alternative communication channels, the phone call was king and customer service centres used the term ‘First Call Resolution.’ This has now evolved to become ‘First Contact Resolution.’

This development reflects the way that text-based, live chat and other internet technologies have become increasingly important. In the past, FCR was defined as, “properly addressing the customer’s needs the first time they call, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second call.” (SearchCRM)

The distinction between ‘contact’ and ‘call’ is vital, as businesses need to understand that customers expect their problems to be resolved as quickly as possible, no matter what channel is used.

If a customer service department is still prioritising telephony over other channels, it’s not reflecting the changes in the industry that have taken place over the last decade. It’s stuck in the past.

Improve first contact resolution by understanding where your service suffers

In order to improve FCR, you first need to identify and isolate pain points.

If your First Contact Resolution rate is low, it’s unlikely that your entire customer service system is broken.

Instead, there are probably a few isolated areas in which your team is underperforming. Identifying, isolating, and understanding these problematic processes will allow you to implement measures that improve your FCR rate.

First Contact Resolution - The Ultimate Guide to Achieving It For Your Organisation

One of the key ways you can better understand the failures of your customer service system is by following up when customers express dissatisfaction or when there is no FCR. This means introducing a system in which agents or digital apps identify and flag repeat contact.

There are various ways to achieve this. For instance, filters can be set up to ensure that calls originating from the same telephone or account number are automatically flagged if they occur within a certain period of time. Likewise, speech and text analytics can identify specific phrases that are indicative of repeat contact. These may include phrases such as “called before,” “last time I called,” “repeat problem,” or “return policy.”

Feedback mechanisms, such as customer satisfaction surveys, are also an excellent means of determining where your customer service can improve. These are particularly useful when used at the end of a call, as they allow a customer service department to confirm FCR.

It’s often good practice to ask a customer directly whether their issue has been resolved, as it reinforces the idea of ‘resolution’ in both the agent and customer’s minds. Surveys also give customers an opportunity to provide further information as to how and why their problem has not been resolved.

Improve FCR by limiting the occasions on which a client can be handed off

Repeated re-routes are a major cause of low FCR. However, this issue can be resolved by,

  • Ensuring your human agents have the skills and resources required to resolve as many core customer issues as possible
  • Ensuring your IVR sends customers to the right expert straight away

Businesses can also equip their staff in the right way by taking three factors into consideration.

  • Staff must be given as much independence and authority as possible
  • Staff need to be able to go ‘above and beyond’ to meet customers’ needs
  • Staff need to be presented with the ‘right’ problems

Human agents are often limited in their ability to resolve issues by a restrictive top-down organisation.

By this, we mean that agents aren’t able to resolve customer issues because protocol requires them to escalate certain issues to a superior. If First Contact Resolution is to be improved, agents need to be given independence and authority – you must trust them to perform their role.

This also ties in with our second factor – staff must be encouraged to use their initiative to think beyond the confines of scripted or pre-defined responses, to offer innovative and unique solutions to customers’ issues.

If you limit a human agent by placing them within a restrictive and inflexible customer service system, you are robbing them of their most valuable traits – their ability to empathise, adapt, and make exceptions.

Finally, a business’ customer service system must be set up so as to identify and funnel particular problems to appropriately qualified agents. An effective response system will try and identify the customer’s reason for making an enquiry and push it towards the most suitable department or individual. In this respect, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technologies are particularly useful.

Equip your business to succeed by investing in staff

Along with providing staff with the necessary independence and authority to perform their role, customer service departments also need to invest in them. This means earmarking time and money for training purposes and considering the ways in which you can improve employee performance through training.

This is an essential aspect of any well-rounded approach to FCR. Human capabilities are just as important as technology and the way the two interact determines how successful the customer service system is.

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Training is an important factor for three reasons;

  1. It broadens the arena in which a human agent can comfortably and successfully act
  2. It provides agents with the skills required to interact with different personality types
  3. It equips agents with the confidence and capacity to move away from a scripted response

The first of these is fairly self-explanatory. Studies demonstrate that FCR rates improve when the same agent handles the issue from beginning to end (Talk Desk). However, an agent’s ability to do so depends on the expertise they’re able to draw upon. If they’re trained in a wider range of topics, they’re more likely to be able to resolve an issue the first time around.

Similarly, if you provide customer service agents with the training required to interact with different personality types, they’re likely to feel more comfortable in the role.

Finally, scripted responses often lack the nuance required to truly satisfy customers. An agent who is able to move away from the script and interact authentically with a customer is much better equipped to resolve the enquiry. In this sense, training is key. It’s also a good opportunity to reinforce the importance of FCR to staff.

Make finding a solution easier by providing agents with all the information they need

Human agents and digital technologies interface most regularly via Customer Experience (CX) or Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) platforms. These platforms help manage a business’ interactions with customers by providing agents with all the information they need to handle, process and resolve an enquiry.

Without a platform that tracks contact across various different channels, agents are at a disadvantage. They’ll often enter a conversation with a less-than-perfect understanding of the customer, their history, or their specific problem.

stack of coloured books first contact resolution

Through these platforms, agents should have access to all pertinent data relating to the customer. Some organisations refer to this as a “360-degree view” of the customer. The platform must be easy to access and navigate and needs to be designed so as to allow for intuitive use during contact.

Equipping customer service agents with this information improves their ability to resolve complex issues in a way that satisfies the customer. Being able to see previous interactions (particularly text-based interactions), provides the agent with additional context and allows for a more personal conversation.

More personal interactions make for a more satisfactory customer experience.

Streamline customer services by automating simple tasks

Self-serve and automation technologies need to be implemented alongside human agents if a business is to provide high-quality customer service. Both are necessary components in modern customer service provision.

One sure-fire way to improve your FCR, lower costs and keep customers happy is to automate relatively simple, high-volume queries using Chatbots or IVR.

After all, it doesn’t take a human agent to provide a satisfactory answer to enquiries like: “when is the next council bin collection?” or “what is your returns policy?”

The automation of relatively simple tasks through the use of modern technologies like Chatbots and IVR boasts various benefits. These include;

  • Frees up human agents to focus on more complex issues
  • Ensures human agents are more engaged with their work. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of First Contact Resolution
  • Improves the probability of a customer being able to resolve an issue by themselves

Chatbots are an indispensable technology when it comes to improving FCR rates. Not only do they provide solutions to increasingly complex customer issues, but they’re also capable of gathering important customer data. This data can then be leveraged by a human agent to provide a tailored solution.

While automation technologies are a common feature of modern customer service provision, businesses can’t afford to neglect simpler self-service features, such as FAQs.

Back your staff by developing a strong and easily understood support structure

While frontline workers interact with the general public on a day-to-day basis, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes support required, too.

A key characteristic of successful support systems is that they work to optimise the conditions in which agents operate. For instance, a useful support system recognises the unique talents and specialisations of individuals and teams.

grey metal cogs first contact resolution

This enhances a business’ ability to direct traffic to the right agents, increasing the possibility of resolving the contact first time. Similarly, a well-developed support structure is able to provide appropriate resources and training to those who require it.

It will also provide customer service agents with a channel through which they can ask questions, raise issues, and request help, encouraging them to develop their own skills.

Ensure you’re getting it right by regularly monitoring customer satisfaction and first contact resolution

Finally, regular monitoring of customer satisfaction and First Contact Resolution is an important means of identifying issues early on. This allows you to intervene before they begin impacting on the customer service team’s performance.

If businesses take a hands-off approach and ignore problems, they face a much greater challenge and could end up alienating a considerable number of customers.

Likewise, if monitoring figures are only published at the end of each month, it could be weeks before customer service issues are identified. This seriously delays the implementation of corrective action.

To summarise, if you’re to improve FCR rates, up-to-date monitoring technology that allows for real-time analysis is absolutely essential.

What Next?

Improving First Contact Resolution rates depends on balancing investment in digital self-serve technologies and the development of your human agents. Working on one at the expense of the other will not achieve the desired results – there must be a focus on both.

Consequently, businesses should look to develop human agents’ skills and take an interest in their personal development. At the same time, investing in digital automation technologies that provide quick and accurate responses to high-volume customer enquiries will also drastically improve your FCR rate.

Editors Note: This post was originally published in Feb 2019 but has since been completely updated so it stays relevant, accurate and valuable to our readers

Our expert team have been providing customer self-service solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line to find out more.