Resolving customer issues or questions on the first call is the pinnacle of success in contact centers. It’s the ultimate expression of a fine-tuned customer engagement and experience strategy. So it’s essential to track and monitor FCR (first contact resolution) in your customer service operation. However, as is the case with any metric, it can be overemphasized. Managers begin tracking agent and team performance, holding them accountable for FCR rates. Resolving customer issues quickly and satisfyingly is vital. Still, we also need to take into account how we use the metrics that track it.
Too Much FCR
A misplaced over-reliance on FCR can often have negative results. Here are a couple of adverse behaviors that may arise from a misguided emphasis on FCR.
When you become preoccupied with customer survey results and tie them to agent performance reviews, and FCR analysis, there’s an unintended consequence; survey begging. Agents urging callers to score a ten on the post-call survey can be disingenuous. Or conversely, agents might not mention the survey at all if they couldn’t completely resolve the issue.
Consider a team working through a daily email queue. You discover one email that’s been hanging around for a couple of hours. It turns out to be a complicated email, several paragraphs long, with more than one customer question. Obviously, it’s going to take several exchanges to resolve the complex issue. So everyone is avoiding the email at all costs, knowing it will impact their FCR score.
If FCR factors highly in agent compensation, no one can blame them for asking, or not asking customers to complete the survey and avoiding complicated customer issues.
Improving FCR: A Systematic Approach
First contact resolution is getting a lot of attention lately. And for a good reason, people easily switch brands after poor customer experiences.
Delivering exceptional customer experiences isn’t a priority; it’s an absolute need for today’s businesses. So let’s look at our six-step recipe for improving your first contact resolution.
Today’s customers expect self-service, and they expect a lot from it. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that two-thirds of callers anticipate resolving their questions through self-service. They want to avoid the possibility of waiting on hold or even speaking to an agent.
Develop an automation game plan that provides self-service options to answer repetitive and mundane questions and tasks such as:
- Account balances
- Payment due dates
- Accepting payments
- Service status
- Appointment setting
- Store hours
- Store locations
- Return policies
- Shipping status
- Outage reporting
- Outage status
- Utility meter readings
- (and more)
An effective automation strategy will significantly enhance your customers’ experience. At the same time, it will free up your agents’ time to focus on resolving issues on the first contact.
2. Identify Issues Not Solved On The First Contact
No matter how you track FCR, customer survey, agent notes, or dashboard metrics, it’s vital to compile interactions that don’t fall within your FCR threshold. You’ll likely discover some patterns in the types of customer issues that require repeat contacts. This step can be time-consuming. But you can’t fix a car’s engine without first diagnosing what’s going on.
3. Deep Dive Into The Data
Now it’s time to analyze your list. Prioritize those interactions that would involve significant amounts of time for your agents to listen or read. Speech analytics help at this stage by pinpointing missed opportunities.
During your analysis, try to diagnose the root cause. Here are some critical thoughts to keep in mind:
- Find occasions to train or coach agents to go the extra mile, anticipating the customer’s needs before the end of the interaction.
- Identify opportunities to empower agents to resolve issues on their own.
- Are there product limitations and feature requests that customers are highlighting?
- Look for gaps in the customer journey. Strategically give customers training or assistance to make it easier for them to do business with you.
- Are there issues where automation can remove a task away from your agents’ responsibilities?
4. Inspire Your Agents
Your agents need to understand why first contact resolution is more than a performance metric. As you coach your agents, here are some thought-starters for you:
- Resolving customer issues on the first contact means fewer aggravated callers. That’s better for you and your co-workers.
- As our first contact resolution improves, we gain and retain more customers. That’s better for everyone.
- You’re helping your agents anticipate customer needs before the customer asks. That makes for more enjoyable and efficient calls.
- You’re there to remove any blockers that get in the way of doing their jobs. That benefits the customers.
Once your agents understand some of the core business and service reasons behind FCR as a metric, they’ll be receptive to more coaching. And if FCR measures their performance, they’ll be motivated by your investment in their success.
5. Empower Your Agents
Naturally, when you ask yourself what prevented an issue from being resolved on the first contact, you will discover instances where agents are not empowered or adequately trained. Here are a few ideas to stay invested in your agents’ FCR success.
Integrate Agent Tools – Do they have to wrangle too many windows on their screens? Make sure tools like CRM, account information, orders, shipping, and other service items are integrated into your core software. Any improved integrations will help the agent experience.
Adopt Microlearning – Don’t wait for team meetings to focus on training. Watch for moments where a brief one-on-one coaching session can help an agent augment their learning.
Identify Best Practices – You can learn from the actions of your top-performing agents. Track what made their interactions delightful, share it during team meetings, and document it for everyone.
Find Bottlenecks – Every organization has unnecessary bottlenecks. Is there a department where transfers take a long time to connect? Find the reason for the bottleneck and explain that everyone is in customer service.
Find New Self-Service Opportunities – No matter how comprehensive your automation game plan, opportunities can be missed. Incentivize your agents to find new ways to automate common questions.
Prioritize Issues – Finally, and most important, identify the top instances where agents aren’t empowered or trained to resolve specific issues. Begin with the most frequent and work with your agents to solve it.
6. Close The Loop
One of the most significant learning experiences is to follow-up with customers who didn’t get a first contact resolution. These calls are your chance to learn what makes a high-effort experience and integrate what you learned into your training. Consider this approach:
- Contact customers, preferably via phone or their channel of preference, if communicated.
- Communicate a sense of urgency around their issue.
- Address and resolve whatever you can immediately.
- Listen to the customer’s perspective with an empathetic ear. You will gain valuable feedback about your product and service.
- Take ownership. For issues you can’t resolve, sometimes a reassuring human who promises to take ownership and be a point of contact will calm a customer enough to wait longer for a resolution.
- Create long-term solutions. Keep your focus on solutions that improve the experience for all customers.
FCR Is A Business Metric
A rising tide impacts everything, and improving FCR is your rising tide. You need to treat it as an internal company metric because everyone is in customer service. Increasing first contact resolution will:
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Improve net promoter score
- Reduce cost-per-contact
- Reduce customer churn
- Increase customer self-service
- Improve agent score
- Increase cross-functional efficiency
But here’s a cautionary note for metric watchers. Be prepared to see the average handling time increase. Your agents will be focused on more complete solutions, and that can take extra time. But with the overall reduction in repeat calls, increased customer retention, and NPS boost, it’s worth it.
We Can Help
We’ve helped many companies adopt a blended strategy of the right automation, with efficient integration, and the right contact center software through our CCaaS partners like 8×8 and TCN. Contact us to learn how First Contact Resolution can be a business metric that transforms your business.