First Call Resolution: 6 Practical Tips for Improving Your FCR

call center agent working to improve first call resolution

With more and more of today’s customer service interactions being handled by automation and chatbots, your live agents are left with the most complex and sensitive cases. This is called the “automation paradox,” and it’s playing havoc with metrics like average handle time and first call resolution. In fact, Forrester recently reported that handle times have risen 11% in the past three years due to this phenomenon.

Customer service automation is the new reality (and that’s actually a good thing) but its unintended impacts on other KPIs can be a challenge.

So with agents now handling a higher proportion of complicated issues, how can you make sure that the key metric of first call resolution rate stays high?

What is First Call Resolution (FCR)?

Let’s start by defining what this call center metric means.

First call resolution (FCR) is all about the accuracy of the resolution. It’s about your agents getting it right the first time and preventing repeat customer contacts on the same issue.

Put another way, how often is your team resolving cases during the first interaction?

It’s helpful to think about FCR as first “contact” resolution since there are so many more ways customers might contact you beyond a phone call. In fact, other communication methods like email and live chat are more popular with consumers.

The industry standard for FCR is 70-75%, meaning customers are only contacting you more than once on the same issue 25-30% of the time.

Why First Call Resolution Matters

CX and service professionals are always striving to reduce customer effort. Improving FCR is a great example of that mission. Here are some benefits you’ll see when you improve your first contact resolution:

  • Higher CSAT
  • Lower churn
  • Better word-of-mouth
  • Lower operating costs

Improving FCR also has a direct impact on reducing your amount of revenue at risk. Studies show that 12% of customers jump ship if it takes more than two attempts to resolve an issue. When you multiply by your customer average lifetime value, that adds up quickly.

Another study from Service Quality Management Group uncovered a direct relationship between FCR and customer satisfaction. They found that every 1% increase in first call resolution, companies experience a 1% improvement in CSAT. Clearly, improving FCR is a worthwhile undertaking.

How to Measure Your First Call Resolution Rate

FCR seems fairly straightforward to calculate:

First call resolution rate (%) = (number of cases resolved on the first contact ÷ total number of cases) x 100

But even though the calculation for first call resolution is simple, there’s a lot of nuance behind it. Every company measures FCR differently depending on how they define an interaction, how they define “first,” and how they define a resolution.

As you determine how you want to measure FCR, answer the following questions:

  • Which of our service channels does FCR apply to?
  • What do we consider as the “first contact?”
  • What are the criteria for considering a customer’s problem resolved?
  • Are we including self-service interactions in the calculation?
  • How do we define a repeat call/contact?
  • What if the customer initially contacts the wrong department?
  • What if the customer abandons before the interaction begins, due to a long wait time?

First contact resolution should be measured across multiple service channels, including phone, chat, or social media, to determine which is most effective at helping customers resolve issues in a single interaction.

As you think about your definition of “first contact,” consider the customer’s perspective. Is it the first time a customer calls, emails, or live chats you? From your perspective, that would seem like the first contact. But for the customer, their first service touchpoint is mostly likely self-service on your website or mobile app. In fact, 70% of consumers prefer to use web self-service as a starting point for their service interactions.

Many companies neglect to measure the success of their self-service interactions, which should be held to the same quality and accuracy standards as live agents. So it’s a good idea to include automated interactions in your FCR analysis.

Interpreting Your First Call Resolution Rate

So now you’ve fully defined and measured your first call resolution rate, and found it’s 80%. Awesome! You’re beating the benchmark!

But before you pop the champagne, stop and validate why your FCR is so high:

  • Is it because customers are getting what they need the first time?
  • Or is it because they aren’t bothering to contact you again?

It’s easy to see a high FCR, pat yourself on the back, and move on. But this metric can’t be studied in a vacuum.

You must consider if the customer was satisfied with the resolution, and if not, what action they may have taken, such as sending an angry tweet or simply switching to a competitor. Without a 360-degree view of the customer, it’s impossible to measure the impact of first contact dissatisfaction.

A deeper dive into your resolution data can also tell you what kinds of questions or concerns your customers are bringing up most frequently – are they complex questions that require multiple interactions? Are they asking these more complex questions around a particular product or service area?

By pinpointing the reason codes and product codes that are more likely to drive additional contacts, you’ll be better equipped to address the root cause of those issues.

Balancing First Call Resolution Rate with Other Service Metrics

Delivering accurate, engaging service in a timely fashion has always been a balancing act. On one hand, agents need to take the time to thoroughly answer a customer’s question and engage in a high-quality, personalized way. But this is directly at odds with the desire to decrease average handle times.

Empowering agents with the right tools can go a long way towards providing service that’s both fast and effective. For example, automatically presenting relevant customer details and suggested next best actions right on the case screen can help agents arrive at the right answer quickly.

5 Best Practices for First Call Resolution

Here are five best practices to keep in mind as you analyze your FCR:

  1. Make sure you can unify customer profiles across channels, including email, phone, and social media.
  2. Reduce transfers and escalations by routing customers to the right agent the first time.
  3. Train agents to always ask “What else can I help with” and proactively educate customers to prevent future contacts.
  4. Give agents the content they need – whether that’s next best actions, interaction history, related knowledge articles, etc. – in real time as they work the case.
  5. Rely on automation to complete the most tedious and error-prone tasks, like data entry and email reply generation.

6 Tips for Improving Your First Call Resolution

By leveraging well-trained AI solutions and agent productivity features, you can make significant improvements to resolution accuracy and FCR. Here are six tips to move the needle:

1. Auto-populate as many case details as possible.

Is your current case management system smart enough to auto-populate details like customer profile, reason code, product code, and verbatim from the customer’s inquiry? Not only does this feature save time, but it also improves accuracy.

2. Automate email replies.

Use an email automation solution to process incoming emails and prepare a response, requiring agents to merely QA before sending.

3. Offer relevant context for the agent.

Displaying details like the customer’s loyalty status, previous orders, service interaction history, and relevant product information enables agents to tailor the engagement while also accurately resolving the issue.

4. Integrate knowledge into the CRM.

Automatically suggesting knowledge base articles as the agent is engaging with the customer ensures even new agents can answer questions correctly. An embedded agent knowledge base also lets you provide agents with guidance on how to proactively educate the customer to head off repeat contacts.

5. Show next best actions.

Make sure agents always know what to do next by offering next best action recommendations right in line with the case.

6. Validate FCR with post-call surveys.

Present customers with a quick post-interaction survey to confirm whether they considered their issue to be truly resolved. You could also ask whether this was really their first interaction to further validate your resolution data.

Astute Helps Your Agents Be Heroes

Astute’s award-winning customer engagement platform gives contact centers everything they need to beat their KPI goals. From agent desktop CRM software to customer service chatbots to advanced analytics, Astute’s flexible technology empowers your team to succeed. Schedule time to see a live demo.