A 360 Degree Look at First Contact Resolution

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on November 28, 2016. Click here to read the original.

I recently had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on First Contact Resolution (FCR), the metric, at the ICMI Contact Center Demo. It was an honor to share a mic with Justin Robbins, Neal Topf, Al Hopper, and Jeff Toister, all contact center and customer service thought leaders of whom I have the utmost respect.

I’d like to pause for just a moment and say that I find it funny any time I talk about the metric, FCR when I work for the company, FCR (First Call Resolution). While that might seem a little confusing, I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll see why it’s a great name for a company. Unless otherwise specified, when I say FCR in this post, I’m referring to the metric, not the company.

Unpause. In the session, we went through a series of questions and I’d like to take a few moments to share my own thoughts on the matter. My co-panelists also had some really profound things to say that I’ll inject into the discussion.

How do you define FCR?

FCR is ultimately when the customer’s issue is actually resolved without them having to contact customer service more than once. According to the The Effortless Experience, we need to also remember that self help (knowledge base, website, control panel) is a support channel and if the customer couldn’t find their answer there, the call to support is actually a second contact.

Also consider that in a multichannel support operation, customers need to be able to get their issue resolved in their channel of choice. If your goal in measuring FCR is to reduce the effort required for customers to get their problems solved, you need to consider the customer’s support channel preference.

How do you measure FCR?

I’ve seen and heard of FCR being tracked in multiple different ways, but the ultimate goal is to come up with a percentage of interactions that were resolved with only one contact to customer service. Here are five different approaches to measuring FCR that I’ve seen:

  • Self Service – When you’re reading a knowledge base article and it asks the question, “Did this article resolve your issue?” that’s an attempt to gauge FCR, which really speaks to the accuracy and helpfulness of the article. While this can definitely improve your knowledge base, it doesn’t indicate whether or not the customer then contacted support about that issue.
  • Agent Dispositions – At the end of customer interactions, many contact centers require their agents to not only mark what the interaction was about, but also note whether or not it was resolved. This purely relies on the agent’s perspective as to whether or not they resolved the customer’s issue and may not get the customer’s perspective.
  • No Response=Resolved – If we respond to an email and the customer never replies, one might assume that it’s first contact resolved. But what if the customer just didn’t like the answer and took their business elsewhere? What if the email got lost in their spam folder? Can we really call that first contact resolved?
  • Post Interaction Surveys – Some companies ask their customers if the issue was resolved on the first contact as a question in their customer satisfaction survey. It’s a great idea to ask the customer but with a survey response rate that’s a fraction of your total support volume, this may be a flawed measurement.
  • Ask Your CRM – With a killer omnichannel CRM system, it’s possible to see how many times a customer interacted with support about an issue regardless of the support channel they used. To go this route, you’d either need a common ticket number tying the interactions together or some sort of time parameter where if a customer only contacts support once in X number of days, it was first contact resolved.

There are flaws and challenges with each of these approaches. And before you accuse me of kicking the can down the road or avoiding the metric altogether, let’s discussion some practical measures we can take to improve FCR and ultimately the customer experience.

Focus on Next Issue Avoidance

Justin Robbins of ICMI reiterated the concept of Next Issue Avoidance from The Effortless Experience book in our talk. This is where we not only aim to resolve the issue the customer presented during the interaction, but we also anticipate the next one they’ll likely have and address that as well.

Next issue avoidance also speaks to the importance of being proactive and either fixing or reaching out to the customer about an issue before they contact support. That’s one reason big data and the myriad of connected devices (IOT or Internet of Things) are so important. Think about auto mechanics who receive a signal from a car when there’s a problem and can reach out to the customer before they even become aware of the problem.

Justin summed this up so nicely when he said:

“The best type of customer contact is the one that doesn’t happen.”

This is the point where Neal Topf of Callzilla chimed in and said that perhaps we should change FCR from First Contact Resolution to Future Contact Resolution.

Emerging Channels Challenge the Definition of FCR

Al Hopper of Social Path Solutions provided some great insight from a social media perspective. In social media customer care in particular, where your character count might be limited, FCR is nearly impossible. He proposed changing it to First Conversation Resolution. This means defining what a conversation is and determining if it took more than one conversation to resolve the issue. This concept could most certainly be applied to SMS (text), Facebook Messenger, and chat as well.

It’s also important to consider that some social media interactions should be moved to a private channel like phone and email and we need to make sure that channel switch is as seamless as possible for the customer. This means rather than giving the customer a number to call, getting their number and calling them.

Interacting with Customers isn’t a Bad Thing

As I mentioned earlier, no response from a customer to an email isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’ve worked with clients who actually encouraged a little back and forth with customers to focus on building rapport with them. A steadfast focus on FCR instead of customer engagement might encourage your agents to send emails that are no more than an information dump rather than a time to collaborate, solve their issue, and build loyalty in the process.

FCR is a Quality Metric

This leads to an important note that FCR is very much a quality metric and can be tracked holistically through your other metrics and efforts. Neal Topf noted, “FCR doesn’t exist in a vacuum.” The quality of customer service and/or self help resources determines whether or not the customer will have to contact support again. This means that if you don’t currently measure FCR, you’re going to be OK. Customer satisfaction surveys and also quality assurance are effective tools for measuring the quality of responses to customers— and the methods for tracking them are a bit more clear and available.

Start Now

It’s so easy to get hung up on tracking a metric perfectly and fail to do what’s most important, and that’s to improve the customer experience. Even if you don’t have the best way to measure it, start now with what you do have. Here are a few ideas that were presented in the session to get you started:

  • Quality – As you are reviewing interactions during your quality assurance process, ask yourself a couple questions.
    • Could we have responded differently to prevent additional contact and frustration from the customer?This question will reveal coaching opportunities for your agents.
    • Is there something about our systems that we need to improve or some way to better empower our agents to solve problems? This question reviews gaps in the customer experience that require collaboration with other departments in the organization to solve.
  • Deep Dive – Take one of your support channels and do a deep dive. For example, find all of your emails for a period of time that have more than one response from the customer and review those to see why they weren’t first contact resolved.
  • Ask Your Agents – Make a habit of asking your agents every day to report a call driver or type that they were unable to resolve. Work on fixing those issues.

Conclusions

At the end of the session, our consensus was that we probably don’t need to spend a ton of time figuring out how to track FCR. Instead, we should focus on proactively preventing the next issue customers might have and equipping agents with the tools they need to successfully solve problems. When we improve those things several of our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will improve as well.

So what about working for a company called FCR? FCR’s Co-Chairman Matthew Achak refers to First Contact Resolution as his favorite, and the most important customer service metric. When you speak of this metric in the context of a company that aims to empower and equip agents with tools and training to do their jobs well, while also consistently improving quality and customer satisfaction, I couldn’t agree more!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *