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First-Call Resolution Drives Contact Center Improvements

First-Call Resolution Drives Contact Center Improvements

First-Call Resolution Drives Contact Center Improvements

First-call resolution is one of the most effective tools for improving performance. DMG Consulting’s Donna Fluss offers the building blocks for implementing a successful FCR initiative.

2/4/2008
By Donna Fluss
Customer Management Insight

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It has always been a priority for contact centers to resolve an inquiry during the first interaction. Customers in all industries — financial services, insurance, telecom, retail, energy, travel and hospitality — greatly appreciate having their issues resolved completely the first time they call; and a satisfied customer is much more likely to extend his or her relationship with a company. On the contact center side, resolving an inquiry during the first interaction avoids the expense of follow-up calls, which range in cost from $2.50 to more than $20, depending upon the time and resources required.

First-call resolution (FCR) measures the percent of calls resolved during the first contact. This metric is useful for evaluating the overall effectiveness of a call center. It addresses productivity, efficiency, quality and customer satisfaction. The calculation for FCR is:

FCR = Total Number of Calls Resolved During First Contact ÷ Total Number of First Calls

(Note: FCR can also be used to measure emails and chat sessions.)

FCR concentrates on measuring the way agents handle the first call about an issue. Its weakness is that it ignores all follow-up activities. Agents are trained and often highly motivated to deliver to departmental goals, including FCR. Because FCR concentrates only on first calls, agents who are too driven to exceed goals may focus on these initial contacts at the expense of follow-up inquiries. This practice, called “agent gaming,” can be easily avoided by measuring both FCR and the overall “call resolution rate” (CRR). CRR provides valuable insight into agent performance for all interactions, including follow-up contacts. The calculation for CRR is:

CRR = Total Number of Calls Resolved ÷ Total Number of Calls

When used together, CRR and FCR reflect the status of 100 percent of calls, not just first calls. The remaining challenge is to determine accurately which calls are fully resolved. There are a number of methods for calculating call completion, as shown in the table on the following page.

The best technique for identifying call completion would combine two of the methods described in the table. After using automation to evaluate whether or not an inquiry was resolved, an FCR application could determine if an agent has taken all necessary steps to resolve the inquiry. This approach for identifying resolved inquiries will likely become a best practice in call centers, as it is automated, objective, accurate, and eliminates the one to three seconds required for agents to wrap up each call. An FCR program can be implemented without an application, but automation is necessary to institutionalize it, ensure consistency throughout the enterprise and achieve the greatest benefits.

12 Key Steps for FCR Success

A comprehensive FCR program encourages changes in internal processes and agent behavior. When FCR and CRR are incorporated into a performance management program, the benefits are both departmental and enterprisewide. The following steps will facilitate development of a successful first-call resolution program.

  1. Set up an FCR steering committee. The committee should consist of influential staff members from all call center constituencies (agents, supervisors, managers, trainers and QA specialists) who can build team momentum and encourage staff buy-in. Any affected external departments should also be invited to participate.
  2. Define program goals. The steering committee should establish short-term (one to six months), intermediate-term (seven to 18 months) and long-term (18-plus months) program goals and define desired outcomes. For example, the committee can determine appropriate FCR improvement rates and specify the areas where FCR can improve performance and customer and agent satisfaction.
  3. Obtain senior management support. As a successful FCR program requires changes throughout the enterprise, it’s essential to obtain the support of all senior managers and colleagues who may be impacted.
  4. Communicate with staff. Inform all staff members about the new program in order to gain their support and alleviate any concerns. Ongoing communication is essential.
  5. Conduct a baseline analysis. Use manual calculations to analyze current performance before implementing an FCR program. This is critical for measuring the success of the initiative and to identifying and rewarding outstanding performance.
  6. Define call completion. Estab­lish a standard approach for measuring call completion for FCR and CRR. Test these definitions to ensure that they yield the desired results.
  7. Select application. Determine functional and technical requirements for all constituencies inside and outside the call center to drive the FCR application selection process.
  8. Implement application. Work with IT and all relevant groups to implement the FCR application.
  9. Define rewards. Develop a new reward system that incorporates the new FCR goals. Incorporate FCR within the quality assurance program and annual/semi-annual reviews.
  10. Train staff. Make sure all staff members understand their individual, team and departmental goals.
  11. Create ongoing FCR project team. This team should include constituents from the call center and all impacted operating areas. The FCR project team is responsible for identifying and implementing all required changes to procedures, systems, policies, training programs, QA programs and operating areas.
  12. Implement the program. Roll out the program in phases. Start with a pilot and make adjustments based on its results. Build on initial successes to introduce the program to different teams throughout the enterprise.

Analysis of Call Completion Identification Methodologies

Tapping the Value of FCR

A successful FCR program yields many benefits inside and outside the contact center. Within the service organization, FCR benefits agents by providing a fair and objective approach for measuring performance; this improves agent retention and reduces training costs. FCR helps managers and supervisors by reducing the volume of complaint calls, freeing them to spend more time assisting agents. It also gives them information needed to identify and correct faulty processes inside and outside the call center. At the call center level, FCR reduces operating expenses by reducing the volume of follow-up calls. This improves the customer experience and market perception and increases customer loyalty.

The benefits of FCR outside the call center are substantial. For example, FCR increases revenue and upsell and cross-sell opportunities for sales and marketing organizations. It also enhances the brand, improves customer retention and creates a growing base of highly satisfied and loyal customers who are more likely to recommend the company.

At the enterprise level, FCR is a strategic differentiator that has a quantifiable impact on the bottom line by reducing operating expenses, increasing revenue and reducing customer attrition. FCR programs rapidly identify ineffective and negative policies and procedures that impede the organization’s ability to provide an outstanding customer experience. FCR also delivers many benefits directly to customers. It identifies and eliminates frustrating obstacles that prevent the timely resolution of inquiries. This improves the perception of the company and brand and makes customers more receptive to new opportunities to extend their relationship.

FCR is a very valuable tool for evaluating call center performance because it measures a criterion that is essential to customers at the same time as it assesses the performance and effectiveness of the call center down to the agent level. FCR, in conjunction with CRR, yields actionable performance data that can be applied on a timely basis at all levels of the contact center. Service organizations of all sizes, in all industries, can realize significant internal and external benefits from an FCR program.

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