Six Simple Ways to Increase First Contact Resolution

If you had a magic wand to boost customer satisfaction, lower costs, make employees look forward to work, and improve customer retention, would you use it?

First-contact resolution (FCR) is the magical yet common sense metric that—as everyone knows by now—makes the customer service world a better place. With the holiday crunch just around the corner, it's time to ask how you can increase FCR.

FCR is the percentage of first contacts during which customers' issues are resolved. What makes it a terrific benchmark? Research by The Ascent Group found that for every 1 percent rise in FCR, customer satisfaction rises by 1 percent and your customer service operating costs go down. Keeping customers happier increases retention and cross-selling—crucial in the holiday season. What's more, the agents who help those customers will be happier. As the Great Resignation sweeps through support centers along with other customer-facing jobs, every business needs to keep its customer service teams on a positive footing.

Worldwide, the average Net FCR for service desks is about 74 percent. Whether your FCR performance is at, below, or above this level, you can take the following six steps now to make it even better. What will it cost you? Virtually nothing.

There are sophisticated methods and tools to boost FCR, and there are FCR consultancies that will assess and re-engineer your customer service activities. Those are certainly worth looking into, but you can start your FCR quest today with a half dozen simple tips and practices that have proven effective. They'll help you cut repeat calls, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce support costs significantly.

  1. Begin right: Make a promise. Early in the contact, assure the customer with, "Sure, I can help you with that." It immediately lowers the tension that the caller feels. It probably disposes the customer to be more patient with the rep; it's gratifying for customers to know that they didn't waste their time calling. The agent WILL help them because she just promised to do so.
  2. End right, confirming a happy outcome. Get clear agreement that FCR occurred; the agent winds up the contact by asking, "Did I resolve all your issues today?" The customer's answer to the question is the best immediate confirmation of FCR. It also prepares the customer to answer any follow-up surveys you send.
  3. Reduce escalations. Empower reps to solve issues on the spot. As customer service leaders, you can coach agents that they do not need you, and they should rarely need to escalate tickets.The answer is often simply to empower agents; that is, give them more leeway to solve problems on their own by authorizing them to think like you. When agents come to me for an escalation, I often ask them, "If you were me, what would you do?" They usually suggest a good solution, I usually agree, and their escalation rate usually drops. This increases FCR because it eliminates wait time for escalations. It also builds customer rapport with agents.
  4. Analyze the fail-to-FCR cases, where the issue was not resolved. Dive into the data. Find common threads. Is it a skill, will, data, or software platform problem?
  5. Use the voice of the customer. Find a way to let customers define their levels of satisfaction. One company enabled customers to make a small tip to CS agents. Typically, post-contact or end-of-contact surveys pose just a couple of questions to customers to record the outcomes.
  6. Measure first-contact success or failure as a binary metric. Clarify your definition of FCR and track it. There are many ways to define resolution, of course. It's more reliable to ask customers (not call center reps) whether they consider their problems resolved. For many, the gold standard is when the customer responds that the outcome was satisfactory and initiates no further contact on that issue. In other words: one and done, in a good way.

The key is to take the first step, any step, toward improving FCR. Begin by setting some basic metrics and goals, implementing baby steps and introducing dialogue around FCR with your teams. With a sustained focus, you'll start to see a cultural shift toward resolving customer issues, reduced costs related to fewer repeat contacts, and more delighted customers.

Ramon Icasiano is chief customer officer of Pathlight.