Your call center is your first line of defense in the war against poor customer service. Any time a call comes in, your support team is on the clock, expected to deliver a response to the customer’s request or inquiry that is fast, comprehensive, and that resolves any issues they might be facing, all on the first pass — a feat that’s often easier imagined than achieved.

But it isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility — that is, not if you know which metrics to track. By defining and measuring key performance indicators (KPI) and updating your call center strategy based on the data you collect, you can make your call center more effective and efficient and improve the customer experience in the process. The most important of these KPIs is first-call resolution.

What is First-Call Resolution?

Exactly what it sounds like.

First-call resolution, also referred to as first-contact resolution or FCR, refers to a company’s ability to resolve a customer service request — be it a question, comment, or complaint — in a single interaction. First-call resolution matters for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that it’s proven to have an effect on customer satisfaction.

According to SQM Group, 86% of customers who phone into a call center expect their issue to be resolved on the first call; for every follow-up call required to resolve the issue, customer satisfaction drops by 15%. Any time a customer gives you their patronage, they do so with the expectation that you’ll take their problems seriously and value their time. That’s a perspective that’s easy to empathize with — after all, no one enjoys having to repeatedly follow up with a company on an issue, especially since you’re handing over your hard-earned money to that company for their product or service.

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Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a higher first-call resolution rate — employees do, too. SQM’s research also indicates that for every 1% improvement in first-call resolution, there can be a 1%–5% improvement in employee satisfaction. By keeping both customers and employees happy, you significantly increase the likelihood of long-term customer and employee retention. First-time call resolution can also boost your business’ bottom line: For every 1% improvement in first-call resolution, a call center reduces operating costs by 1%. This is especially significant given the fact that repeat calls account for 23% of the average call center’s operating budget.

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On average, it takes 1.5 calls to resolve a customer’s inquiry. You can see how your business stacks up to the average using this simple first-time call resolution formula: FCR = Total Resolved Cases / Total Number of Cases

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Best Practices for Improving First-Call Resolution

So, you’ve calculated your first-time call resolution rate and decided that there’s room for improvement. You’ve come to the right place.

But before we dig into first-call resolution best practices, let’s take a moment to talk about first-call resolution criteria. The old adage of “You can’t improve what you don’t measure” applies to first-call resolution, but before you can measure anything you need to define a few parameters:

  • What constitutes a repeat call?
  • What constitutes an escalated call?
  • Do escalated calls count against your first-call resolution rate?
  • What is your contact window (that is, the amount of time allowed to elapse between calls in order for it to count against your first-call resolution rate)?
  • Do customer mistakes (e.g. caller contacts the wrong department or provides inaccurate information) count against your first-call resolution rate?
  • What factors will you use to determine whether a call was sufficiently resolved?

Once you’ve defined these parameters, you can start to implement first-call resolution best practices and quantify the improvements you make.

1. Eliminate the Wait

Self-service has become a major trend across industries for good reason: It gives customers the tools to resolve their own issues, frees up customer service specialists to handle more complex inquiries, reduces call wait times, and saves businesses money that would otherwise be spent hiring additional call center agents. Adding a customer self-service portal to your website or mobile application — replete with a reliable knowledge base, AI-powered chatbot capabilities, and call-back options — enables customers to take matters into their own hands and alleviates the pressure on call center agents. Even if a customer decides that they still require live support after logging into your self-service portal, they’ll be better prepared for the call, thereby reducing the amount of time spent on the phone and increasing first-time call resolution.

2. Get as Much Information as Possible

The more information a call center agent has about the customer on the line and the issue they’re facing, the more likely they’ll be able to resolve it on first contact. One way to ensure that employees get the information they need is to provide comprehensive training that teaches them the right questions to ask during a call to get to the root of an issue. Another way is to invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. CRMs store valuable customer information, including service history, within a centralized repository, making it easy for employees to pull up information relevant to a service request on a moment’s notice and to resolve the issue on the first pass.

3. Provide Clear Instructions Wherever Possible

There’s nothing worse than finally connecting with a service representative after being placed on hold, only to receive a confusing response to your inquiry. If you’ve ever found yourself in this position, you likely had to make a follow-up call for clarification and, even then, were still skeptical of the answer you received. It’s imperative that call center agents be clear and concise when answering customer questions or providing instructions; doing so can reduce (or eliminate) confusion on the customer’s end and lead to a faster resolution. Agents should also take care to provide customers only with information relevant to the issue at hand, so as not to overwhelm them.

4. Don’t Just Show — Teach

Are you familiar with the phrase, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime”? Rather than just resolve an issue on the customer’s behalf, a call center agent should take the time to carefully walk the customer through how they achieved that resolution. In doing so, they not only increase the likelihood of first-call resolution, they also prepare the customer to replicate the process on their own in the future, eliminating the need for a second call.

5. Ask These Important Questions Before Closing out a Call

A call isn’t over until the customer says it’s over — and, when they do, it’s in a call center agent’s best interest to do one final check-in before they get off the line.

  • “Have I fully resolved your issue?”
  • “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
  • “Are you interested in learning more about our support center?”

These three questions, delivered in this order, ensure that the issue has been sufficiently addressed and resolved, that there are no additional issues for the customer to follow up on, and that the customer knows how to access your business’ knowledge base should they encounter any issues in the future.

6. Put the Power in Your Agents’ Hands

As we’ve already noted, an informed employee is an effective employee. Uninformed or unprepared agents are less likely to resolve a call on the first try, so it’s important that you equip them with the proper tools, knowledge, and training to confidently handle any call they might receive.

Make sure the training you provide is thorough and hands-on, so new employees can experience a wide variety of practice scenarios before they ever actually get on the phone. Maintain a comprehensive internal knowledge base that agents can refer to during calls; document answers to common problems and update this knowledge base accordingly on a regular basis. Invest in a CRM system and other call center software to automatically update calls, create tickets, and perform skills-based routing so that the right call ends up with the right agent. By making your customer service specialists’ jobs easier, you stand a better chance of improving your first-call resolution rate.

7. Regularly Re-evaluate Your Methods

In order to improve your business’ first-call resolution rate, you must first understand the strengths and weaknesses of your customer service specialists. Review service calls, emails, chats, and more on a regular basis to see what your agents do well, where there’s room for improvement, and how you can update internal processes and procedures to make them more efficient. Don’t be afraid to solicit customer feedback, as well, to learn firsthand about experience, including what went well and what didn’t.

How Hitachi Solutions Empowers Call Centers

Here at Hitachi Solutions, we specialize in helping call centers achieve dramatic increases in their first-call resolution rate. Through the use of integrated data, we provide call center agents with a 360-degree view of the customer, including which products or services they currently have, detailed records of previous service requests and more. The more data at your agents’ fingertips, the better.

Speaking of agents, our unified service desk makes it possible for your agents to gain access to information through multiple channels, such as instant messaging, so that they can get up-to-the-minute information from other agents and resources without having to drop a call in the process. Should an agent ever need to transfer a call to a different representative, they can pass along vital information so that the customer doesn’t have to re-explain the issue they’re facing every time they speak to someone new. And to top it all off, our call scripting service makes it easy to learn which questions are the right questions to ask customers, so your agents can achieve first-call resolution that much faster.

Want to learn more about how Hitachi Solutions can help you improve your first-call resolution rate? Talk to one of our specialists today.