Off Center
First-contact resolution has been a hot call center metric for years now. There are white papers and articles galore on the topic, and entire conferences and online forums dedicated to it. Most telling is that numerous managers have gotten “FCR Forever” and/or “One and Done” tattooed on their necks.

The majority of conversations about FCR center around two things: 1) the huge potential impact of FCR (on operational costs, customer satisfaction and agent satisfaction/retention); and 2) how the hell to measure this mega-metric accurately (no simple task, as you’ll see in my upcoming ebook, Full Contact).

What often gets lost amidst the FCR hype and the confusion surrounding its proper measurement is something even more critical: What processes, practices and tools a contact center can put in place to help improve FCR. Customers don’t care if you know how to measure FCR, they simply want you to achieve it. Following is a list of tactics to help you do just that:

Excellent agent training and tools. If your agents lack skills, knowledge and/or immediate access to key information on calls, your FCR rate is going to be lower than the average winter temperature in Greenland or the average morale level in a billing contact center. Top centers provide comprehensive new-hiring training to rookies and frequent ongoing training to veteran agents, forever keeping staff abreast of new products/services, information and approaches to help them provide the most efficient and effective service. In addition, these centers equip agents with user-friendly, fast and frequently updated desktop tools and knowledge bases that enable staff to find crucial customer data and product/service info a flash, thus reducing the number of times customers must be placed on hold, transferred, called back, or physically restrained.

World-class workforce management processes. Even the best-trained and equipped agents on the planet will die without oxygen, thus it’s critical to schedule enough staff to enable each agent to take at least two breaths between calls. Agents can’t resolve calls if they are having a stroke, or if the customer – who has been caged in the queue for 15 minutes – is screaming at them for taking so long to answer the phone. Thus, accurate forecasting and sound scheduling based on those forecasts is critical, as is mastering skills-based routing so that callers get sent to the right agent with the skill-set to handle the customer’s specific issue, and not to Bob – the quiet guy in the corner cubicle who makes paperclip sculptures of his mother. 

No conflicting performance objectives. Many contact centers tell agents to focus on FCR, but then pressure them to achieve strict productivity objectives that interfere with agents’ ability to truly focus on the customer. Conflicting performance objectives are the number-one cause of agent-on-manager violence in America. Making FCR a KPI in your center but then punishing agents for not handling a certain number of calls per hour/shift or for going a little over the desired AHT average will not only hinder your center’s chances of achieving FCR success and customer satisfaction, it may result in you being killed or worse by furious frontline staff.    

Incentives around FCR goal achievement. It’s always a wise practice to align agent incentives with the contact center’s and the enterprise’s performance goals. And since FCR success should be a top priority for nearly all customer care organizations, nearly all customer care organizations should reward and recognize agents when they consistently meet or exceed individual, team and center-wide FCR goals. Top contact centers do more than just order pizzas or pat staff on the back to celebrate current and propagate future FCR success; rather agents in these centers receive cash prizes, meaningful gifts/gift certificates, as well as public recognition at interdepartmental meetings and via internal newsletters/the corporate intranet. In addition to incentivizing and rewarding agents for FCR success, some centers de-incentivize and punish agents for FCR failure. This typically includes taking cash and gifts away from agents, publically humiliating them at meetings and via newsletters/the intranet, and forcing them to spend an hour alone in a room with somebody from IT.       

Agents empowered to improve FCR-related processes.  Your agents know customers and customer care better than anyone, assuming your center’s hiring and training programs don’t blow. Smart contact center managers actively solicit suggestions and insight from agents regarding how they may be able to enhance FCR performance. Given the opportunity, agents will tell you what tools, training and workflows are lacking, and what processes and metrics are interfering with their ability to effectively resolve customer issues. They will also tell you what color they would like the contact center to be painted and why they need a new headset that doesn't shock their ears, so be sure to cut them off before they stray too far from the topic of FCR.

I’d love to hear some of your ideas on FCR improvement, and/or about any tattoos you have gotten to show your dedication to this key metric.

8/24/2010 01:22:13 am

Hello Greg, found your blog via linked in - very interesting, and the songs made me laugh.

RE: FCR improvement, what do you think the role of technology is in all of this... does arming the call center agent with real-time customer information (including historical purchases,general account info, behavioral data and product or service recommendations that they are already qualified for) make a dramatic difference in your opinion? What industries have the best FCR and which ones need the most work?

7/23/2017 12:35:37 am

There are lots of talks I've heard about this matter but different companies are still not making a way to make all of these possible. I would be so much glad if first-contact resolution would take place since it will help not only the agents, but the customers as well. Employees should push their employers to make this action for their sake!

8/24/2010 01:23:29 am

oh, and no tatts to report that are relevant to the metrics :)

8/24/2010 02:07:05 am

Thanks, Jenn -- and good question. Yes, I definitely believe (and have seen first-hand) that providing agents with real-time customer data and other powerful desktop tools fosters higher FCR rates. More information at agents' fingertips means fewer holds, transfers and callbacks -- and certainly happier agents and customers!

As far as what industries have the best/worst FCR rates, I'm not sure. Certainly some businesses -- those that routinely handle highly complex customer issues that may require offline research -- can't be expected to consistently knock it out of the park with FCR. On the other hand, centers that receive a lot of basic and repetitive contact types should be able to hit a pretty high FCR target.

But not TOO high -- FCR rates in the 95%-100% range often indicate an opportunity to improve service via NO service; in other words, to use self-service tools (IVR and web-based) to offload basic calls and enable agents to focus on more complex issues.

I hope you find this helpful, and I'm glad to hear that you haven't gotten all inked up with metric-related body art. Tatts should express something more profound than call resolution and customer sat.




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