First-contact resolution (FCR) is a measure that is in growing use by contact centres and is used by almost 60% of team leaders.
In this article, Paul Smedley sets out some best practice guidelines which came out of a strategy forum hosted earlier this year.
Also called one-and-done or first-touch resolution, recent research by the Professional Planning Forum shows that First-call resolution is now also increasingly used at the business level to drive focus on areas where systems or process improvements can bring efficiency or customer benefits. At the same time there is evidence that it is difficult to find the right ways to measure or define FCR – and that dysfunctional behaviour can arise when it is inappropriately used for targeting.
Be cautious about how you extrapolate between sector or service types
FCR is a measure which should not be simply compared across sector or service types; average rates of 70%, 80% or 90% from industry surveys cannot be treated as representing best practice. The reasons for this are threefold.
- Firstly, FCR rates are determined by the nature of the service and the policy of the organisation. FCR will typically be higher in centres handling fast or simple queries (such as directory enquiries, ticket lines or information requests) and lower in centres handling a wider range of complex enquiries.
- Secondly, initial research reveals that organisations calculate FCR in widely differing ways, either because of difficulty in accessing data from systems or through the use of different policies in determining which calls are actually resolved at the first point of contact.
- Thirdly, FCR is different from other typical contact measures such as speed of answer or abandon rates, which are driven by consumer expectations derived from experience of contacting many types of organisations and where standard definitions of the measures are more commonly understood and built into systems that calculate them automatically.
FCR targets are dynamic
FCR targets need to be adjusted dynamically to reflect changes in the mix of contact types received by the organisation – so that FCR is not an appropriate measure for a fixed monthly or weekly target across the year.
For example, if avoidable contact is reduced by automating or removing the need for a type of simple call, then FCR will go down, but this is probably a positive move from a business and customer perspective.
Similarly, policy or market changes may increase or decrease the type of calls that are likely to be resolved at first contact – or vice versa.
Choose appropriate means of calculation
When comparing FCR rates or using FCR for targeting or to drive business change, special care should be taken to understand the way that the measure is most appropriately calculated. In this respect current practice differs widely and direct headline comparisons can be misleading.
For example, some centres measure FCR based on using call identifiers from the telephone system (or email address) so that resolution is defined as customers whose caller-id (or email address) does not repeat within a defined number of days.
This may be a simple starting point for some organisations, but it can be misleading in cases where, for example, multiple customers call from the same number (e.g. a workplace), a single user calls from different places or uses different email addresses, a significant number of caller-ids cannot be identified or where some callers call repeatedly on unrelated queries (e.g. brokers calling about different policy holders).
In other centres, resolution is defined by the end-codes created either from automated analysis of the transaction or the code input by the agent. Policies for defining ‘resolution’ vary greatly (even between organisations within the same sector) with different approaches used, for example, in cases like calls transferred to another call handler within the centre(s), calls transferred to another call handler outside the centre(s), calls handed off for despatch/delivery/manual update, calls handed off to the back office or calls which result in a call back.
Take the customer perspective
We recommend that the customer’s perspective is used by your organisation to determine whether a particular call handling path is truly resolved at first point of contact for the purposes of your FCR measure, particularly in determining the appropriate development of contact handling methodologies such as case-management. For example, a caller who is transferred or called back and whose issue is promptly resolved without the need for further contact may well regard this as FCR. However, a caller whose application has been processed accurately and within the agreed timescales that were fully explained may still call back because they don’t have confidence or regard this as too long.
The policy of the centre in relation to contacts that are outside its remit will determine in which circumstances the call is resolved appropriately by telling the caller that they have contacted the wrong number/address or giving them an alternative contact.
Careful analysis of the customer experience resulting from handoff to back office functions can determine, for each specific process or queue, which of these can be appropriately regarded as FCR, so that the measure is supporting rather than impeding end-to-end service.
Consider carefully what you target
FCR – or other measures that describe the call outcomes in terms of the customer experience – can be very useful in focusing changes to process or policy and can help in reducing avoidable contact.
FCR can also provide useful feedback for agents, particularly in centres where other customer-centric measures (such as direct customer feedback) are not available. However, great care should be taken in using FCR to target individual agents, as in many cases perverse or dysfunctional behaviours can arise.
Paul Smedley is Executive Director at the Professional Planning Forum