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Why a high First Contact Resolution rate is vital for customer service success

Solving any problems quickly and effectively is central to achieving high customer satisfaction levels. Consumers don’t want to be forced to make contact again to resolve an issue or have to wait for an agent to call them back with an answer.

Research in the ContactBabel UK Customer Experience Decision Makers Guide 2021-22, sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, backs this up. In the report both consumers and customer service professionals agree that First Contact Resolution (FCR) is key to customer service success. Across every age group, consumers ranked FCR as the most important factor when dealing with an organisation, ahead of short waiting times, long opening hours and polite employees. 50% of businesses said their customers valued getting problems solved first time as their priority, with a further 31% putting it within the top three.

Identifying the benefits of high First Contact Resolution rates

Achieving high FCR rates helps both consumers and businesses. By eliminating the need for customers to make multiple contacts to resolve their issues, it is a clear signal to them that a business values their time. Done well it can turn around negative opinions and boost customer loyalty.

For businesses, it increases efficiency by reducing contact volumes. This is particularly important at the moment, with ContactBabel’s research showing that most sectors are experiencing higher call volumes post-pandemic. 81% of customer service respondents say this has been driven by people’s greater need for confidence that their issues are resolved. So getting it right first time delivers reassurance to consumers and removes the need for them to call back or be contacted again, freeing up agent time for other queries.

Understanding the issues when tracking First Contact Resolution rates

Comparing ContactBabel’s data shows that FCR rates have actually fallen over the last few years, from 78% in 2017 to around 74% in 2021.

However, it is important to look behind this headline rate, as multiple factors can have an impact on the numbers. For example:

  • If simple, repetitive activities (such as checking where an order is or finding out basic information) are successfully moved to self-service, then the remaining calls are likely to be more complex, and potentially difficult to solve in a single interaction lowering FCR
  • On the other hand, if self-service is not working properly, more consumers will switch to the phone for simple queries that can be resolved on a single call. This will increase FCR rates. However, in this case, a higher FCR rate is not a positive since it shows an underlying need to re-engineer self-service.
  • There could be issues with other parts of the business not taking the necessary action. This forces consumers to call back, even though the contact centre agent resolved their query and passed it onto the correct department. 23% of respondents reported that more than half of their call-backs were due to these failures in downstream processes and actions.
  • Unclear communications (such as confused marketing, or incorrect billing) can cause people to call unnecessarily. While these may be simple to resolve in a single call, the resulting higher FCR numbers mask the issue that is driving people to make contact.

Effectively improving First Contact Resolution rates

Given its importance, organisations need to be continually looking to improve their FCR rates. This requires a focus on four key areas:

1. Adopt a consistent methodology for measuring and tracking FCR

There are multiple ways of measuring whether interactions have been satisfactorily concluded. For example, you can:

  • Ask agents to mark whether a query has been satisfactorily resolved
  • Track issues to see if they were re-opened
  • Deploy supervisors to monitor calls and check if they are concluded (quality assurance)
  • Automate the analysis of call recordings to see if the query was resolved
  • Ask customers if they feel their issue has been resolved either via agents or by conducting a post-call IVR survey.

Quality assurance monitoring is currently the most frequently used form of gathering FCR data, with 90% of contact centres deploying it. While 27% saw it as very/somewhat useful it was not seen as effective as automated analysis of call recordings. 71% of contact centre professionals that had deployed this method score it as ‘very useful’ for measuring FCR.

2. Build effective collaboration between departments

Too often queries seen as dealt with by the contact centre are not solved by the wider business. Different departmental processes must sync up to deliver on what customer service agents tell consumers is going to happen. For example, if an agent promises the customer that a replacement product will be sent out within 24 hours, there needs to be a clear process to notify the warehouse team about this and ensure it happens. Otherwise, consumers will end up calling again, lowering FCR rates

3. Knowledge needs to be shared and constantly updated

Making sure that all agents have access to the latest information is crucial to ensuring they can answer queries without needing to put callers on hold or phoning back. The best way to make this happen is through a single knowledge base which can be accessed by all agents and is constantly updated with new answers. This helps drive higher FCR and improved consistency.

4. Communicate clearly across the business

For example, ensure that the customer service team is fully aware and able to properly prepare for any events that are likely to generate more calls. This could be a new product launch, or a redesigned bill that customers are unfamiliar with. The contact centre must be briefed about these events ahead of time and where possible relevant information must be added to the website/self-service system in order to deflect basic queries.

Nearly half (49%) of B2C companies say good customer service is one of their primary methods of gaining a competitive advantage. However, in an increasingly complex world, consumers are more likely than ever to contact a brand – how you deal with these queries and meet their needs is therefore critical. That means ensuring you have the correct strategy in place to continually increase First Contact Resolution rates within your organisation is crucial to ongoing customer service success.

To learn more about how to achieve this, download your copy of the ContactBabel UK Customer Experience Decision Makers Guide 2021-22, sponsored by Enghouse Interactive.