Is It Time to Re-Evaluate First Contact Resolution?

Is it time to re-evaluate this popular agent efficiency and effectiveness metric?

Over the past decade, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to first contact resolution (FCR) as the end-all, be-all metric for measuring agent efficiency and effectiveness. It’s been called the metric that matters the most for call centers to define, measure and improve their quality and cost, for example.

So organizations push their agents to improve their FCR numbers.

Customer-facing agents all over the world are regularly checking their customers’ satisfaction through one simple question:

“Have I fully resolved your issue today?”

There are reasons this question is so popular. When customers reach out for support, they want one thing above all else—to have their issue resolved without additional frustration, time, or effort. So it’s easy to see the value of this question. If the customer says “yes,” the interaction is considered a win…and the agent can move on to the next one. If the customer says “no,” the agent knows to continue working with the customer until the issue is fully resolved.

It can prevent customers from having to re-contact the organization with the same issue.

What we have to realize, though, is that customers change—all the time. Their expectations, preferences, and behaviors are changing, meaning yesterday’s standards for excellent customer service aren’t necessarily today’s.

In companies where agent performance is based on dated metrics, there’s likely going to be a disconnect between how companies think they are treating their customers versus how their customers actually feel they’re being treated.

Not all FCR is created equal, after all. So, whether you are thinking about FCR as a new metric, or you have been using it for years, there are a few considerations to think through to make sure it works for your agents and customers:

  • FCR can be difficult to define & calculate.
  • FCR is not always possible.
  • Taking care of the customer is more important than taking care of the issue.

Ask a dozen companies how they measure FCR and you might hear a dozen different answers. Based on the customer/issue type, the company’s industry, and so on, what can count as a “fully resolved issue” varies a great deal. And there’s no right or wrong—an organization has to decide on what they consider to be FCR, and then stick with it.

If you don’t think strategically about what your definition of FCR should be, in other words, the metric/numbers won’t mean much.

For example, if a customer is transferred to a different department, or switches channels, is that still a single contact? How long do you wait after a “yes” to count an issue as being fully resolved? These are the kinds of questions that need to be answered in order to make FCR really mean something.

Measuring FCR can provide great insights—but only if you first decide what FCR really means (and, more importantly, why it matters).

Another thing to think about is that FCR is simply not always possible.

Certain issues require more complex, multi-touch resolutions.

Sometimes, too, agents are limited by their technology (if, for example, they lack a single view of their customer or intelligent call routing).

Finally, customers themselves can’t always know if their issue has been fully resolved. So simply asking them if their issue is resolved won’t be easy for them to answer accurately. Agents cannot always be sure, either, that other issues aren’t lingering beneath the surface, waiting to re-irritate the customer.

In order to prevent customers from having to re-contact the company in the case of recurring and/or unresolved issues, train agents to do more than merely ask the question.

Instead, follow the lead of high-performing brands by training your agents to anticipate and resolve additional potential problems.

What does this look like? Agents with this mindset are likely to say things like, “Customers in your situation often end up facing a related issue. Let me tell you about that now so you won’t have to call back later.”

Yes, this strategy may sound counterproductive to valuing a customer’s time…but it actually shows more respect for customers’ time. Rather than hurrying one customer off the phone in order to move on to the next (metrics-driven behavior), these agents work to handle future issues before they have a chance to surface.

It’s taking a little time now to save a lot of time later…and that can make all the difference to a customer.

Making a customer feel known and understood is just as important as valuing their time—in other words, treating them like a human being rather than just a customer.

Even though your intentions are good in prioritizing—to give customers the speedy resolutions they want—it’s equally important to consider how such service is delivered. Speed for speed’s sake feels impersonal.

Rather than considering FCR the absolute goal, allow it instead to naturally result from improved systems and practices, as well as training and coaching.

Effective agents work to truly resolve their customers’ issues, not just process their calls.

Empowering agents to take care of each customer as a customer (as opposed to a case number) is essential for any organization interested in offering a positive customer experience.

When company culture incentivizes quantity and speed over thoroughness and empathy, customers are the ones who suffer.

Final Thoughts

Customers expect you to value their time, but they also expect you to value them. You give them that by engaging them human conversations with empathetic, intelligent agents—not purely through lightning-quick resolutions.

Sure, they want their issues resolved quickly, but they also want them resolved completely.

Fully resolving a customer’s issue requires fully understanding a customer’s issue: what led to it, how it can be fixed, and how to prevent it (and other issues) in the future.

When thinking about what constitutes fully resolving the issue, then, it’s important to not only think about whether the issue is fixed, but how the customer feels as a result of the interaction.

In customer service, speed definitely counts for something…but when it comes as the cost of a customer feeling truly understood and valued…it can backfire, creating a whole new set of unpleasant issues to resolve.