The role of first-contact resolution as a major driver for customer experience

When it comes to striving to ensure the most positive customer experience (CX) at call centres, first-contact resolution (FCR) ought to be a key topic of conversation. After all, surveys of both organisations and customers have unearthed plenty of evidence of FCR being a primary factor in positive CX – yet its importance hasn’t always been fully understood by decision-makers. 

It should be acknowledged, however, that first-contact resolution rates can be easily misinterpreted by some observers, which underlines how crucial it is to view them in context. 

What do we mean by FCR rates being easy to misinterpret?  

One example of an FCR rate on its own not necessarily telling the whole story, is that a given organisation might put in place improvements to its processes, only to see its FCR rate fall. 

This may seem to be the opposite of what the business would expect or hope for. However, it should be accounted for that if the organisation had previously been handling live calls that would have been better suited to self-service or avoidable through the improvement of the firm’s marketing communications, eliminating such ‘easy’ calls would cause a drop in the FCR rate. 

Yes, if customers call your team to ask questions that could have been easily answered on the company website, and those questions can be answered quickly and accurately by your customer-facing staff, this will have the effect of driving up your first-contact resolution rate. 

But your organisation won’t want its FCR rate to be kept high in this way, given the costs of handling high levels of ‘easy’ calls and the negative impact it would have on other performance metrics, such as queue length and rates of call abandonment.

First-contact resolution, then, needs to be considered alongside other factors 

It should hopefully be clear from the above that while your organisation’s first-contact resolution rate is certainly a crucial one to study, this is the case because it relates to both all-round customer experience and the wish that your organisation has to avoid unnecessary calls. 

High FCR rates for your organisation, looked at in isolation, might actually be masking underlying problems with a high level of unnecessary calls. 

If, then, your organisation can successfully cut out many of these unnecessary calls – for example, by providing more relevant and useful information on your company website, or re-engineering your firm’s self-service application in line with customers’ needs – the calls that are left will usually be those of a more complex nature. This situation will cause your business’s FCR rates to fall, at least initially – so, that is something you will have to anticipate and prepare for. 

Are senior decision-makers fully aware of the importance of FCR rates? 

The saddening answer to this question is that it would seem in many cases that they are not. Again, this is borne out by research; when survey respondents were asked to identify a single CX metric upon which their board or senior management team most judged the success or otherwise of the CX programme, FCR rates were picked out as the key metric for senior management by a mere 7% of respondents. This is despite, as we touched on above, customer and business survey results having highlighted FCR as the most important factor in influencing customer experience. 

This lack of acknowledgement of the importance of first-contact resolution was also reflected in how infrequently agents were rewarded for good FCR. When respondents were asked whether their customer-facing employees were financially rewarded based on any CX factors, it was found that 30% of businesses rewarded agents based on quality scores, and a quarter of them did so based on the cross-sell/upsell rate. However, only 12% did so on the basis of the first-contact resolution rate. 

Would you appreciate gaining greater insight into the relevance of first-contact resolution to your organisation’s efforts to optimise customer experience? If so, our “2022-23 UK Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide” can now be downloaded from the ContactBabel website. This report contains in-depth information in relation to various aspects of CX, to help your firm make empowered decisions. There’s a US version available too