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How to improve first call resolution (and not just measure it)

Many articles have been written on the subject of First Call Resolution (FCR).¹ Topics range from FCR benchmarks, formulas and metrics, to resolution rates and even the first call resolution industry average. But are they about ‘how to measure’ or ‘how to improve’ first call resolution?

¹Also known as 'First Contact Resolution' recognising that the first contact can now been through phone, email, live chat etc.

first call resolution rates

It seems to us [me], that most articles deal with measurement of FCR, as well as the tools and techniques that can be deployed to this end. The suggestions include “tick sheets”, customer surveys, speech analytics, automated emails following calls, call listening, monitoring social media and ‘big data’ analytics – all worthwhile ways to measure FCR, but actually improving first contact resolutionis a different matter. The measures provide the information, but measuring the process is not the same as understanding. Getting to the route cause of low FCR rates and, ultimately, changing process and outcomes is what will improve FCR and make a difference to the customer experience.

Recent work that Unipart Expert Practices has undertaken with clients reinforces our “bottom up” approach: using front-line employees as one of the best ways to tackle FCR. This recognises that your front-line employees are the ones who most often see the issues as well as the potential solutions. Empowering and developing front line staff to innovate on first contact resolution best practices not only engages them and delivers immediate benefit, but also acts as a platform for building continuous improvement over the long term. Getting the culture right, is an important first step.

Improving first contact resolution through employee engagement

Employee Engagement is crucial in today’s competitive world – highly engaged employees make for high performing teams. That, in turn, leads to improved and enhanced results and outcomes. Allowing employees the freedom to become part of the FCR problem-solving equation is vital for two reasons:

  1. it encourages participation and ownership at ground level, and...
  2. employees have the insight and knowledge of the problem first hand on a day by day basis

By empowering employees and providing them with training in the right tools and techniques they can become the “FCR problem solvers”, allowing you to generate excellent first call resolution ideas and results. Allowing them to:

  • Flag problems and record them (collect the data)
  • Discuss the issue (diagnose the route cause)
  • Develop solutions and propose new process
  • Test
  • Deploy and embed the new work standard
  • Review and fine-tune

Following this approach results in sustainable continuous improvement whilst enhancing employee engagement.

first call resolution standards

However, whilst front line staff can identify problems, propose solutions and embed change, it can’t just happen in isolation – it requires managerial support and the right approach to leadership. For instance, a route-cause may be established to lie within other functional areas of the business – e.g problems elsewhere in the business may be generating excessive demand on the contact centre, which in turn causes FCR rates to drop. Departmental managers and teams will need to be able to work together to help flag and resolve these issues.

Additional training may also be required. If analysis shows that a particular type of call is contributing to low FCR rates, then it may be that front line agents do not have the training or access to the right systems to answer these particular customer queries. Again, management support will be required in facilitiating access to the right training, or system changes, in order to implement an effective solution.

Back to measuring first call resolution

Which brings us back to measurement as you need to be able to demonstrate that continuous improvement in some way. So it can’t, of course, be all action and no measurement.

As such, behind all of this activity to improve FCR, it is important that there are the right set of KPIs to drive the correct behaviours. For example, targeting people on AHT (average handling time) and Wrap (Wrap up time) can drive the wrong behaviours - it encourages individuals to focus on quick calls and getting the customer off the phone rather than listening to the customer and resolving their issue irrespective of how long it takes. So make sure your FCR measures and improvement methods align properly.

2 Questions to leave you with

In our blog we have argued that just measuring FCR alone may not lead to improvements. Equally we know that making things better without measuring those improvements is not enough. So we leave you with these 2 questions:

  1. How much energy are you putting into measurement as against how to actually improve FCR? Make sure you have a healthy balance.
  2. With measurement, are you making sure that the measuring activity itself doesn’t make things worse rather than improving overall FCR performance?

Would you like help getting the balance correct? To speak to one of the Unipart team about how you can achieve a better FCR, get in touch with us using the form at the bottom of the page.

More about Contact Centres, Employee Engagement and Unipart Expert Practices

Employee engagement is defined Unipart as “a culture that inspires and enables people to go the extra mile and actively seek opportunities for continuous improvement in all that they do, for the benefit of themselves, the organisation and its customers”

First Contact Resolution, together with many other Contact Centre issues, can, therefore, be improved through engaged employees becoming skilled problem solvers. Employee Engagement, however, is just one of the five elements to achieving sustainable continuous improvement. Unipart Expert Practices (UEP), the Consultancy Division of Unipart Group has developed a Sustainability Model that has proven itself time and time again within our own organisation and our customers and clients.  ­

See how we transformed call handling for this UK water utilities company company. Over 3 years the first call resolution has increased from 38% to 80%:

improving customer complaints

The Unipart Way: performance improvement that sustains

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