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First contact resolution

A guide to first contact resolution

First contact resolution is an important metric for customer facing teams; when used properly it should help organisations to design processes and systems that delight customers.

First contact resolution, a definition

The definition of first contact resolution is exactly how it sounds. It is having the ability to resolve a customer's issue with a single interaction. This could be a single phone call, email or online chat. A first contact resolution eliminates the need for a second follow up. The metric itself is calculated by the percentage of enquiries that are dealt with in the first interaction.

The techtarget definition of first call resolution (now more popularly known as first contact resolution) is:

In customer relationship management (CRM), first call resolution is properly addressing the customer's need the first time they call, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second call. Talk time (the average time an agent spends on each call) is a common call center performance metric. In general, fast talk time averages are desirable. However, fast talk time averages accompanied by poor first call resolution rates are a sign that customer calls are not being answered satisfactorily. 

...and a first call resolution definition

If you are also finding lots of references to first CALL resolution then let us explain. When the phone call was the dominant communication method between a company and clients/prospects, then the term "first call resolution" came into being. Now that almost all companies use multiple channels of communication, often referred to as 'omnichannel', the term has evolved to become 'first contact resolution'. The telephone still forms a major part of contact centres' activities though, particularly considering the proliferation of mobile phones - so you will see some useful first call resolution tips, all around the use of the telephone in the contact centre.

Key first contact resolution considerations within the contact centre

Whilst everyone may have a different view on the relative value of each of these activities, this is a common list of 8 things to consider when looking into FCR.

first contact resolution rates Understanding the issue
  • What is the route cause of why clients aren't getting a resolution on the first contact? Measure and record what is happening and look for trends and inefficiencies. Once the issues are identified then map out the factors that are contributing to low FCR rates. You may need to engage other parts of the business from outside of the customer service function. For instance, peaks in demand may be being generated by failures or inefficiencies elsewhere.
Artboard 1.png Create customer profiles and analyse behaviour
  • Trying to analyse the needs of the contact is impossible without some profiles. Do demographics, for example, impact on FCR rates? As you bring new products and services on board, how will these demographics affect demands on contact centre channels?
Artboard 4.png Technology that supports first contact resolution objectives
  • Technology tools are essential to FCR but do your agents have the tools to give them a complete 360 degree view of the customer? What information is presented to them as the call commences or progresses that is going to ensure the best outcomes for the customer and high FCR rates? Are IVR flows optimised to route calls to the person with the necessary skills? Finally, does the technology give management the right data to accurately assess first contact resolution rates and drive performance improvement?
Artboard 5.png An optimised Support Structure
  • The person who handles the first contact may need support to complete the interaction to the customer's satisfaction. Know which teams are best suited and equipped to deliver the resolution and ensure they have access to training and resources when they need them. Your team leaders need the appropriate level of skills and experience to coach and develop less experienced staff members.
Artboard 8.png Own the contact and don't 'pass the problem'
  • Statistics show that FCR rates go up if the agent handling the issue is there from start to finish. How does the process allow for collaboration to solve the issue? Are calls coming in to the right people, or are they being redirected to other departments? Do staff have the necessary training to effectively resolve all of the most common questions and queries?
Artboard 11.png Automation and self-service
  • Another technology related aspect tackles very simple issues that can be addressed to the customer's satisfaction without even talking to an agent. With the rise of "Chat" functionality and Artificial Intelligence in 'chatbots', there is a growing opportunity to deal automatically with the most common and simple issues.
first call resolution customer service Continually invest in your Customer Service Reps
  • You will see below that Unipart Expert Practices believe that employee engagement is absolutely key to a high first contact resolution rate. Training, empowerment, infrastructure and leadership are all significant parts of moving the customer experience on. It's also important to make sure that your front line staff are all capable of dealing with the most common enquiries. If they aren't, then they may need to be passed on to other departments, placed on hold, or called back. All of which will be detremental to FCR and customer effort scores.
first contact resolution activities Excellent content supports first contact resolution success
  • You have the ability in websites, email, blogs, newsletters etc. to provide information that will help customers through their issue. Understand how your website can help with customer education and self service via guides and frequently asked questions (FAQs). Investment in these areas can bring significant long term benefit.
Talk to one of our FCR experts, they have extensive knowledge in how to take call centres to the next level, using a combination of methods that improve first contact resolution. Our experts have experience in a range of sectors, with proven FCR improvements of up to 42%. Contact them today using the short form below.

Measuring customer satisfaction and not statistical achievements

There is a great deal of content available that looks at the measurement of FCR and the tools and techniques that are available to help with this. They include tick-sheets, customer surveys, speech analytics, automated emails following calls, call listening, monitoring social media and ‘Big Data’ analytics. They are all worthwhile ways to measure FCR, but actually improving first contact resolution is a different matter. The measures provide the information, but how do you go about changing practices in order to improve FCR?

The methodology that Unipart uses within its own operations, as well as for clients, takes a “bottom up” approach using 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, but also acts as a platform for building continuous improvement over the long term. (See Employee Engagement below.)

Which brings us back to measurement; you need to be able to demonstrate that continuous improvement has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. It can’t just be all action and no measurement.

It is important that the right set of KPIs are used to drive the correct behaviours. For example, targeting people on AHT (average handling time) and Wrap (wrap up time) can do just that, by wrongly encouraging 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.

You must make sure your first contact resolution goals, measures, and improvement methods all align properly. 


The impact of employee engagement on first contact resolution rates

We have found in operations throughout our own business and those of our clients and partners, that high employee engagement makes for high performing teams, which then delivers improved financial results and outcomes. Building employee capability, through training and coaching in techniques such as standard work and creative problem solving, is just one method we use. It's vital because:

  • It provides employees with the tools to challenge the current state and to take ownership of the problems they face when serving the customer.
  • Employees are enthused and engaged by having the insight, knowledge, and management permission to make a real difference to their own jobs on a daily basis.

Offering employees the correct training of techniques and skills to become the 'FCR problem solvers' will facilitate change in the organisation by empowering them to:

  1. Flag a problem and record it
  2. Discuss the issue and diagnose the route cause
  3. Develop new solutions
  4. Test them for effectiveness
  5. Deploy and embed the new working practice
This systematic process provides the best chance of delivering an improved first contact resolution KPI, but staff must have the knowledge and experience in the necessary tools to deploy them properly, and the leadership support to help embed a new way of working.

Case studies

Transforming complaint handling for a large credit card issuer achieves market-leading status in customer query resolution

One of the UK’s largest issuers of credit cards wanted to transform the organisation to be recognised as a market leader in customer experience. At Unipart we know from our own experience that the best way to see a sustainable improvement is to engage employees and develop their capabilities. By introducing a systematic approach to operational excellence, with a focus on building the capability of people at all levels of the organisation, we were able to help our client to sustain their new way of working.

With the help of Unipart Expert Practices, our client is now able to consistently achieve first contact resolution. This has delivered an improved customer experience and a 20% capacity benefit.

To see how we were able to improve customer experience and consistently achieve first contact resolutions, download the full case study below.

first contact resolution definition


A UK water utilities company improves performance to go from worst to best in class

This struggling UK based water and waste company was significantly underperforming. Not only was it judged to be one of the worst in the country. It was also regarded as a 'special measures' case by the bodies governing the industry. A new management team asked Unipart to help co-deliver the companies improvement agenda, we were challenged to turn the company from the worst, to the best water and waste provider in the UK. When we arrived, only 38% of customer complaints were receiving a first call resolution.

  • We worked collaboratively with the call centre team, empowering them to find their own answers to the problem of complaint resolution.
  • As a result, silos were removed and processes were simplified and focused on delivering the best outcome for customers. Staff now take ownership for achieving a high first call resolution rate.

Over 3 years in working together there were some very significant results that had been achieved. The first call resolution percentage has improved drastically, from 38% to 80%.

If you want to learn more about how we were able to completely transform the first call resolutions for this company, download the full case study below.

first call resolution rate