First Contact Resolution; Business Case or a Fad? Part 1

4th Nov, 2014
Read time: 2 minutes

Is there a solid business case or is First Contact Resolution (FCR) a management fad? Despite working hard to achieve FCR goals, many organisations have not yet realised them. In these blogs we explore the business urgency and consider why their hard work may not have paid off yet.

Key drivers
Many organisations use cost savings and increased customer satisfaction scores as key drivers. Working diligently on these levers is generally accepted to increase an organisation's opportunities for enduring success. FCR is unlike automatically measured metrics such as 'calls answered' or 'abandonment rate'. It can be complex to measure, as real success is when the customer agrees that their request has been completely resolved.

Why the customer?
Simply because the customer will continue to make contact until their question is answered, often using alternative channels and increasing the amount of interactions they make. Efficiency practitioners operating under a 'lean production' would label these additional contacts as demand failure. In the diagram 'Why a Focus on Improving FCR Is Important' it clearly shows that the cumulative impact of increased interactions can result in 5% to 15% worth of additional costs.

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Requiring greater effort from customers impacts the customer experience. Best practice concurs that making it easy for customers to achieve their goal is vital in achieving their satisfaction and securing loyalty. The debate on the cost of customer acquisition may argue about the multiple, however everyone agrees it costs between four and ten times more to recruit a new customer when compared with keeping an existing one!

Deliberate obstruction?
Few organisations would deliberately set out to block any customer request. A review of the past seven years of industry best practice, reveals that two main drivers, when used together, positively impact FCR; these are:

  • 'Technology' - are your systems joined up?
  • 'Agent empowerment' - are agents able to use their discretion to resolve the query?

The journey to consistently improving FCR needs to harness technology to join up systems and interdepartmental processes, as well as empowering agents to more quickly and effectively answer and resolve any customer's query.

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Technology
Working to improve capabilities will include resolving the time it takes to gather information from other departments or internal 'back-office' systems, and the time and processes required to administer data within multiple applications used within the contact centre.

Agent empowerment
Improvements along this axis will include skills training, together with providing appropriate levels of discretion, and removing conflicting targets. Setting targets that work in harmony to deliver a positive outcome needs careful attention. We suggest that when, for example, agents are asked to deliver shorter handling times this will make it harder for agents to focus on understanding the real reason for the contact (sometimes called the root cause). The agent will then focus on the measure to answer and complete quickly, usually answering only the explicit requirement, leaving the customer to call again to get the other answers they need.

Progressive contact centre managers will work to continuously improve on both axes, moving step by step connecting systems and empowering agents. In our next blog we will consider four steps to assist organisations on this journey. These include:

  • Call avoidance
  • Identifying reasons for repeat calls
  • Integrating key systems
  • Agent empowerment

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