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April 2009 | Volume 27 / Number 11

FCR and The Revenue-Generating Center

By Keith Dawson (News - Alert)

First call resolution has become one of the most important metrics centers can offer because it does a pretty good job of putting what the center does into context that the rest of the organization can understand and quantify. It has real potential to reveal how customer support operations are really revenue generation centers in disguise.

The reason it’s sweeping across call centers so rapidly, is because it’s the first major metric to come along that focused on the success of an interaction, not just on describing the contours of how long it took and putting it in a box on the shelf. It’s the kind of metric that asks a fundamental question about whether it was a good or bad interaction, and opens the door to further questions: what can we do with it, whether it’s good or bad?

To use a baseball analogy, it’s the difference between measuring something basic like hits and walks versus measuring something more meaningful like RBIs or Runs Created. It’s the beginning of measuring call center activity in terms of the opportunities that are created by each interaction or call, setting the stage for an assessment of whether you’re capitalizing on the opportunities. If you know your customer satisfaction and your customer retention rates, and you calculate the value of customers, you’re going to need some kind of process-based measurement that tells you how you’re handling the processes in the interaction to maximize that value. And frankly, something as vague as service level just isn’t granular enough to do the job.

And the benefit of measuring something like FCR is that it’s clear to people outside the contact center what you’re measuring and what their value and contribution is. You can use FCR to identify exactly where the breakdowns in the process might be, and it might not be in the call center. It fosters shared responsibility for owning the customer interaction around the organization.

It starts creating a framework for identifying when and where you should be driving revenue opportunities out of the contact center. I was in a meeting recently with a group of executives who manage technical support centers, and I was surprised to find that nearly everyone in the room was being tasked by their corporate executives with producing real sales revenue from their technical support reps. And yes, they find that frustrating, because a lot of the time they’re not given the tools to do that, but a lot of them are turning to FCR to help them figure out when they might be missing sales opportunities from support callers.

We want to consider FCR a measure of a one-and-done interaction, but we need to be precise and consistent when we’re talking about whether we include the IVR touchpoints, for example, or how we bring other channels like Web contacts and e-mails into the mix if we want to create a clear picture of what the customer’s experiencing.

A lot of centers also have trouble settling on a consistent measure because the interaction crosses barriers internally. A lot of what we’re seeing in the move to unified communications, for example, is bringing outside knowledge workers into the mix to help solve problems on the first try — so the technology to measure how you hand off calls between those locations has to be standardized to be able to account for FCR.

And on top of that, looking at call center activity through an FCR lens changes the way agents behave. They are traditionally measured based on things like ASA and AHT, talk time, things that they have some degree of control over. But when you start judging them based on resolution, that’s going to require a rethink of the kinds of things you train them on, the kinds of skills you select for, and the kinds of things you incent in their behavior.

For all the benefits of FCR, especially on the revenue side, it’s still important to remember that FCR looks a little different from the customer’s point of view than it does from inside the center. For them there’s an unconscious melding of how long they waited in queue, how many times they were switched from agent to agent, how many times they had to repeat the same information, even what their experience with the IVR was like, that’s going to weigh in on how they determine “satisfaction.” There may still be a gap between what your FCR numbers are saying is going on, and what the c-sat figures show.

And I think that one of the things that’s most important is that the experience the customer has with the whole range of the interaction, including (maybe especially) the stuff that happens between transfers and before the first agent comes on the line, is critical in establishing success of the interaction as a whole.

Making FCR work from the customer side requires context: understanding the relationship between FCR rates, which are just numbers, and what those rates relate to in terms of outcomes — measuring did customers stay customers longer as a result of better FCR, or did they spend more, or did you do a better job of matching cross sells to potential buyers. That’s how call centers create revenue.

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