Operations & Management

First Contact Resolution in a Multi-Channel World

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

“Have I answered your questions today?” How often do you hear that when you’re wrapping up a call with a customer service agent? Vanguard estimates that fewer than half of all contact centers measure first contact resolution, although customers consider it an important component for overall satisfaction.

In the past, looking at phone calls may have been enough, but in today’s multi-channel world measuring FCR is much more complex. A customer who goes to a website and opens an account or books a flight has achieved first contact resolution.Yet in many organizations this is not captured as a customer service success, a FCR.

In addition, a customer may begin an activity on the corporate website, be unable to complete it and resort to making a phone call to complete the transaction. The contact center chalks this up as FCR. But from the customer’s perspective, he contacted you twice – once on the web and then on the phone. Most organizations are blind to multi-channel contacts. 

Why? It’s most likely because each channel grew up in a different part of the organization. The business imperatives and goals of each department are different. As a result, success is measured differently. For example, marketing measures likes and followers over resolution in social media. In most cases, marketing is responsible for websites and social media, IT handles mobile applications, and customer service manages phone and e-mail support. Consequently, organizations lack a holistic view of the customer and when he or she achieves FCR.

Let’s look at how FCR is being analyzed today and where it needs to be tomorrow to enable us to better serve our customers.

In call centers, a number of methods can be used to determine whether first contact resolution is achieved. Yet there is no generally agreed to formula for capturing FCR. That makes it difficult to compare success across organizations or even within an organization. Here are a few of the most common methods contact centers use to measure FCR. We recommend using at least two methods to more accurately measure resolution.

  • Measure FCR through call reason and wrap codes. Agents tend to be overly optimistic, so don’t use these stats in isolation since they tend to overstate FCR.
  • Evaluate repeat calls from specific phone numbers within a certain timeframe (generally one to two weeks). While a repeat call may mean than an issue was not resolved the first time, it may also mean that the customer has a new question.
  • Make FCR part of quality monitoring. A trained third party using a calibrated measurement tool is more likely to provide an unbiased assessment of whether a contact was resolved. Generally, only a sample of calls is evaluated, thus quality monitoring gives an indication rather than a firm handle on FCR for an organization. However, it’s a great tool to improve FCR for agents.
  • Analyze CRM data (e.g., account numbers, phone numbers, contact type, resolution) in conjunction with timeframes for a more sophisticated approach. This big data approach offers an opportunity finally to understand first contact resolution within the call center. 
  • Look within channels to measure completions. Check to see whether an e-mail response is once and done, if issues are resolved within Twitter (News - Alert) or Facebook, or if they require additional channels to complete, measure completed transactions on the web and IVR.

But if you really want to understand your ability to achieve FCR, ask your customers. Use after contact surveys to provide insights. They generally should be completed within 48 hours of the contact. Go beyond the standard questions of the experience the customer had within the channel. Ask about the task the customer was trying to accomplish, what path(s) he or she took in an attempt to complete his or her task, and the level of satisfaction with the entire journey.  Ask if his or her question was handled on the first contact.

In addition, tools that analyze multi-channel contact increasingly are available to help understand customer journeys. Multi-channel analytics have been around for a while. And we’re seeing new solutions where an integrated agent desktop includes not only phone contacts, but Twitter, Facebook (News - Alert) and e-mail.

While first contact resolution isn’t the only measure of success, it can be a critical one for your customers.

 Lisa Stockberger is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer contact, including contact center processes, operations and technology.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi