Taking a Multifaceted Approach to First Contact Resolution

Operating at peak efficiency is commonly regarded as a main contact center concern."In the complex maze of interactions occurring between organizations and their customers, improving efficiency is a key to optimizing customer service and experience.
Improvement starts with measurement. So, what’s the best way to measure operational efficiency? Two very common efficiency measurements focus on two sides of the same coin: number of calls handled per hour and average handle time. Agents are encouraged to, and are often rewarded when they handle a high volume of calls in the shortest possible time.
This approach, unfortunately too common, overlooks the reality of the agent behavior this kind of measurement encourages. If your paycheck grows when you handle more calls per hour, would you spend 10 minutes resolving a single customer’s problem? Or would you rather handle three more customers in the same period, even if their problems remain unresolved? If even one of those three customers calls again to resolve the problem (persistent bunch, customers are…), repeats everything to another agent, complains about the previous agent and probably demands to escalate the issue to a supervisor, your call center personnel will spend way more than the 10 minutes it would have taken to resolve the issue in the first place. There goes your total handle time, and your other critical call center effectiveness metrics: customer satisfaction, churn and of course, first call resolution. Clearly, when it comes to encouraging gains in efficiency, another measurement is in order.
First call resolution (which now becomes First Contact Resolution, as companies adopt new channels of communication such as email and chat) is one of the three top contributors to customer satisfaction, and is a cornerstone of operational efficiency. Yet, contact centers resolve customer issues on the first contact just 65%-85% of the time, on average. It seems First Contact Resolution (FCR) isn’t tackled—or even measured—with the same urgency as other metrics such as calls per hour and average handle time. Why not? It could be that contact centers may just not be aware of the importance of FCR. Or it may be that FCR is simply more challenging to measure and improve than these other quantitative, CTI-based parameters.
When FCR is measured, it is often based on CRM entries of—you guessed it—contact center agents themselves. With the pressure to end calls quickly and the human propensity to perceive closure – even if it may not be the case - no surprise that this method has a 20% error margin!
Getting an accurate measure of FCR may require organizations to rethink what goes into this metric. As outlined in detail in a recent post, by adding FCR as a parameter to post-call surveys, including it in quality management processes and by measuring it holistically, across all channels, organizations can get a good read on FCR.
Once you can truly track and measure FCR, how can you actually improve it? Here are some best practices NICE customers employ:
  • Constantly analyze the root causes of unresolved interactions. Are they related to individual agents? Specific issues? Specific products? Specific communication channels? Digging deeper enables you to take action. For example, if analysis reveals knowledge or skill gaps, bridge them by training or coaching agents.
  • Analyze the root causes of issues successfully resolved on first contact. What went right, and how can you replicate such best practices?
  • Implement real-time agent guidance for “next-best-action.” This functionality helps agents get the right answer to a product issue from knowledge management and operational systems, offer the right product to a customer at the right time, and avoid unnecessary escalations, transfers and holds.
  • Implement cross-channel workforce management to ensure that the right agents with the right skills are scheduled to handle the right interactions.
  • Empower your agents by giving them more authority to resolve issues on their own, without having to seek approval from their supervisors.
Contact centers are complex operations with many—sometimes seemingly contradictory—objectives. Calls per hour and average handle time are still very much worth measuring, tracking and improving. But for a broader perspective of the efficiency of your operations, you must take into account first contact resolution. It may be more elusive and challenging to track, but can dramatically affect operational efficiency and streamline your customer service.
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