Improving first-call resolution (FCR) is an important way to enhance your
customers’ experience while increasing your organization’s overall efficiency.
But there is one caveat with FCR, as with all call center metrics: The call
center cannot satisfy your customers on its own. There needs to be a
corporatewide commitment to serving customers, and a culture that fosters a
continuous cycle of improvement across the enterprise. Your center may have
well-trained, highly skilled agents, but if your products fail and delayed
shipments and billing errors are common, your customers will still defect to
your competitors. FCR can help to identify broken processes and ineffective
policies, but addressing the problems requires strong, collaborative leadership
at the senior management level. Without that, FCR is just another meaningless,
misunderstood metric that fails to live up to its potential.
Defining First-Call Resolution
While FCR is getting a lot of attention these days, it is not a new concept.
Ever since call centers came into being, back in the 1970s, we’ve continually
pursued the “one-and-done” ideal. Now that call centers are more mature and we
recognize the value of earning customer loyalty on every interaction, FCR has
evolved into a more sophisticated, high-profile metric.
The definition for FCR is straightforward:
FCR = Total number of calls resolved
during first contact ÷ total number of first calls
That seems simple enough, but don’t be fooled: The definition is the only
simple thing about FCR.
The challenge lies in how to determine with certainty that the customer will not
have a reason to call back. FCR is an elusive metric that typically requires
multiple measurement methods. The table on page 2 shows the various techniques
commonly used to track FCR, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. As you
can see, relying on any one method will likely result in biases and skewed data.
Research by customer experience agency TARP Worldwide found that agent
self-reporting typically results in 20% higher FCR than customer-reported
methods, illustrating the importance of using several measuring techniques and
then correlating the results to close the statistical gaps.
Establishing an FCR Goal
Like most call center metrics, there is no onesize-
fits-all when it comes to FCR, so you’ll need to determine a goal that’s
appropriate for your organization. There are many factors that impact FCR
objectives, such as complexity of the interactions, industry compliance issues,
customer demographics and level of self-service options. We often find a false
sense of pride in many organizations that achieve 93% to 95% FCR. They’re often
not providing viable self-service options, driving up their overall operating
Before establishing an FCR goal, you’ll need to benchmark your current
performance. There are several ways to get a baseline measure of your current
Establish a control group of agents to track FCR by call type on every call
for a few weeks.
- Have your quality assurance team listen to hundreds or thousands of recorded
calls, and capture FCR by call type and reasons for unresolved calls. They
should not be scoring these calls, but simply focusing on gathering FCR data.
Conduct customer surveys through follow-up calls or via IVR post-call
surveys, if you have the technology in place. Collect a month’s worth of data,
correlate and analyze results to identify your current FCR performance.
Establish an FCR project team to assess the data, review the reasons for
unresolved calls, identify opportunities for self-service and initiate policy
and process changes. Once this phase is completed the project team will be
positioned to make appropriate recommendations for FCR goals by call type.
Research studies show dramatic variations in FCR performance from 50% to 95%,
with the highest concentration around 70% to 75%. Many call centers doom
themselves to failure by establishing FCR goals that are simply not achievable
in their organizations. Conducting an internal analysis will help you to
determine an objective that makes sense for your center.
Generating ROI on FCR Improvement
During the performance benchmarking phase, the FCR project team can collect
information to develop a return on investment (ROI) on FCR performance
improvement. The table above shows a basic ROI calculation on reducing calls
If your average handle time (AHT) changes as you reduce the calls handled, you
can calculate the ROI based on workload (calls x AHT) vs. straight calls
handled. Keep in mind that the savings from handling fewer calls is only one of
the benefits of improving FCR performance. Others include:
Decrease in agent turnover due to improved job satisfaction — calculate the
savings from agent retention.
Increased revenue through more successful upsell/cross-sell efforts —
calculate the increment increase.
Reduction in customer defection — calculate by Customer Lifetime Value.
Basic First-Call Resolution ROI Based on 2 million calls handled annually with
$5 cost/call FCR Performance Repeat Calls Handled Savings vs. 75% FCR 75%
500,000 - 85% 300,000 $1,000,000 90% 200,000 $1,500,000
Eight Strategies to Improve FCR Performance
Educate and communicate FCR value to senior management. Create a formal
presentation for senior management and department heads. Give examples of issues
impacting FCR and customer satisfaction that can be resolved through process and
policy changes. Set up a formal crossdepartmental process for reviewing
findings, addressing issues and measuring results.
Listen to your customers. Find out what’s important to your customers through
regular focus groups and surveys. Use the findings to modify processes, revise
policies and procedures, and make changes to product and service offerings.
Conduct agent focus groups on a regular basis. Agents typically handle
hundreds, sometimes thousands, of calls per month and can provide a wealth of
information on customer expectations, broken internal processes and policies
that make no sense. You’ll be missing a golden opportunity if you don’t tap into
this gold mine of information.
Provide agent training and coaching. Train agents to anticipate customer
needs and communicate the relevant information during the interaction. For
example, instead of “I have applied the credit to your account,” agents should
say, “I have applied the credit to your account. It will appear on your second
billing cycle, which will be your April 10th invoice.” Providing the additional
information will minimize callbacks and customer dissatisfaction when the credit
does not appear on the next invoice.
Empower agents. Give your agents wide latitude in resolving customer issues.
Customer satisfaction drops dramatically when callers are put on hold,
transferred or if they must be called back by the agent or supervisor to get
their issue resolved. If you do an effective job training and coaching your
employees, trust that they will make good decisions.
Workflow most frequent call types AND most frequent call types unresolved on
first call. Take the time to document the workflow of common call types and call
types that are most often not resolved on the first call. It’s a tedious process
to detail the step-by-step customer interaction, including systems accessed,
data requirements, decision points, documentation, etc., but your efforts will
be rewarded with many “aha” moments when process improvement opportunities
Measure FCR by call type. Some interactions by nature require customers to
call back and others should never require a callback. Measuring FCR by type
allows you to more effectively assess your FCR performance and focus your
resources where they are most needed.
Set appropriate agent metrics. Don’t confuse your agents by establishing
conflicting metrics. Management often loses credibility by saying that quality
is most important, but then basing agent performance primarily on calls per hour
and/or average handle time. Each interaction will need to be as long as it needs
to be for the agent to handle it in the manner he or she has been trained. Focus
agent performance metrics only on the things that within their control, such as
quality monitoring scores, schedule adherence and FCR (only if it’s being
Reprinted with permission, Contact Center Pipeline