What is first call resolution? Definition and benefits

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A customer calling a call center agent to find resolution
A contact center operator interacting with a customer who has an issue that needs to be resolved

A first call resolution rate, sometimes referred to as a first contact resolution rate, measures a business’s ability to resolve a customer’s question, problem, or need the first time they reach out for that specific issue. A successful first call resolution (FCR for short) would mean that no follow-up is necessary.

When a customer contacts your business seeking help for a customer service issue, they expect you to solve their problem by the end of the interaction. If you’re unable to do so, or your customers have to contact your business multiple times about the same issue, you wouldn’t be meeting the expectations of first call resolution.

Why is a first call resolution rate important?

The number one reason that first call resolution is so important is that it’s often linked with rates of customer satisfaction. If you have high FCR rates, then you’re offering superior customer experiences.

What’s more, we can point to two specific arguments for why FCR should be kept in mind when considering how to improve your customer service.

  1. You’ll retain more customers with first call resolutions

    We can’t stress enough how important providing good customer service is to keeping your customers loyal and retaining their patronage. If you were to ask a hundred consumers what makes them stop buying from a brand, more than fifty of them will probably tell you about their poor customer service experience. Keep in mind that acquiring a new customer cost you more than keeping an existing one, which is why retention is so important.

    When you can quickly respond to customers’ issues and solve their problems immediately, they’ll be satisfied with the service you’ve provided. If an issue was resolved in a friendly and timely manner, even a possible detractor can turn into someone who’ll praise your business. This could lead to you gaining more customers.

    Also, let’s not forget that consumers are willing to spend more money on better customer service. So, you should never miss a chance at providing quality assistance and building customer relationships. One way to achieve that is by having excellent first call resolution.
  2. You can improve your agents’ performance

    When a customer’s inquiry is solved by your team members the first time they reach out to your business, that means they won’t be demanding your team’s attention for the same problem later. This leads to fewer repeat calls, which leads to fewer calls overall.

    With fewer calls going into your contact center, your customers will experience shorter hold times because your agents can get to them quicker. In having good FCR rates, your agents can help more customers and be more productive in their work.

Since FCR is such a valuable call center metric, we’re going to cover some of the more important aspects of it. Read until the end to make sure you and your agents are customer support pros. We’re going to talk about:

  • What FCR is and how it’s measured
  • What a good FCR looks like
  • The best practices for first call resolution
  • How to improve first call resolution
  • FCR practices to avoid

As technology gets better and services expand their scope, your customers’ expectations will only get higher. You can create a smoother customer journey with a high first call resolution rate.

What is a first call resolution rate?

A first call resolution rate is a contact center metric used to help judge how well they’re providing customer service. If you do a good job resolving customers’ needs the first time they reach out for a specific issue, then you know you’re providing good customer support.

Improving your FCR will lead to greater overall customer satisfaction, which will keep customers coming back to your business. So you should include measuring FCR in the business process of your call center.

How is first call resolution measured?

You can measure FCR as long as you have the following metrics:

  • The total number of resolved customer cases and 
  • The total number of cases during any particular time frame

To get your FCR rate, divide your number of resolved cases by the number of total cases during the time frame you’re measuring. Then multiply that number by a hundred to turn it into a positive integer.

FCR formula: FCR = (Total number of cases resolved / Total number of cases) x 100

An alternative way to measure your FCR would be to:

  • Calculate the total number of issues resolved minus the total number of cases reopened
  • Divide it by the total number of calls. 
  • Multiply it by a hundred to make it a positive integer

Alternative FCR formula: FCR = (Total issues resolved - Total issues reopened) / Total number of calls x 100

The higher your FCR, the better your business is at resolving customer issues the first time they reach out. 

Of course, these equations alone may not fully illustrate how this can be applied to your company’s operations. So here are some examples that will hopefully make the concept of calculating your FCR rate clear.

How do you calculate the percentage of resolution?

Let’s say that Business X had a total of 1,200 calls in September and, of those interactions, the total number of cases that were resolved upon first contact is 689. 

All you would have to do is divide the number of calls resolved (689) by the total number of calls (1200). This gives you a value of 0.5742. 

Multiply that by 100 and you’ll get 57.4. This means Business X’s FCR rate is 57.4%.

Now let’s look at what would happen if we used the alternative formula to calculate Business X’s FCR. Let’s say that the number of cases reopened in September were forty-two. First, you would take the number of resolved cases (689) and minus the total number of cases that were reopened (42). This would give you 647.

Then we would divide that number (647) by the total number of calls (1200). This would give you a value of 0.5392. Multiply that by 100 and you have an FCR rate of 53.9%.

With these two examples, it’s important to notice that Business X’s FCR rate is different depending on the formula you choose to calculate it.

What is a good FCR?

Generally speaking, the contact center industry standard FCR rate is anywhere around 70-75%. So if your rate is 70% or higher, you know you’re doing well in terms of first contact resolution. Another way to think of this is you’d want to resolve customer issues during their first call about three out of four times.

However, as we pointed out with the FCR formulas of the previous section, there are different ways of measuring first call resolution, so the percentages will depend on the method of calculation you use. 

All you have to know is that the higher your FCR rate is, the better your company is doing at assisting customers the first time they reach out. And higher FCR rates are linked to greater customer satisfaction.

First call resolution best practices

All this information about FCR would be incomplete if we didn’t discuss best practices. If your team members don’t know how to achieve FCR properly, your business will never reach its full potential.

A contact center agent giving clear instructions to help a customer over the phone

Below, you’ll find three of the best first call resolution practices.

1. Always give clear instructions to your customers

When one of your team members can identify the reason why a customer has asked for assistance, they’ll need to communicate what actions need to be taken to resolve the issue. If the customer needs to do something, your agent should walk them through the steps involved. If your agent needs to perform any action, then they should tell the customer what they’ll do and when it’ll be done.

It’s extremely important to communicate clearly so both the customer and the agent understand each other. By taking their time and giving thorough explanations, your team members can increase your business’s FCR rate.

Pro Tip: When an issue is especially complex, you can try sending some additional documentation or even a video tutorial if you have one. On the other hand, sometimes screen sharing or a video call can be your best option.

2. Repeat information back to the customer and ask questions

Actively listening is your best bet when it comes to identifying a customer’s problem. If you can quickly figure out what the customer wants and what’s preventing them from getting it, you can begin helping them immediately.

Actively listening includes both asking questions and repeating information back to your customer. It’s a way of getting additional details, clarifying misunderstandings, and ensuring everyone’s on the same page.

3. Improve experiences by ending calls with an offer to help with anything else

Although you may have other calls and emails to get to, never be in a rush to end the interaction with a customer. A simple, “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?” will do wonders for your FCR.

Doing this encourages the customer to relay other points of friction in their experience with your offerings and reduces the chance that the same person will call back with a related issue.

When you prompt your callers to do this, you’ll also be addressing possible issues before they become a problem later.

How do I improve my first call resolution?

With the above best practices, you’ll give your customer service team members a good foundation for quality FCR that’ll lead to great customer service. This will, in turn, result in better FCR. 
Of course, those practices were mostly focused on how each of your agents can improve their first call resolution.
Now that your team members know what they can do to deliver better service, we can talk about how your entire business can develop to make your FCR initiative better. The following are some tips for improving first call resolution in your organization.

Define your FCR escalations

Without proper call resolution definitions and specificity, you won’t be able to accurately calculate FCR rates. Since different companies can define first call resolution differently, make sure your business has clear guidelines indicating when an interaction counts as resolved.
For example, do customer issues need to be solved by the end of the day to count? But what does “end of day” mean? Does it mean the end of an agent’s shift, or does it mean something more along the lines of within office hours? It could mean a more literal end of a 24-hour day (midnight).
What if a problem is escalated to a manager? Would that call be considered to have escalated past the first contact point?
Make your FCR expectations clear so you know how to track it. For the best record-keeping, make sure to track the time, the number of people involved, and the communication channel of each customer interaction.
Staff your team properly and train them
A contact center training its staff to keep them up-to-date on new products and services
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it bears repeating: don’t understaff your support team. When you do, it puts a strain on your team members and can pressure them into rushing their work. Not having enough agents also means your customers will have to deal with unnecessarily long wait times—leading to customer frustration.
You want your customer service staff to be big enough to match the number of phone calls you receive.
To keep improving your FCR, provide your team members with updated training sessions so they always have the information they need to assist your customers. As your products and services change and improve, you can set your staff up for success by keeping them up-to-date.
If you don’t update your staff, they could provide a customer with an out-of-date solution or piece of information that may not be accurate. Worse, your team could take the wrong action in addressing the case—which will definitely harm your FCR.

Make answers to common issues easy to find

Many customers calling into your customer service hotline will likely be facing similar issues. Because of this, you’ll want to invest in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on your website, or specific knowledge bases that can act as online repositories of answers to common questions.
FAQ pages and knowledge base articles allow your agents to easily refer customers to a helpful resource. This saves your agents from having to go too deep into the weeds of a customer’s problem since they’ll already have the solution available. 
When you make answers to a common issue easy to find online and on your website, customers won’t have to call in seeking assistance. You’ve preemptively provided solutions, which will reduce the amount of calls necessary to close a case and even cut back the amount of time needed to keep a customer on the line.

Route calls in contact centers for improved FCR

With the right call center software, you’ll reduce customer hold times and the amount of call transfers needed per customer call. RingCentral Engage has advanced skill-based routing for fast and accurate call routing to the best qualified agent to answer the customer request.
If you have a sufficiently advanced call center solution like RingCentral Engage Voice, initial calls won’t even have to go through team members who need to pass it on to someone else. The calls are qualified via an IVR system, which puts the calls in buckets that determine where the calls are going to be routed.
When your call center solution can route calls based on the caller or inquiry type, you’re able to resolve customer calls faster, reduce agent talk time, and lessen the burden on all your resources.

Contact center software makes data collection easier

Tracking all your support interactions without software is nearly impossible. And if you are trying to document calls in terms of first call resolution, it gets even harder. Make your life a whole lot easier with a customer engagement platform like RingCentral Engage.
Having access to customer journey analytics makes responding to inquiries much easier for your agents. Customer profiles can be merged across different channels so your team members have actionable data that can bring them up to speed fast.
RingCentral software can help you set up smarter routing, manage your transfers, and improve agent performance all-around. Technology like this will improve your FCR without a doubt and save you the operational cost of tracking all that information through human labor.

Survey your customers to make sure you’re doing a good job

Follow-up calls and emails are quick and easy; and they’ll give you the info you need to understand how well you’re doing in terms of the customer service you provide. One of the best ways to see if you are truly resolving your customers inquiries is to simply ask them.
Customer feedback can give you valuable insight into what you’re doing right, and what you’re doing incorrectly. Once you have this info, you can make adjustments to improve your FCR. At times, these surveys can prompt members of your team to contact customers again so they can implement additional fixes.

Empower your agents to reach out to experts beyond the contact centers

Sometimes, even knowledgeable base articles are not enough to help agents, but the answer to the customer questions might reside in the back office, where Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) reside. Solutions that easily enable agents to reach out to these SMEs will help agents find the right answer at the right time. It’s particularly important that the agent sees the presence of the SME in real time, so that the agent can decide if she can reach out to the SME , either as a consultation call, or even as a conference call with the customer on the line to answer more difficult questions.

FCR practices to avoid in contact centers

There are many benefits to measuring FCR rates, but there are ways of approaching this key productivity indicator (KPI) that can be harmful to your business. Since we covered some best practices and ways to improve your FCR, it makes sense that we discuss some pitfalls that some companies mistakenly fall into. Below are three such traps you should avoid.

Paying incentives to your team members based on their FCR rate

By asking customers whether a call center agent has resolved an issue to their satisfaction, you can get data to calculate an agent’s FCR. However, you should be wary of paying out bonuses to your team members based on their FCR rate.
Firstly, you’d be linking your agents’ pay with systemic failure. Their bonus pay would be dependent on problems needing to be resolved. In a sense, your agents would be benefitting from the failures of your business’s services and products, which some may consider unethical.
Also, agents answer the calls that come to them. There may be times when the issues they’re dealing with can’t be resolved during the first point of contact. So, it would be unfair to reward team members based on the types of calls they get.

Hiding FCR rates from your contact center team

You’ll want to share your FCR rates with your team members because it is a measurement of customer service success. Agents should want to have the highest FCR rate they can get and if contact center managers are keeping them hidden, then your operators won’t know how well they’re performing.

Comparing agents’ FCR rates against each other in a call center

Since there are different ways of tracking FCR, it’s not very helpful to benchmark FCR rates against each other.
Even if you could always have accurate FCR rates, if your call center manager compares team members against each other it can sow resentment and be harmful to team chemistry. You want each agent to focus on their own work and improvement, rather than having them compete against each other.

Ensure a great customer journey with FCR

As you’ve read, first call resolution is a great way of providing customer service. When you resolve issues the first time customers reach out to your business, they’re more satisfied and your agents are more productive.

While it can be difficult to maintain a high FCR rate, you’ll be performing well in no time if you keep the above practices and strategies in mind. To recap, we covered the following topics:

  • What first call resolution (FCR) is and why it’s important
  • How to measure FCR
  • What a good FCR rate should be
  • FCR best practices
  • Ways to improve your FCR
  • FCR practices you should avoid

FCR may only be one aspect of providing quality customer service, but if you invest in monitoring it, you’ll see positive results for both your agents and customers.

First contact resolution is easy when you have the right solution. Reach out to our Sales Team for a demo of the RingCentral Engage Voice platform.