First call resolution standard: impress your callers in minutes

Imagine you’re playing your favorite online game and the internet suddenly stops working. 

You immediately contact your internet service provider, follow the instructions given by the agent, and are told that the problem would be resolved within the next 30 minutes. 

But several hours go by, and you’re left with the same issue and have to call back a second time—a dreadful experience that could have been easily avoided with a better first call resolution.

First call resolution, or FCR, is a customer service metric that shows you how many of your cases were resolved in a single interaction. Companies typically use FCR to assess their call center service level standards—a high FCR rate implies that your team is solving customers’ issues the first time around, without them having to make follow-up calls or move to another channel. 

As you can guess, it’s a pretty big deal, and it’s crucial that you continuously take steps to improve your FCR rate.

In this post, we’ll look at: 

 

How do you measure your first call resolution rate?

Calculating your FCR rate is simple:

  1. Find out how many customer requests were resolved in a single interaction at the end of a given period (month, quarter, or year). 
  2. Divide by the number of requests you had received during that period. 
  3. Then, multiply the result by 100. 

That looks like a lot of work, so let’s break it down into a formula:

(# of customer requests resolved in a single interaction) / (total number of requests received over that period) x 100

And here’s what FCR looks like in an example:

If you resolved 123 customer requests in a single interaction at the end of Q1, after receiving 200 total requests in that quarter, your first call resolution rate would be 61.5%.

FCR rate formula

The higher your FCR percentage, the better your customer service team is at addressing problems. In contrast, a low FCR rate might indicate that there are gaps in their knowledge, and taking steps to cover those gaps will most likely improve your customer satisfaction. 

What’s the first call resolution rate industry standard?

That’s an important question—that doesn’t have a definitive answer. First call resolution rates can significantly vary between different customer support teams and businesses. For example, you can assume that basic requests will be more easily addressed in one interaction than technical ones. Your FCR rate also depends on the budget you’ve allocated towards customer service training.

According to MetricNet’s research, the first call resolution industry standard is about 74%, but this percentage varies significantly by the nature of the request, industry etc. Usually, anything close to 90% is considered high, and anything near 40% is considered low. An optimal FCR rate should be the key focus for all businesses that want to keep their customers around for a long time.

Pro-tip:

If you’re looking to make a lasting impression on your customers, providing an awesome customer experience should be your top priority

 

Why is first call resolution important?

FCR is critical for two reasons: firstly, it helps you identify problems and inefficiencies contributing to repeat calls, and secondly, it can help you improve customer satisfaction levels. 

Oh, and being transferred between different agents or reps is one of the top annoying things for customers who call into a company:

According to HBR, the less work you make your customers do, the more likely they are to be loyal to your business—and the higher your customer retention rate will be. From the customer’s perspective, having their issue addressed in just one call means there’s less work to do. 

This usually makes them happy to stay with you and buy from you. The relationship between FCR and customer satisfaction has also been directly linked: a 1% improvement in the first call resolution rate leads to an improvement of 1% in customer satisfaction. Simply put, FCR makes your customers happy and encourages them to stick around longer.

Another major benefit of improving your first call resolution rate is time saved for your business. Say you get 1,000 customer requests per month, and your typical FCR rate is 70%. This means 30% of the requests will require multiple calls (meaning they’ll require more time from your team). Improving the rate by just 10% to an 80% FCR rate means you’ll be taking at least 100 fewer calls per month—or 1,200 per year. 

All that time saved can then be used towards more strategic sales activities like cross-selling. As SQM Group points out, when a customer’s issue is resolved, your chances of cross-selling them something go up by 20%. 

Pro-tip:

If you can, retroactively calculate your FCR rate regularly. Is it going down, up, or staying idle? How does each week look? What about month-over-month percentage? If the rate is slipping down over time, that could be a red flag that improvements need to be made.

 

10 ways to improve your FCR rate

1. Become an active listener. 

A key component of improving your first call resolution is understanding exactly what the customer needs, which can only happen if you’re listening. Make sure that you’re actively listening to customers without rushing them. For example, one way to show the customer you’re listening is by repeating back what you understood about the issue or add a few “Uh-huh”s and “right”s to signal to customers that you’re paying attention. 

Another easy way to practice active listening is to take notes. Note-taking will give you helpful reference points to cite as you restate what a customer said and work your way towards a resolution. If you’re using a communications platform like RingCentral, you’ll be able to take inbound calls from customers and take notes in the app at the same time:

2. Set appropriate expectations. 

Once you have a good understanding of the problem, let your customers know when they can expect to have their matter resolved. This can be as simple as saying:

  • “Your problem is a bit complex. Stay with me for five minutes, and I should be able to tell you how I can help.”
  • “Your account should be updated in the next few hours.”

This will help customers know that you are working on the problem and give them a realistic expectation of how long it’ll take to resolve it (so they don’t hang up or make another call unnecessarily).

3. Review your customer personas. 

A customer persona is a profile that represents your ideal customer, and it’s not unusual for businesses to have multiple ones. 

For instance, you might have two target audiences—both younger and older folks might support your business, and they’re probably facing two separate issues. These two types of customers will probably need to be handled in different ways—your millennial customers may prefer to skip to advanced steps of a resolution, whereas your older customers may want you to explain everything from scratch. 

Chances are, you already have an idea of what your customer and user personas look like. Regardless, it’s definitely worth revisiting and studying them with your team so that everyone’s better equipped to address incoming requests in one interaction. (More tips for effective teamwork here.)

4. Build a knowledge base. 

A knowledge base is like a digital library where you can find resolutions for common customer issues. A simple way to create one is to identify common issues your customers face, the type of questions they usually ask, and what the most effective solution is. Creating a handbook tackling potential issues and solutions (you’ll often see these in the form of FAQs on companies’ websites) will contribute to freeing up your staff’s time and improving your first call resolution rate. 

It’s a good idea to make the knowledge base digitally accessible in a searchable format so your employees don’t have to sort through a pile of irrelevant information. Thankfully, this is easy to do with software like Document360. With a library of good knowledge base articles at their fingertips, your staff has access to an entire suite of solutions that they can use to resolve common issues for customers: 

Document360: Knowledge Base Software
Document360 offers an intelligent search function that automatically displays answers as you type.

5. Empower your customer support team. 

If you have a dedicated customer support team, then it’s important to review your company procedures regularly. Sometimes, complex internal policies can hinder your support staff’s ability to provide an effective solution on the first call. 

For instance, if your customer service team isn’t authorized to issue a refund without your approval, the number of repeat calls made to your support department will significantly affect your FCR rate. Consider changing any processes that prevent your employees from giving helpful responses.

As well as empowering your support staff with greater authority, ask them to spend time with salespeople in your company. This customer service teamwork will help your team learn what was said when the product/service was sold to the customer. With a bigger picture of the customer journey, they’ll be in a better position to resolve customer issues. 

6. Address the root cause behind the delayed resolution.  

If customers are calling for a solution to the same problem repeatedly, this is a sign that you need to find the root cause of the issue. This can be a misleading piece of information on your website or a product feature that is difficult for customers to understand or use. Discovering and removing pain points like these will help you reduce a lot of repeat call instances.

Pro-tip:

Identify and capture repeat calls to learn what issues are consistently affecting your customer experience. 

7. Consider implementing skills-based routing.

Skills-based routing is a take on conventional contact center routing systems that connects your customers with the person who’s most suitably trained to resolve their particular issue. 

This helps your team focus on the calls each person can answer best. Not only does that mean happier customers—because they get a direct and specific answer rather than being put in a general queue—it enhances productivity and boosts your first call resolution too. (Learn about more team productivity tips.)

Pro-tip:

Choose a phone system or communication tool that lets you route calls to the right teammate.

8. Cross-train your staff.

Now, skills-based routing has its place, but there will be times when the right person isn’t available to answer the call. To prevent cases like these from negatively affecting your FCR rate, make sure to cross-train your employees across a wide range of areas. If you manage a small business and every staff member is trained on troubleshooting, then you’ll have many more resources available to help resolve technical issues. 

Pro-tip:

To cross-train, get your new employees to shadow seasoned ones during their first few weeks on the job. This will give them a chance to hone their skills faster—and help them build connections they’ll need for effective teamwork later on. 

9. Use post-call surveys.

After a call ends, send a brief survey to your customers asking if their issue was resolved, if they’re satisfied, and if they’d recommend your business to other people based on your customer service. 

Using this approach will give you a different perspective of your FCR performance and can help you address problems with dissatisfied customers directly. 

To get the most out of post-call surveys, look for a phone system that shows you analytics like call quality and customer satisfaction:

RingCentral Contact Center Features
RingCentral lets you not only take calls and route them to the right people, it also has useful reports to show you things like quality of service, how long it takes for your team to pick up calls, and more.

10. Measure and improve your FCR rate.

The last tip is to keep track of your first call resolution rate and make an action plan to improve it. The plan could include retraining employees for success, setting incentive goals, or even staffing up for specific days (when your business gets an especially large number of calls). 

Remember to be strategic about the steps you take to improve your first call resolution standards. Resist knee-jerk decisions—there will always be unpredictable days when you get big volumes of calls for no obvious reason—and work on sustained, manageable goals, and improvement.

 

Other numbers beyond first call resolution

Your FCR is a great place to start and an important call center metric for analyzing the performance of your customer service. But it may not be showing you the whole picture. Here are a few other call-related metrics that you may want to start tracking. 

Service level 

This a productivity metric that’s a real-time measurement of how efficiently your support staff is at taking incoming calls. It’s usually expressed as a percentage of calls answered within x seconds, e.g., 80% calls answered in 20 seconds. 

Making sure that your staff has an up-to-date view of the call volume for the day ahead can help you improve your service levels and keep customers happy. 

Average handling time (AHT)

AHT tracks the time it takes for you to handle a customer’s request. Low AHT may look good, but make sure that it’s not because your team is dealing with customers as quickly as possible without ensuring that their issue has actually been addressed. Be mindful that you’re keeping AHT low without affecting service quality.

Call abandonment rate 

This metric is used to calculate the percentage of customers who connect with your interactive voice response (IVR) system but end the call before reaching a customer service rep. A high call abandonment rate can indicate that your IVR is too cumbersome or confusing for your customers. A good IVR is essential to ensure that your customers are able to find what they need and get personalized help quickly.

Escalation rate

The escalation rate measures how frequently your support staff passes interactions to you or the managers for help. A low escalation rate tells you that your staff is well-trained to resolve issues, while a high rate indicates a lack of empowerment or autonomy—which means you’ll need to revisit your training to bring it down. 

Occupancy rate 

This metric reveals how much time your staff is on live calls or wrapping up the work related to those calls. Basically, if your occupancy rates are low, it’s a sign that you’re overstaffing or your employees aren’t focusing on the right tasks. Use the metric to identify situations and distractions that need to be addressed so your staff can focus on handling requests and improving your FCR rate.

 

Ready to beat your industry’s first call resolution standard?

First call resolution and customer satisfaction go hand in hand, and both your business and customers benefit when problems are resolved quickly in a single interaction.

From building stronger relationships with customers to freeing up your staff’s time, the upside of taking steps to improve your FCR rate is huge. 

With the tools and best practices above, you’ll be able to make sure that your customers aren’t only getting the solutions to their problems in the first call but are happy to stay with your business too.

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