There are a number of contact center metrics out there. Of those, there are some that are more important than others. First call resolution is one that tops the list.
In this article, we’ll explain what first call resolution is, why it matters, and what you can do to improve it.
What is first call resolution?
First call resolution refers to a contact center’s ability to resolve a customer’s problem during the first interaction.
The term comes from a time when call centers were customers’ only option to receive help. Today, “first call resolution” can also be known as “first contact resolution,” which acknowledges the transformation of call centers into contact centers as well as the desire for omnichannel customer support.
Why does first call resolution matter?
When customers reach out to your contact center, they want to receive help, and they don’t want to wait for a long time for it. Research from the SQM Group backs this up: for every 1% increase in first contact resolution, companies see a 1% increase in customer satisfaction.
Moreover, there are benefits for the contact center itself: agents spend less time handling the same case, and they’re happier at their jobs because they’re more productive. The same SQM Group report shows that for every 1% increase in first contact resolution, companies see a 1% decrease in customer support operating costs as well as a 1-5% increase in employee satisfaction.
What is a good first call resolution rate?
First call resolution rates vary from business to business due to factors such as the size of your customer base, how well-trained your agents are, and the complexity of your product or service. Research from MetricNet shows that the average net first call resolution for contact centers across the world is 74%. At the low end of the range, contact centers earned a 41% first call resolution rate, and at the high end of the range, they earned 94%.
There’s a caveat, though, when comparing your first call resolution rates to those of other companies. Sometimes, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
For example, you might have a very strong customer self-service option in place, which means that when customers do reach out to your contact center, their problem is more complex and more likely to require more than one call to resolve. That alone does not indicate that you are providing a poor customer experience.
Furthermore, some businesses measure first call resolution rates differently than others do, making direct comparisons faulty, at best.
How can you improve your first call resolution rates?
With that in mind, your first call resolution rates might still be on the low side for your industry. As a result, the customer experience could be suffering.
Here are the steps to take to improve your first call resolution rate:
- Understand what the problem is
- Assess how you’re measuring first call resolution
- Use the right technology
Understand what the problem is
The first step to improving your contact center metrics is to understand the root of the problem. Why aren’t customers receiving the help they need the first time they contact you?
There could be more than one reason. Perhaps your agents aren’t trained well enough to deliver customer service, or they don’t have the right tools to do so. Maybe customers get put on hold while waiting for answers and hang up because they’re frustrated by the delay. Perhaps technical glitches in your telephony systems lead to dropped calls. It’s also possible it could be all of these reasons at once.
Assess how you’re measuring first call resolution
When a customer calls your contact center and an agent answers a simple question (such as “What are your hours of operation?”), you resolve the customer’s problem the first time. However, that doesn’t mean that those are good customer experience metrics. Providing self-service options would help eliminate these types of agent calls, while also providing a positive customer experience.
Developing self-service capabilities may mean that customers will only come to you with more complex questions, yet it also means that your agents save time, money, and effort by not having to handle questions with easily-accessible answers.
Use the right technology
The right technology can improve your contact center metrics, especially first call resolution rates. It can:
- Route customers to the right agent: More experienced agents have the knowledge and expertise to solve problems the first time. The right contact center software routes customers to agents with the requisite knowledge to resolve issues, so your first call resolution rate will rise.
- Empower agents to find the right answers: Sometimes, even experienced agents need help with assisting customers. They don’t always have the answers, and they need to turn to others in the organization. The right contact center software has a built-in corporate directory with presence indicators. Agents no longer have to sit in silos – they can reach out to their colleagues in other departments so they can help customers and resolve problems the first time customers contact them.
- Give you greater insight into contact center operations: Supervisors can’t improve contact center metrics if they don’t have access to the most up-to-date metrics. With the right contact center software, they can see real-time analytics and monitor agents’ performance. Real-time analytics allow managers to spot trends (either positive or negative), so they can change their strategy to improve performance. Monitoring agents’ interactions with customers enables them to stop problems from spiraling out of control. For example, if a supervisor monitors an agent’s conversation and hears that agent struggling, they can provide whisper coaching or even join the call to solve the problem.
Originally published Jan 12, 2021, updated Jan 30, 2023