FCR is More Than a Metric, it’s an Operating Philosophy

Published on: 9/7/16, 8:50 PM

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First Call Resolution Metrics as an Operating Philosophy

SQM is frequently asked, “What are the potential financial gains that can be expected from improving First Call Resolution metrics (FCR)?” SQM’s research shows that, for the average contact center, a 1% improvement in FCR performance equals $286,000 in annual operational savings from the call volume reduction due to improving FCR. Another question SQM is often asked, “What is an average annual FCR improvement goal that should be used?” 70% of SQM clients improve their FCR performance annually, typically by up to 2%. Only 5% of SQM’s clients are able to achieve a 5% or more gain in their FCR performance in a given year. In other words, a 5% improvement is significant, given that 95% of SQM clients are unable to achieve this FCR gain. In order, to get the 5% or more FCR improvement you need to think of FCR as an operating philosophy. From SQM’s perspective, FCR is more than just a metric, it is a proven contact center operating philosophy for providing world class customer service and lowering operating cost. Most world class customer service contact centers SQM consults with view FCR as the most important metric for measuring and managing their contact center’s customer service, costs, and retention performance. One of the main reasons why world class FCR performing contact centers have achieved their success is because they incorporated the FCR operating philosophy into their core operating practices.

Specifically, world class contact centers’ hiring, quality assurance, call handling, recognition, performance accountability, training, FCR improvement teams, career opportunity, and technology practices incorporate Voice of the Customer (VoC) FCR into their operating practices. The bottom line is that the contact center’s people, process, and technology practices should be continually focused on improving FCR performance from a VoC perspective. Incorporating VoC into contact center operating practices is a fundamental practice for using FCR as an operating philosophy. VoC FCR operating philosophy (culture) examples include:

FCR Operating Philosophy Examples

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In order to reach a substantial FCR target, the contact center should establish the way employees will work, in other words, the FCR culture of the contact center. An FCR operating philosophy creates a belief system for the way employees work, and a best practice that they can rally behind in order to achieve FCR and Customer Satisfaction (Csat) targets. When a VoC FCR operating philosophy is implemented, all employees know that whatever practice they are using, it must support the FCR targets and operating philosophy. In order for all employees to be aligned and supportive towards the FCR goals and operating philosophies, management must use the following three related and essential FCR operating philosophy best practices.

FCR Operating Philosophy Essential Practices

FCR Operating Philosophy

1. FCR Obsessed is when all employees are focused on achieving FCR goals and implementing the necessary people, process, and technology practices to help achieve those goals. Being FCR obsessed requires discipline, especially when there are so many internal competing initiatives that can cause the contact center to lose focus on FCR goals and required practices.

2. VoC Data is used to determine the contact center’s performance and the opportunities to improve FCR. Customer surveys are used with the understanding that VoC data, rather than employee opinions and/or unsupported employee recommendations, greatly increases the likelihood of FCR improvement.

3. Continuous Improvement through the use of SQM’s FCR Identify, Develop, Check, and Act (IDCA) Improvement Cycle to help clients improve their FCR performance. SQM’s FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle is based on the Deming Cycle1 which is a continuous quality improvement model consisting of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning.

1. FCR Obsessed

From an SQM perspective, being FCR obsessed with achieving FCR goals and the implementation of the necessary people, process, and technology practices to help achieve those FCR goals is a best practice in itself. When contact center management is FCR obsessed, it means that all employees are passionate about resolving calls and doing whatever it takes to resolve calls, preferably on the first call. Being FCR obsessed also means that people, process, and technology practices are always being evaluated to seek improvement opportunities to better assist CSRs in resolving calls, preferably on the first call. Being FCR obsessed requires discipline, especially when there are so many internal competing initiatives that can cause contact center management to lose focus on FCR goals and practices. Using an FCR obsessed approach to the way all employees work has helped many SQM clients achieve world class level FCR, Csat, and Employee Satisfaction (Esat) performance. Most contact centers that SQM evaluates struggle with effectively implementing new people, process, and technology FCR improvement initiatives because they lack obsessive discipline to effectively implement a new FCR initiative. The following lists questions for assessing whether your organization is FCR obsessed:

  • Does your contact center have vision, mission, and operating principle statements focused on FCR?
  • Is the SVP/VP of the contact center FCR focused?
  • Does your contact center have an FCR champion who manages your FCR initiatives?
  • Do you hold all contact center employees accountable to FCR and call resolution metrics?
  • Do you hire customer-centric CSRs and supervisors?
  • Do you terminate employees for poor call resolution and Csat performance?
  • Do you recognize CSR call resolution service heroes?
  • Do you coach and train CSRs to improve their call resolution and Csat performance?
  • Do you have technology that is conducive to achieving FCR?
  • Do you report your FCR performance to the CEO?
  • Do you use your customer repeat call feedback to make people, process, and technology improvements?
  • Do you have enough escalation CSRs to assist CSRs in handling customer complaint calls?
  • Does call monitoring have a positive impact on your FCR performance?

2. VoC Survey Data

From an SQM perspective, using VoC survey data to determine the contact center’s FCR performance and the opportunities to improve FCR is a best practice. Customer surveys are used with the understanding that VoC data, rather than employee opinions and/or unsupported employee recommendations, greatly increases the likelihood of FCR improvement. It has been SQM’s experience that 90% of contact centers collect customer feedback, yet only 10% use the customer feedback to help improve call resolution and Csat. This represents a great opportunity to effectively use customer feedback to improve customer service. All world class FCR contact centers budget to capture and action customer feedback. For the majority of world class contact centers that SQM works with, the customer surveying budget is 1% of the contact center’s operating budget. Given the importance of FCR, 1% of the operating budget is not very much to invest in order to maintain or improve FCR performance. Based on SQM’s experience there is no better practice than conducting FCR customer surveys for maintaining or improving FCR performance. A good rule of thumb for an FCR customer surveying budget is that for every dollar invested in a survey vendor, an additional dollar will need to be matched for internal support personnel funding (e.g., FCR project manager, analysts, improvement team). Most contact centers that invest at least 1% or more of their operating budget towards the customer surveying process are able to conduct 5 to 10 surveys per CSR, per month. As well, they can action the customer feedback for improvement opportunities. As a best practice, the FCR customer surveying budget should include a minimum quota of five surveys per CSR, per month, a dedicated FCR project manager, and, as needed, a process improvement team. CSR survey quota is the best survey quota practice for improving FCR. Survey quota at the contact center level can help improve FCR; however, this is less effective than survey quota at the CSR level because of the call resolution accountability that takes place when there is a CSR survey quota. Internal FCR performance methods (e.g., QA, repeat calls, speech analytics, and CRM) tend to overstate FCR performance by 10% to 20% compared to VoC FCR performance. The reason why internal FCR is higher is due to the fact that when their call is unresolved, the customer, in many cases, will not call back; they just do business with the competition.

3. Continuous Improvement

The FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle was created by SQM to help clients improve their FCR performance. Again, the FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle is used for continuous FCR improvement consisting of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning. SQM has found that most contact centers struggle with identifying areas to improve their FCR performance as well as coming up with solutions for making improvements and implementing those solutions. Most FCR improvement comes from performance management initiatives rather than process improvement initiatives. A major reason for this issue is that contact centers do not have very many people, if any, who have VoC process improvement skills. Another reason is the long time needed to make process improvement changes. Also, FCR improvement tends to be incremental and involve other departments whose support can be difficult to get. The following figure shows FCR improvement by initiative and time. SQM’s research shows that implementing performance management initiatives can provide the biggest FCR gains in the shortest amount of time, while an FCR improvement process can also provide FCR gains that can be just as big, but over a longer period of time.

FCR Improvement by Initiative and Time

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The FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle is a well-accepted, ongoing business practice for identifying what areas to improve and for implementing people, process, and technology practices that will improve FCR performance on an ongoing basis. It is SQM’s viewpoint that improving FCR is a best practice for improving cost and quality performance. The basic premise of the FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle is to form an FCR improvement team to review VoC data (e.g., post-call survey, call recordings, and CRM system) for identifying, analyzing, and developing solutions for improving FCR performance. In preparation for the FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle, SQM conducts customer and employee surveys. After all surveys are completed, SQM conducts a comprehensive analysis of FCR, Esat, Csat, operational performance, and QA opportunities for improving FCR performance. The FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle is based on SQM’s proprietary internal and external call tagging system for identifying the reasons why customers had to make repeat calls to resolve their issue. Calls are tagged based on customer survey non-FCR feedback and on the information the CSRs input into the contact center’s CRM system.

The FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle process team is typically comprised of SQM consultants and key contact center personnel (e.g., CSRs, QA evaluators, and managers). One of the benefits of the FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle program is that key personnel acquire new skills on a proven improvement cycle process that can be used repeatedly to improve FCR. SQM’s FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle for improving FCR performance consists of:

Identify repeat call reasons to improve and analyze.

Develop a solution and implement a test pilot to improve specific unresolved call type performance.

Check to see whether or not the test pilot was successful.

Act to implement a standardized improvement plan for improving unresolved call reason performance.

FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle

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The FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle is a practical approach for improving work processes that are hindering FCR performance. The following figure shows the FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle Roadmap that uses four major steps (i.e., Identify, Develop, Check, and Act) and three specific steps within each major step. In total, the FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle uses 12 specific improvement steps, which are a great roadmap for properly implementing FCR improvements that have been proven to work.

FCR IDCA Improvement Cycle Roadmap

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Learn more from our book on First Call Resolution

If you are interested in learning more about how to make FCR more than a metric, but an operating philosophy for improving people, processes and technology, in order to improve customer experience and cost, please contact SQM.

1Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Educational Services, 1986. Print.

About the Author: Mike Desmarais

Mike DesmaraisMike Desmarais is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SQM Group. Mike is currently an MBA Candidate at Athabasca University. Mike has over 25 years of customer experience (CX) measurement, benchmarking, and consulting. As a consultant, Mike has experience working with leading North American organizations on improving CX. Mike has developed several key best practices that are fundamental to providing world class contact channel customer experiences. He uses his best practice knowledge to assess contact channel operations and to pinpoint the 3-5 pivotal changes that will drive real and significant CX improvement. Mike is a pioneer and visionary in contact channels’ CX measurement of first call resolution, one contact resolution, omni-channel, CX greatness, customer emotion, and retention metrics. Mike has written five thought-provoking contact channel CX research books (i.e., World Class Call Center, First Call Resolution, FCR Best Practices, One Contact Resolution and most recently One Contact Resolution 2nd Edition). Mike has conducted best practice case studies with organizations such as American Express, FedEx, and VSP Vision Care. In addition, Mike is a popular contact center industry thought-leader with over 20,000 LinkedIn followers and is one of the top 10 most influential contributors in the contact center industry based on a recent Fonolo poll. Mike is a sought-after speaker for contact center conferences and has a world class satisfaction rating for speaking at those events.