SQM Group

First Call Resolution - definition, its benefits, measuring it, and tips for improving it.

March 16, 2021 | 9min read

FCR REIMAGINED WHITEPAPER ▶

First Call Resolution Definition

First Call Resolution or First Contact Resolution (FCR) is a metric that measures a contact center's ability for its agents to resolve a customer's inquiry or problem on the first call or contact. Ideally, the First Call Resolution definition means that no repeat calls or contacts are required for follow-up from the initial call or contact reason from a customer journey perspective.

Common terms used to describe what FCR stands for are first call resolution, first contact resolution, 1st call resolution, support first call, FCR score, customer satisfaction, best practices, formula, first attempt resolution, first-time resolution, one-call resolution, and one-contact resolution.

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First Call Resolution Benefits

"Why is First Call Resolution important?" is often asked by employees at all levels. First Call Resolution KPI is the KING of all call center metrics because measuring it and improving it helps reduce operating costs and customers at risk of defection, improves employee and customer satisfaction, increases selling opportunities, and the Net Promoter Score®. No other call center metric provides great insights into customer service, cost, retention, referrals, and opportunities to improve as First Call Resolution does.

The First Call Resolution metric should be viewed as a balanced scorecard metric because it measures efficiency and effectiveness. For example, SQM Group's research shows for a "1% improvement in FCR, you reduce operating cost by 1%", and for "every 1% improvement in FCR, there is a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction."

Another excellent example of First Call Resolution effectiveness shows that "every 1% improvement in FCR increases transactional Net Promoter Score® by 1.4 points." Put differently; First Call Resolution is a leading indicator for efficiency and effectiveness metrics. Below is an infographic of the benefits of measuring and improving First Call Resolution.

 

6 Benefits of First Call Resolution

 

FCR 6 Benefits Business Case ▶

 

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First Call Resolution Strategies

Many organization and contact center leaders struggle to define an FCR Operating Strategy and how to use it. At SQM Group, we have identified four distinctive FCR Operating Strategies based on two variants: FCR focus and FCR scope. These two variants can help an organization determine its competitive position for their FCR Operating Strategy they want to use in the marketplace. The FCR focus is based on either a customer experience (CX) differentiation or a lower-cost emphasis. The FCR scope is either enterprise-wide or a contact center level.

The four First Call Resolution Strategies are:

    1. Contact Center with a Cost Focus
    2. Enterprise-wide with a Cost Focus
    3. Contact Center using CX Differentiation
    4. Enterprise-wide using CX Differentiation

    All four FCR Operating Strategies provide cost-saving benefits. However, a significant advantage in the CX differentiation strategy is being differentiated from the competition by delivering world-class FCR. Put differently, the CX differentiation strategy focuses on providing great customer service based on achieving high FCR versus a cost strategy that focuses on lowering operating costs based on improving FCR. The quad map infographic below illustrates the competitive position of First Call Resolution Strategies.

     

    FCR Operating Strategy

    Legend:

    Contact Center = relates to this channel only
    Enterprise-wide = relates to some or the whole organization
    Lower Cost = involves cost per contact resolution
    CX Differentiation = involves differentiating CX based on FCR

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    First Call Resolution Operating Philosophy

    Our view is that First Call Resolution is more than just a metric; it is a proven call center operating philosophy for people, processes, and technology operating practices for cost-effectively delivering great customer service. Our CX research shows that 93% of customers expect their call to be resolved on the first call. Many of our clients who have achieved world-class FCR performing call centers have developed First Call Resolution strategies and use an "FCR operating philosophy" in their core people, processes, and technology practices at the enterprise level. Furthermore, they hold all employees accountable to First Call Resolution customer satisfaction goals.


     

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    Customer Service Support

    Of all the metrics you could track, First Call Resolution is the most essential for a customer support queue for a contact center to lower costs, improve customer satisfaction, retain customers, and increase the Net Promotor Score. The customer support queue (e.g., help desk or escalation) Agents play a vital role in supporting agents in resolving calls or handling complex calls. For many organizations, the call center help desk or escalation queue Agents are the last line of defense for providing First Call Resolution and retaining customers. 

    SQM Group's research shows that only 1% of customers expressed their desire to stop doing business with a company when Help Desk First Call Resolution is achieved. However, when it took two or more calls to resolve an inquiry or problem, 4% of customers expressed their intent to defect. An alarming 22% of customers expressed defection if their call was unresolved. 

    Most SQM clients use a two-tier help desk or escalation queue Agents to assist service Agents in resolving calls (tier 1), or the call is warm transferred to a help desk or escalation Agent to take over the call to resolve a complex call (tier 2).

    Helpdesk First Call Resolution

    Measuring help desk First Call Resolution can be conducted using either external or internal FCR measurement methods.  While it can be more complex, it is essential to measure First Call Resolution for Tier 1 and Tier 2 help desk or escalation queues. SQM's experience shows that a higher percentage of escalation calls are Tier 1 calls, but Tier 2 calls tend to have substantially lower FCR ratings because they are more complex.

    How to Measure First Call Resolution

    A sample Calculation of First Call Resolution

    The Formula for First Call Resolution

    A common formula used for determining the First Call Resolution rate is based on calculating the number of customers whose inquiry or problem was resolved on their first call, divided by the total number of customer's first calls to the call center. 

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    How do you Measure First Call Resolution?

    As the old saying goes, you can't improve what you don't measure, and you can't measure what you can't define. It's up to an organization as to how they want to define, measure, and calculate their call center First Call Resolution rate. The key is to come up with your data-gathering criteria by answering specific questions to determine how to define and measure First Call Resolution. 

    Related Blog: 

    Calculate First Call Resolution Rate ▶

     

    Below are the common practices for measuring and calculating external and internal First Call Resolution rates.


    At SQM, we consider the external FCR measurement calculating method to be the most accurate method for measuring it. External measurement lets the customer judge whether First Call Resolution took place; after all, their opinion is what matters the most.


    Internal FCR measurement can be very insightful for trending First Call Resolution and is widely used by contact centers. However, the internal measurement has limitations. For example, a customer called back with a different call reason not tied to their initial call reason or called back using a different phone number. These scenarios will make the First Call Resolution rate calculation less accurate.

     

    The call center industry average for First Call Resolution rate is 70%. This means that 30% of customers have to call back the organization about the same inquiry or problem. A good First Call Resolution rate is 70% to 75%.

    Related Blog: 

    What is a Good FCR Rate? ▶

    External First Call Resolution Rate Calculation

    To determine external First Call Resolution rate: callers are asked directly whether the issue was resolved using a post-call survey method. The First Call Resolution questions are asked using survey methods such as email, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), or by a phone interviewer. Many call centers contract a 3rd party to conduct these surveys, and it is the most expensive First Call Resolution measurement method but has a proven track record for improving it.

    For the external post-call survey measurement method calculation, the First Call Resolution rate is based on customer survey questions. One method is asking two survey questions where a call is considered FCR if a customer answers 'yes' to the question, "Was your call resolved?" and in 'one call' to the question, "How many calls did you make to resolve your call?"

    First Call Resolution rate calculation is the total number of customers who said their call was resolved on the first call (280) divided by the total number of surveyed (400) = 70% First Call Resolution rate formula.

    External First Call Resolution Calculation

    Contact centers are encouraged to use an open-ended survey question to ask callers why they could not resolve their call on the first call. Caller feedback can be tagged for identifying call back reasons for targeted opportunities for First Call Resolution improvement.

    Post Contact Customer Survey

    A post-call survey is an external FCR measurement method completed by a customer via email, IVR, or a phone interviewer survey method within one business day of their call to a contact center. Listed below are the pros and cons of using a post-call customer survey method to measure the First Call Resolution.

     

    Pros with the external measurement method are:

    • The customer determines First Call Resolution
    • The best FCR, Csat, and NPS® accuracy insights of all methods
    • Provides tremendous insights for improving First Call Resolution
    • Can make the call center more customer service focused
    • Identifies dissatisfied customers for service recovery
    • Standardized measurement so you can benchmark First Call Resolution
    • Provides call resolution accountability/coaching to the agent
    • Has the best track record for helping improve FCR, Csat, NPS®, and Costs

     
    Cons with the external measurement method are:

    • Highest cost method to measure First Call Resolution
    • Small sample size compared to internal measurement methods
    • Some customers reluctant to complete a phone or email survey
    • Customer survey data only available one day or more after the call
    • Having to send call list to survey vendor if using a 3rd party
    • Requires following government guidelines in contacting customers (e.g., Telephone Consumer Protection Act)

     

    Customer Experience FCR Research Studies ▶

    Hexagon pattern

    Internal First Call Resolution Rate Calculation

    To determine internal First Call Resolution rate: customers who called back are identified using workforce suites, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) repeat call technology. First Call Resolution is determined based on repeat callers identified by a phone number, account number, or case number within a specific time frame.

    While internal measurement methods are straightforward to implement, there are flaws with this technique because there is no First Call Resolution industry standard for measuring it. Some flaws are the same person might call from a different number, or the follow-up call may not happen immediately. But this can be an excellent approach to see First Call Resolution trends over time if the limitations are understood.

    Each organization must decide how to define, measure, and calculate their call center First Call Resolution rate. The key is to determine the First Call Resolution data-gathering criteria (e.g., call types, transferred calls, escalated calls) measurement approach. Once the data-gathering method is chosen, you need to decide how to calculate First Call Resolution. There are two conventional approaches used.

    The first approach for calculating First Call Resolution assesses all calls resolved on the first call dividend by the total calls received.

    First Call Resolution Formula

    While this can be a simple way to measure internal First Call Resolution, it is not always accurate. However, this approach can give a solid perspective on customer service team performance if looking at the First Call Resolution rate from a snapshot perspective.

    The second approach for calculating First Call Resolution only looks at calls resolved on the first call dividend by the total number of first calls.

    First Call Resolution rate calculation is the total number of calls resolved on the first call (7,000) divided by the total number of first calls (10,000) = 70% First Call Resolution rate formula.

    First Call Resolution Formula

    While it may take more work to measure internal First Call Resolution, the results are more meaningful and accurate than the first approach.

    Within the contact center industry, both approaches are valid ways to calculate First Call Resolution, and an organization can choose the path that makes the most sense. Whichever approach is selected, an organization must explain the calculation method to the customer service team and leaders to understand the First Call Resolution meaning.

     

    Repeat-Call Tracking Technology

    Repeat call technology is an internal FCR measurement method based on identifying repeat callers using workforce suites, ACD, speech analytics, and CRM technology. Listed below are the pros and cons of using this technology method to measure First Call Resolution.

     

    Pros with the internal measurement method are:

    • Utilizes existing workforce suites, ACD, and CRM technology
    • CRM and speech analytics can be used to do deep-dive analysis for repeat calls
    • These methods are the lowest cost method for measuring First Call Resolution
    • Can customize data gathering criteria for measurement   
    • Provides extensive data for trends and fail-points
    • It can be used for agent accountability and coaching
    • Provides organizational insights that customer cannot

     

    Cons with the internal measurement method are:

    • The organization determines if the call is First Call Resolution
    • Can conflict with external data
    • Can substantially overstate First Call Resolution (e.g., 10 to 20%)
    • Does not provide Csat or NPS improvement insights
    • Can make a call center less customer-centric focused
    • Measurement is not standardized, hindering your ability to benchmark FCR
    • Does not have a consistent track record for improving

    * Total # of customer/calls resolved on the first call refers to the total number of calls resolved with no-repeat calls required about the initial call reason.

    ** Total # of first calls refers to the total number of unique customer transactions where no prior calls were made about the initial call reason.

       

      FCR Reimagined ▶

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      First Call Resolution Best Practice Tips

      It is often said that it is hard to measure First Call Resolution accurately but even harder to improve it. SQM Group's research will support that argument, with only 5% of contact centers improving First Call Resolution 5% or more in a given year. Below are the 5 tips for how to increase First Call Resolution rate:5 tips for improving First Call Resolution

      1. Measure and Evaluate FCR Rate

      Measure and evaluate First Call Resolution using external and internal measurement methods continuously. Common examples of internal and external measurement methods are post-call surveys, agent logging, quality monitoring, reopened issues, and repeat call tracking.

      Measure and Evaluate FCR Rate

      2. Identify Repeat Call Reasons

      Identify repeat call reasons, use a post-call survey to identify customers who did not achieve First Call Reason, and ask them open-ended questions about why they could not resolve their transaction on the first call. Also, use CRM and speech analytics to review and analyze callers that experienced a repeat call. Develop repeat call reason categories and then tag customer feedback into repeat call reason categories (e.g., agent soft skills, billing, status of the inquiry, complaint, agent knowledge). 

      Identify Repeat Call Reasons

      3. Determine Repeat Call Reason to Improve

      Determine which repeat call reasons to improve by leveraging the data identified in the repeat call reason categories. Targeted opportunities for improving a specific repeat call reason should be based on high-frequency criteria and low customer satisfaction. It is essential to focus on improving on only 2 to 4 repeat call reason categories at a time.

      Repeat Call Reasons to Improve

      4. Develop Action Plan to Improve FCR

      Develop an action plan on how to improve First Call Resolution based on repeat call reasons targeted opportunities identified. The action plan should include the 5 W's (i.e., what, when, who, why, where) and how. The action plan will need to be reviewed and championed by senior management or a steering committee and include First Call Resolution tips, scripts, and training for agents.

      Develop Action Plan to Improve FCR

      5. Determine First Call Resolution Goal

      Determine your FCR goal by conducting a call center First Call Resolution benchmark of your FCR rate using an external measurement method with a 3rd party specializing in First Call Resolution research. Then, based on your current FCR rate, establish an FCR rate improvement goal for the call center. A moderate FCR improvement goal is 1% to 4%, and an aggressive FCR improvement goal would be 5% or more. A best practice is to hold all employees accountable to the First Call Resolution goal. 

      First Call Resolution Goals

      Top 10 Tips for improving FCR ▶

       

      Find out why over 500 leading North American contact centers trust mySQM™ FCR Insights Software as a best practice to measure and improve First Call Resolution. Our software provides First Call Resolution insights by capturing and reporting external (e.g., post-call surveys) and internal (e.g., call data, quality assurance) data, all in one powerful First Call Resolution software platform.

       

      mySQM™ FCR Insights Software ▶

      About The Author

      Mike DesmaraisMike Desmarais, MBA, is the founder and CEO of SQM Group, an organization dedicated to helping call center clients improve FCR. Mike is considered an FCR Expert and has a proven track record for helping leading North American call centers improve FCR. Mike is the inventor of VoC First Call Resolution measurement and has written five thought-provoking call center FCR books and dozens of FCR blog articles