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A Roadmap to First Call Resolution Improvement

FCR is More Than Just a Metric; it is a Business Philosophy

February 10, 2022 | 9min read

FCR Business Philosophy

First Call Resolution (FCR) is more than just the metric that matters the most; it is a proven call center business philosophy for cost-effectively providing great customer service. Most world-class FCR performing call centers view FCR as the most important metric for measuring and managing customer service and cost performance.

Furthermore, many world-class FCR performing call centers use a First Call Resolution business philosophy to deliver great customer service in a cost-effective manner. The business philosophy is how they work and incorporate FCR best practices for their core processes, technology, and people practices at the call center and enterprise levels. Below are First Call Resolution tips for creating an FCR business philosophy to deliver great customer service in a cost-effective manner.

  • Agents are recognized as service heroes for achieving world-class FCR and call resolution performance
  • The call center uses an FCR improvement team to reduce repeat calls and implement standard business practices
  • FCR call handling motto (e.g., “who takes the call, owns the call,” “I own it,” “famous for service,” and “customer for life”)
  • Agents are hired for FCR fit based on an assessment of their personality traits and skills, which is based on high FCR performing agents profile
  • Agent VoC Performance Management is the number one best practice for Improving FCR and CX
  • The software desktop application is designed to assist agents in achieving FCR and does not require a lot of training
  • Career advancement is based on FCR and call resolution performance at all levels (i.e., agent to SVP level)
  • Agents can contact subject matter experts in real-time, by chat or phone to assist them in resolving calls
  • Supervisors are trained on how to coach agents for improving First Call Resolution by call type
  • CQA evaluations include customer survey and call compliance data to fully assess the customer’s experience

FCR Operating Philosophy Examples

To reach a substantial FCR target, the call center should establish the way employees will work, in other words, the FCR culture of the call center. An FCR business philosophy creates a belief system for the way employees work that they can rally behind to achieve high FCR and Csat targets. In addition, a VoC FCR business philosophy ensures that all employees are using best practices to support the FCR targets and the FCR business philosophy.

Specifically, world-class call centers' service heroes, FCR improvement team, business motto, hired for FCR fit, accountable for FCR, quality assurance, desktop applications, career opportunities, subject matter experts, and agent coaching incorporate Voice of the Customer (VoC) FCR into their call center business practices.

The bottom line is that management needs to focus on the call center’s people, process, and technology practices using VoC feedback to increase the FCR rate and deliver great customer service. SQM Group’s research shows for "every 1% improvement in First Call Resolution, there is a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction.” Therefore, incorporating VoC into call center business practices is fundamental for using FCR as a business philosophy.

For all employees to be aligned and supportive towards the FCR goals, management must use the following three related and fundamental FCR business philosophy best practices as depicted in the below infographic. These three FCR business philosophies are the roadmap for improving first call resolution and customer service. 



  1. FCR Obsessed is when all employees focus on achieving FCR goals and implementing the necessary people, processes, and technology practices to help achieve those goals. Being FCR obsessed requires discipline, especially when so many internal competing initiatives can cause the call center to lose focus on FCR goals and required practices.
  2. VoC data is customer feedback about their experiences using a call center. The VoC data is used to determine the customer experience (CX) performance and the opportunities to improve FCR based on the customer’s perspective. In addition, VoC data is based on post-call customer surveys to understand CX and increase the likelihood of improving the FCR rate, rather than using just employee opinions and unsupported recommendations.
  3. Continuous improvement through a VoC closed-loop process to Identify, Develop, Check and Act (IDCA) on FCR improvement opportunities. SQM's VoC closed-loop IDCA Improvement Cycle is based on the Deming Cycle, a continuous quality improvement model consisting of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning.

FCR Obsessed

1. FCR Obsessed

From an SQM perspective, being FCR obsessed with achieving FCR goals and implementing the necessary people, process, and technology practices to help achieve those FCR goals is a best practice in itself. When a contact center 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 continually being evaluated to seek improvement opportunities to better assist agents in resolving calls, preferably on the first call. Finally, being FCR obsessed requires discipline, especially when so many internal competing initiatives can cause the call center to lose focus on FCR goals and practices.

An FCR obsessed approach to how all employees work has helped many SQM clients achieve world-class FCR and Csat performance. Most call centers that SQM evaluates struggle with effectively implementing new people, process, and technology FCR improvement initiatives because they lack the obsessive discipline to effectively implement a new FCR initiative.

The following are questions for assessing if your call center management is FCR obsessed: 

Survey Data

2. VoC Survey Data

According to a Gartner statistic: 95% of companies collect customer feedback. However, only 10% of them use customer survey feedback to improve customer experience (CX). Therefore, this represents an excellent opportunity to use customer feedback to improve customer service more effectively.

​SQM’s view is to use VoC survey data to determine the call center's FCR performance and develop First Call Resolution action plans to improve is a best practice for delivering great customer service in a cost-effective manner.

​The below infographic illustrate how to action customer survey feedback. The First Call Resolution action plans model shows the three distinct stages for actioning customer survey feedback (i.e., 1st - Customer Identification, 2nd - Analyzing Unresolved Calls, and 3rd - FCR Action Plan for Improving Csat):

​The first stage is customer identification and the level of dissatisfaction with their experience in using the call center. For example, there are 3 levels of customer dissatisfaction (e.g., level 1 with the lowest level of customer dissatisfaction and level 3  with the highest level of customer dissatisfaction). Each dissatisfaction level requires a different FCR action plan.

​The second stage is analyzing unresolved calls. To determine why customers did not achieve FCR analyze the following data sources (e.g., VoC survey, survey recording, call recording, and CRM) for insights to improvement opportunities. Each data source provides unique insights for coaching agents and the call center’s, process, people, and technology practices to improve FCR performance.

​The third stage is developing a First Call Resolution action plan to improve call resolution and FCR. The FCR action plan focuses on two different areas for improving FCR, call resolution, and customer service; Agent coaching and the VoC Closed-Loop Improvement Process (i.e., IDCA – Identity, Develop, Check and Act). The customer survey feedback insights are used as the foundation for developing an action plan to improve FCR, call resolution, and customer satisfaction performance.

FCR Feedback

World-class FCR call centers budget to capture and action customer feedback. For most world-class call centers that SQM works with, the VoC data (e.g., capturing, analyzing, reporting, and improving) budget is 1% of the call center's operating budget. Given the importance of FCR, 1% of the operating budget is an outstanding FCR ROI.  

Most world-class FCR call centers use post-call customer surveying and conduct at least 5 surveys per agent, per month. We consider 10 surveys per agent per month to be a best practice. As a result, they can also action the customer feedback for improvement opportunities at the agent to the call center level. Therefore, as a best practice, the FCR customer surveying budget should include a minimum quota of five surveys per agent, per month and a dedicated FCR project manager and team if required.

Agent survey quota is the best practice for improving FCR. In addition, survey quota at the call center level can help improve FCR; however, this is less effective than survey quota at the agent level because of the call resolution accountability when there is an agent survey quota.

Internal FCR measurement methods (e.g., QA, repeat calls, speech analytics, and CRM) tend to overstate FCR performance by 10% to 20% compared to VoC FCR external methods. Internal FCR is higher because, in many cases, the customer will not call back because they called another company to help them. Therefore, using internal FCR measurement, many call centers assume if a customer does not call back, they resolved their issue on the first call.

The following are questions for assessing your VoC data practices:

Survey Questions Download

Continuous Improvement

3. Continuous Improvement

SQM has found that most call centers struggle with identifying areas to improve, develop solutions, and implement those solutions. Unfortunately, only 2% of call centers can sustain 3 years of continuous improvement for increasing the FCR rate annually.  

A significant reason for the FCR continuous improvement issue is that call centers, in many cases, do not own the workflow, policy, or procedure. Approximately 50% of repeat calls to resolve the same inquiry or problem the source of error is outside of the call center’s control. Therefore, FCR improvement initiatives involve other departments whose support can be challenging to get.

Most FCR improvement comes from performance management (e.g., accountability and recognition) initiatives rather than process improvement (e.g., VoC closed-loop improvement cycle for people, processes, and technology) initiatives.

The below infographic shows an example of FCR improvement by initiative and time. SQM's research shows that implementing performance management initiatives can provide the most significant FCR gains in the shortest amount of time. However, the FCR improvement process can also offer FCR gains that can be just as big but over a longer time.


FCR Graph

The VoC closed-loop improvement cycle is a well-accepted business practice for identifying what areas to improve, developing solutions, and implementing people, processes, and technology practices that will increase FCR performance on a continuous improvement basis.

To help call centers improve FCR and customer service, we use a VoC closed-loop improvement cycle that includes four steps (e.g., identify, develop, check and act). The VoC closed-loop IDCA process is based on SQM's proprietary call tagging system to identify the reasons why customers had to make repeat calls to resolve their issues. Calls are tagged based on post-call customer survey non-FCR feedback. Furthermore, agent feedback and contact center operational review is used to supplement the post-call survey FCR findings.

In most cases, the VoC closed-loop IDCA improvement cycle process team is comprised of consultants and key call center personnel (e.g., agents, QA evaluators, and managers). The VoC closed-loop IDCA improvement cycle for improving FCR and customer service 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 to roll out to the entire call center to improve repeat call reason performance.


The VoC IDCA improvement cycle is a practical approach for improving work people, processes, and technology hindering FCR performance. The below diagram shows the roadmap that VoC closed-loop process four significant 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 an excellent roadmap for properly implementing FCR improvements that have been proven to work.


FCR IDCA Diagram

The following are questions for assessing your continuous improvement practices:

  • Have you identified the top five repeat call reasons?
  • Have you selected one or more repeat call reasons to improve annually?
  • Do you effectively analyze repeat call reasons to improve?
  • Do you generate and select solution ideas based on some criteria?
  • Do you develop an action plan to improve FCR?
  • Do you present an FCR action plan to the C-level?
  • Do you use a small test pilot group for testing solution idea's effectiveness?
  • Does your management team check the results of the test pilot?
  • Based on the test pilot results, do you make any necessary changes?
  • Do you standardize solution ideas to implement them into the entire call center effectively?
  • Are you effective at executing the roll-out action plan into the entire call center?
  • Do you monitor solution idea changes for effectiveness?

Software Demo