SQM Group

Call Center
Top 5 Operating Practices that Hinder Agents from Achieving First Call Resolution

August 27, 2021 | 4min read

Operating Practices that Hinder FCR

SQM's Voice of the Customer (VoC) research shows that 71% of calls are resolved on the first call for the average call center, which means 29% of customers have to call back because their issue was not resolved on the first call. Additionally, of the 500 leading North American call centers SQM benchmarks annually, only 5% of them are at the world-class First Call Resolution (FCR) performance level of 80% or higher.

Based on SQM's Agent Satisfaction with operating practices (e.g., people, processes, and technology) research study of 150 leading North American call centers, figure 1 shows the top 5 operating practices that hinder Agents from achieving FCR. These FCR operating practices are ranked based on having the lowest Agent satisfaction (i.e., very satisfied top box response). Based on Agent satisfaction feedback, the top 5 FCR operating practices that hinder Agents from achieving FCR and tips for improving each area are described below.

Figure 1: Top 5 Operating Practices that Hinder Agents from Achieving FCR

Top 5 Operating Practices the Hinder Agents from Achieveing FCR

FCR Issues are not fixed in a Timely Manner

FCR Issues are Not Fixed in a Timely Manner

The number one issue that hinders Agents is 'FCR issues are not fixed in a timely manner.' It has been SQM's experience that, for many call centers, there is no sense of urgency to fix FCR issues that the call center does not control. Non-call center departments represent the highest source of error areas for not achieving FCR and the main reason why FCR issues are not fixed quickly. Therefore, the call center budget needs to include allocating financial resources for cross-functional process improvement teams that address FCR issues that need to be fixed. SQM highly recommends that call centers invest more resources in a process improvement team (e.g., IDCA) to identify, develop, check and act on solutions for fixing FCR issues in a timely manner. The bottom line is that call center budgets need to include allocating financial resources for cross-functional process improvement teams that address FCR issues that need to be fixed.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management Does Not Help Deliver FCR

The number two issue that hinders Agents is customer relationship management '(CRM) does not help them deliver FCR or call resolution.'  Many agents feel that their CRM system does not capture, or they don’t have access to the right information to help them improve FCR. However, call center leaders are finding that the implementation of CRM has enormous benefits, such as the ability to collect and store important customer account information. The customer information stored in the CRM application is based on the call center's day-to-day handling of customer calls. For example, CRM helps the Agent understand the customer's account, giving them accurate and complete information to resolve the customer's call. Furthermore, customer account information stored in the CRM system, such as products and services used, documentation on previous calls, and other contact channels they have used (e.g., retail site, phone, IVR, web, or email) can be beneficial to improve FCR and Csat performance.

Other Departments Do Not Support FCR

Other Departments are Not Supportive of FCR

The number three issue that hinders Agents is 'other departments are not supportive of FCR.' Many Agents feel that different departments such as claims, billing, technical, and marketing do not properly support FCR. Agents feel that they cannot access support department personnel directly to discuss the customer's issue and determine a solution in real-time. Many Agents also feel that the personnel from other support departments look down upon them, making them feel like they are not essential employees to the organization. Agents hear about product, service, and technology issues, but, in most cases, they have no place to document or provide recommendations to improve or eliminate these issues. Most organizational leaders view FCR as a metric that is only applicable to call centers. However, a small but growing number of organizations have included the FCR metric for enterprise-wide accountability at all levels (e.g., CEO and down) to ensure a better CX. Or put differently, FCR is used as a metric that all employees are accountable to in order to create alignment for what customers experience doing business with the organization for all contact channels.

Career Advancements

FCR Performance is Not Used to Determine Career Advancements

The number four issue that hinders Agents is 'FCR performance is not used to determine career advancement.' Most Agents feel that their call resolution or FCR performance has limited or no impact on their career advancement opportunities and are unclear of the selection process for a job. Agents say that they would be more motivated to resolve calls if career advancement was connected to some type of FCR/call resolution performance goal. SQM's viewpoint is that career advancement to any job in the call center should be based on Agent call resolution or FCR performance. There should be an Agent career advancement path by call type or skill set. For example, a new Agent might only have three call types that they can handle after their training program. However, after six months on the job and the Agent is meeting the call resolution performance standard, the Agent can now handle two more call types. Altogether, the Agent now has five call types they can handle. Agent pay should be based on how many call types they can handle or how many skills they have shown meet the FCR/call resolution performance standard. They also have to handle a certain amount of calls every year for each call type requiring specific skills to keep their skill set current.   

Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance Does Not Help Agents Deliver FCR

The number five issue that hinders Agents is 'QA does not help Agents deliver FCR’. Many call center managers believe their quality assurance (QA) program improves their First Call Resolution (FCR) and CX. Furthermore, for most organizations, the primary objective of their QA program is to improve FCR and CX, yet, very few call centers can substantiate improvements as a result of their traditional QA practices. With traditional QA, a supervisor or QA evaluator listens to the calls and evaluates the CX. Regardless of the metrics used or the person who conducts the QA evaluation, what remains clear is that a call center employee is judging the CX for resolving an inquiry or problem, not the customer. Conversely, Customer Quality Assurance (CQA) combines call compliance metrics, judged by a QA evaluator, and service quality metrics, judged by a customer via a post-call or email customer survey. CQA is based on the premise of letting the customer be the judge of their own experience when contacting an organization and is one of the best practices for driving improvements in the FCR rate.