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Top 5 Barriers that Hinder the Improvement of First Call Resolution

January 17, 2022 | 2min read

Top 5 Barriers that Hinder FCR

Based on SQM's over 25 years of experience working with leading North American call centers to improve their First Call Resolution (FCR) performance, we have identified the top five barriers that have hindered these organizations from improving their FCR performance. SQM is proud that over 70% of our tracking clients have improved their FCR performance year over year. Most of our key learnings to identify the top five barriers to not improving FCR come from our benchmarking and low-performing tracking clients.

Lack of Management Commitment

Barrier #1: Lack of Management Commitment

The biggest barrier for not improving FCR that we see is the lack of management commitment at all levels of management. A low FCR commitment at the individual supervisor level has less of a negative impact on FCR performance than at the VP level, where low FCR commitment impacts the entire call center FCR performance. 

We experience low commitment to improving FCR performance based on competing for project initiatives (e.g., workforce scheduling, CRM, training, QA) and sales initiatives (e.g., marketing, cross-selling, product and service selling). When management focuses on project and sales initiatives at the expense of FCR initiatives, agents' message is that FCR is not as important as the other initiatives. 

From SQM's point of view, management is missing out on one of the most excellent opportunities to improve their operating cost and customer service. 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."

Some managers believe that implementing specific initiatives will improve their FCR performance. At SQM, we have conducted pre-and post- technology (e.g., workforce scheduling, CRM, QA) initiatives to determine their impact on FCR. In the majority of cases, we have not seen a positive effect. However, SQM's research shows that technology implementation can positively impact FCR as long as it is designed to improve FCR. What type of FCR commitment do you have? Click on the below link to assess your FCR improvement commitment approach.


No FCR Champion

Barrier #2: No FCR Champion

The second biggest barrier for not improving FCR that we see is that there is no FCR champion. Every world-class call center we have worked with has an FCR champion in title or spirit. In most cases, it is the senior VP of the call center. 

But, typically, in call centers that have poor to average FCR performance, there is no FCR champion. In many cases, the VP will say that FCR is important; however, their actions say otherwise. In other words, they do not walk the talk of an FCR champion. 

We often see an example of an FCR meeting in which all senior management are invited, including SQM personnel. Unfortunately, some of the organization's senior management does not show up, leave early, or disengage. The message that management receives from this type of behavior is that FCR is not that important. 

Also, when there is no FCR champion, it is never obvious what new initiatives are needed to improve FCR or which areas are causing repeat calls that need to be fixed. The bottom line is that the absence of an FCR champion to manage and lead FCR efforts means the absence of improving FCR performance. At SQM we award call center leaders for being an FCR champion, Lana Pruett of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas was recently recognized for her customer experience leadership. 


Poor Communication and Recognition

Barrier #3: Poor Communication and Recognition

The third biggest barrier for not improving FCR that we see is poor communication. Many agents and supervisors have limited or no knowledge of how they or the call center perform on VoC metrics. Not understanding FCR performance is especially true when customer surveying is conducted at the call center level only or infrequently, and VoC results are not shared. 

If agents and supervisors' FCR and Csat performance is not shared, they do not feel accountable for their performance. Furthermore, if agents and supervisors are not recognized for their FCR and Csat performance, it results in a lack of motivation to provide great customer service and improve.   

Suppose you ask agents and supervisors in call centers with low to average FCR performance what metric management conveys as the most important. In many cases, they will say internal metrics or are unsure. In some cases, even when customer surveying is conducted at the agent level, they only see their results once a month or every quarter; agents will not mention FCR is being high in importance. 

In most world-class FCR performing call centers, agents can see survey results in either real-time or within one business day of the customer's call, and agents have access to their results whenever they want to review them. Another poor communication practice in call centers with low FCR performance is that they do not use a primary purpose model. 

A primary purpose model would include their vision and mission statements, operating principles, and KPIs that could be used as an effective communication tool to clarify the call center's primary purpose to the agents and supervisors. The value of a call center's primary purpose model is that it provides a clear understanding of what is important and how agents and management should align their efforts towards call resolution, FCR, and Csat objectives. If you are interested in learning about the best agent voice of the customer agent recognition program, click on the below link:


No Accountability and Coaching

Barrier #4: No Accountability and Coaching

The fourth biggest barrier for not improving FCR is that there is no accountability for call resolution and Csat performance at the agent and supervisor levels and FCR and Csat performance at the management level. Call resolution, FCR, and Csat metric accountability for all employees need to be based on a post-call survey method

Without call resolution, FCR, and Csat performance accountability, the chance for improving these metrics is highly unlikely. Further, if there is no FCR and Csat agent accountability, supervisors will not be in a position to coach the agents on how to improve their FCR and Csat performance. 

In many cases, management does not create accountability for these metrics at the agent level due to the cost of surveying customers. For example, to legitimize the sample size at the agent level, you would need a minimum of five surveys per agent per month. Unfortunately, many call centers are unwilling to conduct five surveys or more per agent per month. However, world-class FCR performing call centers conduct at least five surveys per month per agent. 

The cost of conducting QA evaluations is substantially higher than conducting customer surveys, and yet management is more willing to conduct five QA evaluations per month per agent. SQM believes that QA legacy is why leadership is more inclined to invest in QA evaluations versus customer surveys. 

Management is used to viewing quality from the QA standpoint, and they want to leverage the thousands of dollars invested in their QA system. From SQM's perspective, management must create accountability for VoC metrics at all levels. Also, the ROI is much greater from creating accountability for VoC metrics than from internal QA metrics. We have clients that have stopped conducting QA evaluations and only use VoC metrics to hold agents accountable for their customer service performance. If you are interested in learning how to use the voice of the customer metrics to coach your agent to improve FCR and customer satisfaction, click on the below link:


Turnover and New-Hires

Barrier #5: Turnover and New-Hires

The fifth biggest barrier for not improving FCR is agent turnover and new hires. Agent annual turnover of 20% or higher (including external and internal turnover) causes low FCR performance. 

SQM's research shows that when a call center's FCR performance drops, the main reason, in many cases, is the agent and/or management turnover. This is especially true for call centers handling moderate to high complexity calls. For example, when there is high turnover at the agent level, there are fewer skilled agents to handle moderate to complex calls

It is SQM's experience that as a result of high turnover at the management level, in many cases, agents and supervisors can lose their VoC focus and internal metrics become the default focus metrics. Also, in some cases, new managers are not as committed to the previous manager's FCR initiatives. In addition, new managers may feel they do not own implementing FCR initiatives belonging to the previous managers. 

When call centers ramp up to handle 10% or more of additional call volume by hiring new agents, the impact on FCR is just as damaging as agent turnover. Typically, the agent ramp-up to handle the extra call volume can take six months or more to see the similar VoC performance that the call center had before the ramping-up of new agents.  

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FCR Journey Statement

Based on SQM's years of researching call center customer service and cost, it has become crystal clear that FCR is a true silver bullet metric for operating a call center. No other call center metric provides more accurate customer service and cost measurement than the FCR metric. Therefore, if you believe that customer service and cost are the most important areas to your call center, then focusing on FCR should be your mandate. 

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