The Intersection of Customer Effort and First Call Resolution

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Published:  November 16, 2011

Of all the metrics in a call center, First Call Resolution often has the biggest impact on customer satisfaction, yet it is also one of the most difficult metrics to measure.

Luckily, your customers don’t think in terms of metrics. All that matters to them is that they have a positive experience. As Greg Levin wrote in a previous post, “Your customers don’t actually care if you know how to measure FCR – they simply want you to achieve it.”

Though there are many ways to measure FCR, it is difficult to see the whole picture. Some centers use repeat call tracking technology, which tracks if a customer calls back about the same issue. But it doesn’t tell you if the customer became so frustrated that they never called back and ultimately left you for a competitor.

Others utilize internal quality monitoring, which rates calls as “solved” or “unsolved,” but doesn’t take into account the customer’s perspective. Post-call transactional surveys are one of the best customer-centric methods used to measure FCR, as the agent asks the customer directly if their call was resolved and if they were satisfied.

But there is another measurement that is often overlooked that can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction – the Customer Effort Score.

When you talk about FCR, always consider customer effort. Remember: just because an agent resolves a customer’s issue on the first attempt does not mean it was a positive experience for the customer overall. The customer effort score describes how much work your customers have to do to get their issues resolved – regardless of if their issue is resolved on the first call.

When agents are unprepared or unable to quickly access the information they need to resolve customer inquiries, they must often put customers on hold for long periods of time. Other times, customers reach agents after long, frustrating experiences with the IVR or interactions on your web site.

Additionally, the types of calls most agents receive today have changed. With all of the self-service avenues available to customers including the IVR and the internet, calls that require live agent assistance to resolve tend to be more problematic in nature. One client of ours says that its center’s number of “problem/challenging” calls has doubled in recent years.

Though issues might be ultimately resolved in one live interaction with a phone agent, multiple contact channels can lead to deceptively high FCR rates that leave managers wondering why FCR isn’t aligning with customer satisfaction anymore.

To ensure that FCR is viewed in the full context of the customer experience, many leading call centers have comprehensive quality monitoring programs in place to give customers the ability to qualify their experiences. For example, rather than simply asking customers if the agent was able to resolve his or her issue with one call, additional qualifying questions are asked to determine customer satisfaction levels with the entire resolution process.

Bottom line: customers want their calls resolved with one call but, perhaps more importantly, they want to reduce the effort required of them to get their issues resolved.

To reduce the effort required of your customers, keep hold times down or having to repeat their issue multiple times to multiple agents. Find ways to resolve customer inquiries through multiple channels such as social media and user forums. And when it comes to measurement, look beyond the ability of agents to simply resolve customer inquiries on the first call.

Where the rubber hits the road is with the agents, ultimately. Even though time is at a premium, find the time to make them better. Train agents to handle customer inquiries effectively. Coach them to anticipate issues that will cause customers to call back, and teach them to take preemptive action. If agents are knowledgeable enough to anticipate potential call-backs, they can provide additional information to customers to resolve their issues on the first call.

If you make the effort to reduce the burden on your customers, you’ll soon see real benefits in customer loyalty and the bottom line.