The Elusive First Call Contact Resolution

First Call Resolution, or FCR, is a measurement used to identify the number of times a customer contacts a company’s call center or support group to resolve the same issue. The end goal is to resolve the customer’s issue during the first call. Often called “One and Done” this approach reduces the cost of supporting and addressing the same problem more than once. Many believe this simple metric can positively impact the total operational cost of a call center by more than 30 percent.

Tools and Standards
So what makes FCR elusive? For starters, most companies do not have the tools by which to measure this metric. To effectively measure FCR, a call center’s Customer Service Management (CRM) software must be able to determine how many times the customer has called on the same issue within a defined timeframe. Most CRM’s are built to contain customer data, but few have the ability to recognize and pinpoint re-occurring issues. I have heard about companies attempting to determine this data by feedback forms, which is often a bad idea because customer feedback is inconsistent and can be far from accurate and reliable data and usually only expresses how the customer feels that day.

* CRM should be able to determine the following:
# of times x caller calls in for y issue within z time limit; determines if the caller issue was resolved during the first call
* The formula to measure the call center FCR is:
# of calls resolved during the first call divided by total # of calls

The second challenge with measuring FCR is that there really isn’t an industry standard, therefore the formula can vary from company to company—and in some cases, board meeting to board meeting, depending on the preferred application. A cursory search on the Internet reveals at least 10 ways to calculate this measurement. What’s more, I have seen companies alternate between formulas simply based upon the data their CRM is able to collect.

Application and Methodology
To further illustrate how FCR can be so hard to pin down, consider the scenario below. The following example of how one company calculates FCR was cited in a popular call center magazine:

A caller contacts us to adjust a late payment fee. Two days later the same person calls us to ask for our mailing address (within the 72-hour window).

We would count this as not resolved on first contact because the associate taking the first call should have confirmed that the customer had our (correct) mailing address, thus avoiding the need for the customer to contact us again. The resulting first call resolution percentage would be 0.00% (as we count both calls as not resolved on first call).

In my opinion, this measurement would be inaccurate since it includes controls outside the basic issue of the original call. Holding the metric responsible for the agent’s inability to foresee a customer’s future issue is not realistic. In the above example, the formula used was total calls by customer within x time limit; it doesn’t consider what the call was about, just that the customer had to call back. This likely is as much a reflection on the method of FCR tracking as anything else. Many companies measure FCR, based on a time delay factor, i.e. “if the customer calls back within 72 hours then we failed to resolve their issue completely”. This model also implicitly suggests that the agent should be able to anticipate what the customer will want or need to do and excludes any separately arising subsequent need..

FCR is a great measurement, but its application shouldn’t be forced, if you find that your company systems are inadequate in calculating the metric. Any metric that can’t be effectively tracked and managed can do more damage than good. Rather than embarking haphazardly into FCR, consider the options. There are other SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals that can be used to increase effectiveness and reduce operational costs. To use FCR unwisely would be akin to me using the metric in my personal life to identify why Aunt Alice has called so many times during the month — a waste.

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