How many times does a customer need to contact your support team to find an answer to their issue?
Hopefully, just once.
But for many businesses, that’s not the case.
It’s impossible to know whether customers are getting effective support without measuring your first contact resolution rate.
First contact resolution (FCR) is a help desk metric that tracks how many customers have their problems solved upon first contact with your support team.
It tells you what ratio of customers get first contact resolution versus those who have to call back on multiple occasions.
For instance, providing an answer during one live chat session, a single email response, or one phone call would all be first contact resolution. However, if a customer calls back three times before receiving an adequate answer or has to send a follow-up email to get a clear solution, then your team has failed to provide FCR.
How to determine your current FCR Rate
To find out your FCR rate, there are two things you need to confirm by the end of every support interaction:
- Is the issue fixed now?
- Has the customer ever contacted you about this issue before?
The easiest way to find out whether you’ve solved a customer’s issue on their first attempt to contact your support team is simply to ask.
At the end of a support call or conversation, have agents conduct a quick post-support survey by asking the customer: “Has your support issue been fully resolved?”
If they still have concerns or follow-up questions and you hang up on them without asking this, they’ll inevitably call back to speak to another agent. Not only is this poor customer service, but it’s also bad for your FCR rate.
Then, after the problem has been fully resolved, ask whether or not it’s their first time contacting your team about that specific issue.
Once you’ve figured out how to measure your current FCR, you can experiment with the tactics outlined below to improve your rate.
16 Ways to Improve Your First Contact Resolution Rate
1. Offer additional training on FCR
Your frontline agents need to be confident in their ability to resolve support tickets during an initial interaction. In most cases, this requires providing additional support agent training specific to optimizing FCR.
Since FCR training increases organizational efficiency, it’s a worthwhile investment that will reward you in the long run.
The training should include advice on honing their technical and customer service skills, as well as training on any new software introduced to measure FCR. Provide examples of support interactions that demo how to resolve issues on the first interaction.
2. Make FCR a priority
Although there are plenty of metrics you can use to measure your team’s success, some of them conflict with the goal of boosting your first contact resolution rate. For FCR to truly become a priority, you may need to rethink your measure of success.
For instance, if you were trying to reduce ticket backlog or shorten average wait times, your agents might feel pressured to keep interactions brief rather than thorough. However, handling support tickets as fast as possible is not the same as fully resolving customer issues at first point of contact.
In fact, you may notice that average wait times and average handle times initially increase as your FCR rate improves – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Especially since overall ticket volume should decrease when you reduce repeat callers, which equals better long-term organizational efficiency.
3. Incentivize total contact ownership
In addition to emphasizing the importance of FCR during training, find a way to motivate your agents to engage in total contact ownership on the job.
You can discourage agents from passing a problem down the line by offering incentives for resolving customer issues once and for all. Whether you offer bonuses or recognize top performers in some other way, reward agents who see customer issues through from contact to resolution.
4. Provide thorough explanations
This ties back into the fact that improving your FCR doesn’t necessarily shorten average call time.
If you over-emphasize the importance of reducing wait times, call times, and backlog, you also risk hurting your FCR rate. So, make sure your agents understand that they don’t need to gloss over important information for the sake of keeping things brief.
5. But leave out unnecessary details
There’s a fine line between providing thorough information and overwhelming a customer with irrelevant details. Be selective about the information you share.
When in doubt, keep your explanations simple. Your customers don’t need to understand the complex inner workings of your software, especially if their issue is something like getting locked out of their account.
6. Use visuals to improve explanations
Technology has made it easier than ever to show, rather than simply tell, customers what the solution is. Visual resources help customers understand your response and thereby reduce the likelihood of them calling back for further clarification.
Visual aids like screenshots, instructional videos, and PDFs can all be shared over live chat or email. If you’re on a call, you can use screen sharing to ensure the customer knows exactly what you’re talking about.
7. Offer self-service support tools
If you’re looking for a low-cost solution that improves FCR, why not help your customers help themselves? Create a knowledge base, FAQ, or downloadable resource that your agents can share with customers to reduce the likelihood that they’ll call back about the same issue.
Another perk of offering self-service customer support is that it reduces the number of incoming tickets received in the first place. When more customers find their answers online, your agents have more time to address those who do call in – which means they can focus on first-contact resolution without leaving as many other callers on hold.
8. Invest in fast-paced channels like live chat
Not only does offering live chat divert volume away from your phone lines and inbox, but it also gives customers a fast and easy way to get responses to simple support inquiries.
Even if wait times increase slightly when you shift your focus to FCR, offering live chat is a welcome alternative for customers who need quick answers to basic questions. In fact, live chat one of the fastest ways for customers to get information related to a support issue and 79% of customers who prefer live chat do so due to its immediacy.
9. Use AI chatbots to lighten the load
If you invest in artificial intelligence, your AI and human support agents should work together to address customer requests.
For instance, a live chat conversation might begin with an AI-powered chatbot who greets the customer and determines their primary issue. Depending on the complexity of the problem, the chatbot might handle the conversation from start to finish or hand it off to a human support agent.
This optimizes how your human agents spend their time, addresses simple concerns quickly, and allows your FCR rate to remain low because the handoff is completely seamless.
10. Use informative phone greetings
Here’s another way technology can free up more of your agents to handle complicated issues. Set up your IVR to deliver helpful greeting messages that limit the number of calls coming through.
By making your hours, location, and information about account details accessible via phone, some of your customers’ questions will be answered before they even speak to an agent. Furthermore, listing extensions on your website and IVR ensures customers contact the correct person or department the first time they call.
11. Streamline internal communication
The easier it is for agents to find information quickly, the more likely they are to engage in total contact ownership. If they don’t know the answer to a specific question, it might be easier to pass the customer along to a more experienced or specialized team member – which is bad for FCR.
However, if you invest in centralized software with an internal knowledge base, your agents will always have access to the information they need to excel in their role.
Encourage agents to refer to the database regularly and to discuss how an issue that escalated could have been approached to achieve FCR. This will empower your team members, encourage collaborative support, and make for happier customers.
12. Own up to mistakes
Unfortunately, you can’t always tell the customer exactly what they want to hear. For example, if a feature doesn’t work the way a customer expected, it’s important to be honest when they bring it up.
Of course, this could mean admitting that your product has a flaw or bug – but it’s better than leaving your customer with unanswered questions or passing them on to another department to deal with it.
13. Be specific to avoid confusion
Misinformation is the enemy of a healthy FCR rate. So, in addition to owning up to your mistakes, it’s important to be direct about how long it will take to resolve an issue, what is required of the customer, and what they should do if it happens again.
Instead of using vague or misleading language to avoid blame, be direct and reframe this as an opportunity to collect customer input and suggestions for future improvements.
14. Restructure your support team
There’s more than one way to structure an effective support team. Depending on what your product is and what type of support requests you typically receive, you can divide your support team by channel, tier, or specialization.
Whether you assign tickets by agent tier or specialization, you should use AI tracking software to delegate customer requests to an appropriate agent. This ensures basic questions are handled by your frontline agents, while more complex issues are automatically escalated.
15. Measure your FCR rate consistently
Tracking how your FCR changes over time not only tells you how you are doing, but it gives you valuable data that can help you improve even further.
One of the simplest ways to start measuring your FCR is to train your agents to identify and track repeat callers. Alternatively, you can use technology like natural language processing to recognize and identify key phrases like “I called before” or “talked to someone else” or “last time I called”.
Then, you can compare your FCR rate to past months and identify which policies or changes had the best results. This ensures you’re setting realistic goals and providing adequate training for your agents.
According to research by The Ascent Group, businesses that tracked their support team’s FCR for one year experienced up to a 30% improvement in their FCR.
16. Learn from requests that require multiple touch points
As you measure your FCR rate over time, you’ll start to notice patterns that can be used to refine your support processes.
For instance, if you take a closer look at the most difficult requests your support team receives (those with the most touchpoints), you’ll likely notice similarities between the interactions and issues.
Are there common themes, questions, or topics that tend to come up? Or similarities in customer type? Did something go wrong during the call or do standard procedures need to be adjusted to minimize the need for follow-up calls?
The next step? Putting it all into practice!
Whatever you learn from your FCR data, you can use it as a springboard to rethink and refine your contact center processes. In addition to optimizing agent training, scripts, and procedures, make sure your team has the tools and technology they need to provide a seamless customer experience.
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