Consumer spending in the U.S. for 2016 is currently at $16 trillion, but with a slow growth rate (1-2%), businesses are competing now more than ever to grab and maintain wallet share. They’re realizing that in order to attract and retain customers in today’s competitive economic environment, they have to focus on the experiences they provide on a daily basis.
While this customer experience centric approach should be top of mind for the entire organization, the contact center is often the main touch point customers have with the brand, making it largely responsible for whether your customers are promoters or detractors. Every interaction with a customer is extremely important and has a huge impact on their overall satisfaction and likelihood to remain a loyal customer. First-call resolution, or the rate at which customers’ problems are solved in the first interaction with a customer service representative, is a key metric in the contact center that can be measured and acted upon for companies to ensure the organization is meeting its business goals.
Making Every Call Count
One of the biggest indicators of a struggling contact center is repeat callers. When the same customer is calling several times to resolve the same issue, it’s clear that the customer service they are receiving is not effective—reflecting poorly on both the contact center and the company it represents. Further, ineffective customer service is very costly to an organization because, when more requests are coming in, it takes more resources to support those needs. As a customer, it becomes increasingly frustrating to call several times to solve the same issue.
According to a recent inContact study, 89% of customers say companies need to work harder to provide a good customer experience, and 86% even say they would very likely switch to another company if they had a poor service interaction (2015 inContact Consumer Research Study). Not being able to respond to problems and service customers in a timely, empathetic manner on their platform of choice, can cause a brand to quickly lose customers and damage valuable relationships.
First-call resolution (FCR) is an essential metric for any contact center because it drives customer satisfaction and reduces operational costs. Based on findings from a study of over 400 leading North American contact centers, every 1% gain in FCR directly translates into a 1% gain in customer satisfaction. As such, contact centers are increasingly working to keep this percentage as high as possible, demonstrating their consistent ability to direct customers to the correct agent and provide the right information to solve customer issues in a timely and effective manner.
Improving First-Call Resolution
Improving customer service while also reducing operating costs is no easy task. The following are six practical steps contact centers can take to improve FCR rates, which will ultimately boost customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and employee morale:
1. Identify Repeat Callers, Evaluate Current FCR Rate
All contact center agents should be trained on how to identify and report a repeat call and implement improved processes and technology solutions to address this issue. The most challenging part of this task is to understand why customers felt they needed to contact the company more than one time about the same issue. In our experience, we’ve found that repeat calls are generally caused by:
- Absence of information
- Poor call control
- Lack of authority to solve problems
- Agents being unaware of recent events
- Agents providing unclear or incorrect information
- Long holding times
- Corporate policies
Contact center managers should have ongoing communications with their marketing teams to ensure that their staff is up to speed on new promotions, price changes, products and services, and other initiatives or events that could cause an increase in call volume.
2. Leverage Post-Call Survey Questions to Evaluate Customer Experience
Polling customers after a call can be a powerful tool to identify repeat callers, which can be especially difficult if the customer called before the contact center implemented FCR measurement tactics. Questions like, “Have you previously called about this issue?” or, “Has our customer service representative completely answered your question today?” can provide valuable insight into previous experiences with the contact center and ensure that all issues have been resolved. Automated post-call surveys also give contact centers the ability to capture the callers’ opinions immediately after their interaction to ensure that all information collected is accurate and relevant.
3. Incorporate FCR Strategies into Training Programs
To create a culture where FCR is a key performance indicator, it’s important to ensure that it’s a priority for contact center agents from Day One. New employees should be fully versed on call control, technologies to support better FCR and key issues contributing to repeat callers.
4. Leverage Analytics to Pinpoint Repeat Calls and Ones That Require Follow
Speech analytics tools can help improve first-call resolution by enabling agents to search for key phrases like “called before,” “spoke with before” or “last time I called.” Further, creating categories for commonly used phrases like “return policy” or “billing problem” will help identify issue trends and, with the proper technology, agents can receive notifications when the terms appear, revealing a repeat caller.
Recording calls can also be a valuable tool for learning how to be more effective and identifying which issues are causing the most “call-backs.” With the proper technology tools, managers are able to retrieve specific calls to determine why the issue was not resolved on the first call and identify trends in repeat calls moving forward.
5. Empowering Contact Center Agents
One of the most common reasons for repeat calls is when agents don’t have the authority or information to resolve issues on the spot. Empowering contact center agents to give callers simple perks, like granting free minutes or waiving shipping fees, is a small cost for the company but dramatically lifts customer satisfaction and agent morale.
6. Embracing Alternative Channels
Even though the phone is still the dominant channel for customer service, contact center agents should be well-versed in and able to communicate on more nontraditional channels for customer service such as Facebook and Twitter.
A Sprinklr study found that nearly 50% of consumers are ready and willing to share negative experiences with a brand on social media. Not being able to respond to and service customers effectively on their platform of choice can cause a brand to quickly lose customers and damage valuable relationships.
A True Win-Win: Happier Customers and Bottomline Benefits
Improving first-call resolution is critical to providing the best possible customer service, but it can also lead to massive cost savings—having direct economic benefits for the organization. As seen in Figure 1 , a contact center with 250 agents can save nearly $235,000 annually (or the equivalent of seven full-time agents) by increasing its FCR by only 5 percentage points.
When FCR goes up, the total volume of calls declines, meaning fewer customer service representative hours are required for contact center operation, freeing up time to work on higher value activities.
Senior managers are realizing that quality customer service is a key differentiator and critical for achieving business goals. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to improve their brand satisfaction, ultimately impacting the success of the business. First-call resolution will continue to be a valuable metric to ensure that your contact center is operating at optimal performance and providing the best possible care at every customer touch point.