First contact resolution: Putting the emphasis back in the right place -

First contact resolution: Putting the emphasis back in the right place.

Connect’s Martin Cross wonders whether many businesses have forgotten the “resolution” element.

First contact resolution (FCR) is one of the key measures of effective customer service. But increasingly, my impression is that organisations are deluding themselves, by measuring the wrong thing – and arguably by measuring at the wrong time.

In general, the question gets posed at the end of a call or interaction: “have I addressed your issue today?” That’s the bit the customer service team can control, so arguably it’s a measure of their effectiveness. And when the advisers have taken a payment, completed a change of address request, or given the customer an update on delivery times, they typically have addressed the issue for today.

Resolved… or is it?

But on many occasions, that interaction is only a small part of the customer experience. The bigger part is what happens next, after the interaction. 

Does the delivery arrive when promised? 

Is the next bill or marketing letter sent to the right address? 

These aspects are outside the agent’s direct control, but they are the real determinants of whether the issue was resolved at the first contact. They may not be linked in terms of the contact centre’s KPIs, but they are the factors that decide whether it was a good or bad customer experience. If the customer has to call back, then it’s clear which end of the spectrum we’re looking at.

Rethinking the FCR metric

In a recent article, I referred to Matt Dixon’s book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.” According to his research, nearly half of all initial contacts result in the customer feeling their issue has not been resolved, and so they end up calling the contact centre again. That’s far removed from what many organisations’ FCR reports tell them. It’s also a massive waste of effort for the customer and the business. 

Part of the solution to this lies in the contact centre – but with the performance management team, rather than the advisors. There may be instances where agents have given the wrong information, or not completed necessary steps correctly. But far more likely is a culture which, in striving for good stats on the monthly report, focuses solely on the initial feedback from the customer as its evidence for FCR rates. This is typically backed by a customer service management (CSM) system focused on interactions, rather than outcomes. 

Connecting the contact centre to the business

To change the script, we need to look more widely at how the business can ensure that the promises made – in good faith – by contact centre agents are delivered to end customers. 

That for me is an integration issue. It starts with technology: integrating the contact centre platform with a CSM system that is focused on case management and will manage the workflows that follow from the initial customer request, right up to resolution. Those workflows are likely to straddle different systems and departments: billing and logistics, for instance, as well as CSM and CRM. 

Using the simplest possible example, if the business keeps customer records in multiple systems (as many do), then you need to have processes in place to ensure that the change of address recorded in the contact centre is communicated immediately to the other systems. And the less you rely on manual data re-entry to those different systems, the lower the risk.

Bonding partners into your CSM ethos

It’s also increasingly the case that companies rely on a network of partners to deliver part of the overall customer experience. Those could be part manufacturers, couriers, field service specialists or even outsourced managed service teams. Unless the data and workflows are linked, there’s no quality control when you hand over responsibility for delivery to those partners – meaning the business completely loses sight, and oversight, of the customer experience.

Clearly, this needs to be addressed in multiple ways, from the cultural to the contractual. But from my perspective, the control can come through ‘e-bonding’ suppliers and partners to your CSM. That way, you can manage the end-to-end service and get a far clearer understanding of what’s really stopping resolution – whether at the first contact, or any other point. And from the customer perspective, resolution is what matters most.

If this has given you food for thought about FCR and your customer service management, let’s talk. We’re experts deploying CSM platforms to help drive resolution of customer issues.