Keys to Improving First Call Resolution in Your Contact Center
1. Understand Your Issues and Fix Them
After you have conducted an first call resolution analysis, it is important to conduct a root cause analysis on the calls that were not resolved on first contact. A good root cause analysis will help to identify trends, pinpoint inefficiencies and can inform data-driven decision making.
You can identify issues by looking into:
- Why was the call transferred?
- When calls are transferred, who are they being transferred to?
- Why was the call escalated to a manager?
- Why was the caller followed up with?
- Why did the interaction span different channels (i.e. phone, chat, email, walk-in)?
- Why was the caller not satisfied with the solution?
Once you have isolated certain issues, you should also consider factors that can contribute to those issues:
- Are there specific products, bugs or issues that are most problematic?
- Are company policies or procedures impacting/hindering agent performance?
- Are there edge cases that should be addressed?
- Did the agent have sufficient knowledge, training and resources to solve the issue?
- Did the agent effectively utilize the knowledge base, follow protocol and work in line with company policy?
- Is my software, plugins, hardware obsolete and causing issues?
You can answer these questions by examining your data, asking your agents, looking into call logs, listening to call recordings, analyzing customer survey responses and checking in with more experienced agents.
Once you identify common issues, knowledge gaps, training opportunities, inefficiencies or problematic policies/procedures, you should engage in reparative action and also preventative measures to help improve first call resolution in the future. Make sure that this process happens on a continual basis and that you are always looking for ways to improve or streamline the support process.
2. Analyze Customer Contact Behavior to Anticipate Their Needs
The more a company knows about their customer base and why their customers call, the more prepared they will be to adequately meet their needs. Doing so will increase customer satisfaction and FCR. You can approach this from a few angles:
» Create Customer Profiles
Divide your customers into groups and define their group characteristics. If you have demographic information about your customer base, you can group them together by common feature (i.e. age, location, gender, average income, education, interests, etc.) or you can group them by the product they are using, their industry and their position within their company. You can also split them into 2 groups: the customers that are most likely not to have their problems resolved the first time vs. the ones that are. Once you segment your customers in a meaningful way, identify each group’s needs, why they use your product/service, typical sales scenarios, typical support requests and typical reasons why they call your company. With this information you will have a better understanding of their needs and how your team can do a better job meeting them on first contact.
» Analyze Your Customer Demographic Data
It is always best to know the demographics of your customer base. Take some time to analyze this data so you have a better understanding of who your agents are helping when they answer the phone. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Determine the predominant age group, gender, marital status, income level, etc. You can easily do this by determining the mode of your distribution.
It is often helpful to group together your customers by a feature like age and then take the mode of this distribution. If you do this, be sure your cutoff/ inclusion/exclusion criteria make sense (i.e. group together adolescents, teens, young adults, adults, older adults and geriatric population) and is consistent (grouping by the same number of years).
- Determine what the distribution of your clientele looks like in graphical format.
Is your data bi-modal (your customers are mostly in the 15-20 year old range and 40 -45 year old range)?
Is it skewed positively or negatively (do you have much more older adults and geriatric customers than teenagers and young adults)?
Is it bell shaped (the demographic composition of your customer base peaks at 35 years old and trails off as your customer age increases and decreases from 35 years old)?
Based on this information, you can not only have a better understanding of who constitutes your customer base, but can also infer what their needs are and why they usually call.
» Group Customers by the Reason for Their Call
Another way to analyze customer contact behavior is to group callers by the reason for their call. Once you group callers by the reason for their call, you can look at the customer composition of that group. Are there common characteristics? Is there one customer group (i.e. older adults) that dominates a specific reason for calling? You can use this information to route specific callers to agents most capable of meeting their needs and to better prepare your team to anticipate caller’s needs.
By analyzing customer contact behaviors, you will have a better understanding of who is calling, what problems they typically have and whether or not they are typically sufficiently solved. With this insight you can take actions to help solve the problems and provide better service, thereby increasing first call resolution.
3. Invest in Call Center Software that::
» Provides a Comprehensive History of the Caller in a Unified Interface
Equipping your team with the right tools is essential to increasing FCR. When your agents have a detailed history of the caller pop up in their browser before they answer the call, they will be able to meet the customer’s needs with more skill and professionalism.
More progressive call center software will display the caller’s name, company, phone number, email and social media profiles (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) in the browser. Also, agents will have access to detailed contact logs from every contact channel (i.e. phone, email, chat, support tickets, sales receipts and events) all in the same interface. With all of this information your agents will be more prepared to resolve their issue, without having to transfer the call or call them back.
» Has Automated Tasks
Forgetting to update CRMs, helpdesks and other back office solutions (or entering incorrect information) is one of the leading causes of a decrease in first call resolution. Investing in call center software that will automatically update all integrated systems and will automatically perform relevant tasks will dramatically improve your agent’s capabilities as well as FCR.
This software will:
- Automatically update call logs
- Show new information added to all agents in real-time
- Create new tickets, cases and events automatically when an event happens
- Update all integrated systems
This will allow your agents to have accurate information about the caller, in real-time. Agents will also never have to enter redundant information into all systems. This software will help your team easily document everything relevant about the caller and help reduce errors and omissions.
» Has Skills-Based Routing
Once you have a better idea of your customer base, why they call, what products they typically buy, etc. you can better meet their needs by deploying call center with skills-based routing. You can assign tags to each customer and agent and when the customer calls, they will be routed to the agent that is most capable of meeting their needs. Tags can be assigned to agents based on the following:
- Department (e.g. customer support, technical support, sales, marketing, billing,HR, etc.)
- Skills (e.g. training, area of expertise, etc.)
- Knowledge (e.g. product knowledge, proficiency with specific software, etc.)
- Language spoken
- Demographics (i.e. age, gender, etc.)
- Geographic location
You can assign as many tags as you would like to each agent, creating multiple teams. The tags are customizable and can be changed at any time. The skills-based routing will then route the caller to the agent who can most effectively meet their needs based on:
- The phone number the customer called
- The choices the customer selected in the IVR
- The customer’s previous interactions with the company
- The tags of the agents
This efficient system will ensure that each caller is directed to an agent that is most qualified to meet their needs. This might be the single most important tool that will help increase FCR in your company.
» Has an Agent Dashboard and Metrics
When each agent can access valuable information about how they are performing, they will be more aware of their actions and can aim to improve them, without management having to constantly reminding them. Empowering agents to make educated decisions based on data will help to increase their performance.
4. Optimize Your Support Structure
Once you have a good understanding of why customers call, what leads to a decrease in FCR, have the right tools and software in place and have a better understanding of your customer behavior, you can completely change the structure of your support system to better accommodate the needs of your customers.
You should delegate each issue to different levels of support and then adjust your skills-based routing algorithms accordingly. You can have frontline agents who are most skilled at solving basic problems. You can have support engineers answering technical issues. You can have sales professionals answering all sales calls, etc. With both small and large teams, stratifying your support can be a very simple way to increase first call resolution.
You can also cross-train agents to handle more than one type of call. Many call centers will cross-train agents to handle support, billing and account related issues. Cross-training your workforce will allow your agents to be more knowledgeable and your team will be better prepared to handle fluctuating call volume.
To accomplish this effectively, you should:
- Know what types of calls your frontline support agents can resolve without transferring
- Know what types of calls are typically escalated and to what teams
- Know which agents are best suited to handle certain caller types/issues
- Know which teams are best equipped to handle specific issues/caller types
- Provide targeting training and supervision to agents who will perform new tasks and handle new callers
- Provide agents with access to resources, knowledge bases and live support when they need it most
5. Engage in Total Contact Ownership
Total Contact Ownership is a process that dramatically increases FCR. It is when the agent who took the initial call follows the call from start to finish. When you implement this policy, agents will be less likely to transfer calls just to “pass the problem” to another agent, as they will still be required to follow the issue until it is closed.
They will instead recruit the resources (i.e. more senior agents, management, technical support agents, etc.) they need to help solve the issue collaboratively. This system not only increases FCR, but also increases professionalism, customer satisfaction and brand awareness.
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6. Streamline Your Internal Processes
Once you have pinpointed inefficient processes, policies and procedures you can start to re-work or eliminate them. Streamlining your internal processes, eliminating unnecessary red tape and empowering your agents to solve issues that are within their capabilities will go a long way to improving FCR.
Some policies that you should think about allowing your agents handle (so they don’t have to transfer the call to a manager) are:
- Issuing credits, returns and refunds
- Removing shipping charges
- Adjusting billing cycles and timing
- Removing late fees
- Applying promotional discounts
- Solving warranty issues
If certain policies are causing a significant amount of calls to be escalated or returned, you should think of ways to improve the policy, adjust the agent’s scope of practice or improve the routing of the calls.
7. Increase Automation and Self-Service Options
An obvious, but often overlooked, change that many companies can make to increase first call resolution is to invest in more automated self-service options. An easy way to do this is to configure your IVR to provide basic information (i.e. account information, business hours, directions, promotions, etc.) and put a FAQ, knowledge base (with information about your product/ services, solutions to known issues, steps for troubleshooting, advice, etc.) and training manuals on your website. This will not only help to increase FCR but will significantly reduce call volume.
8. Optimize Your Content
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. In the case of FCR, this is especially true. If your agents can provide information that is accessible online or via email that will help guide them through their issue, the caller will be less likely to call back about the same issue.
It is important that the information on your website and well as in your how to guides is up to date, helpful and easy to understand. The effort your team puts into making sure that your content is optimized will pay off in the long run.
9. Improve Agent Performance
Improving agent performance may be the best way to help increase FCR. Here are some tips to help with this process:
» Train Your Agents Well
Your agents must be well equipped to handle the diverse needs of the caller. This means they should be proficient with your software, procedures, communicating with clients, be well informed of policies, etc. To accomplish this you should:
- Provide extensive training on how to use software, how to improve their technical skills and all the ins and outs of your products
- Ensure that your agents are up-to-date on product recalls, promotions, sales, technical support issues, bugs, etc.
- Train them well before a new product launches
- Make sure they understand any changes in company policies or procedures, services, pricing, etc.
- Emphasize the importance of FCR, provide training for all your agents about what FCR is and how they can enhance it
- Give examples of interactions where the agent resolved the issue on first contact and one that had to be escalated
- Train agents on call control techniques and etiquette
- Train agents how to engage the customer, establish rapport, engage in effective communication, build a relationship with the caller, identify the true need of the caller and successfully meet their needs
» Increase Employee Motivation
Employees must be motivated to increase their performance so that it has an impact on first call resolution. To do this you must first make them aware of your goals related to FCR, allow them to track their own performance, give them feedback, recognition and rewards tied to their performance and ensure that the entire team recognizes a good performance (using peer recognition and rewards systems). Increasing agent’s motivation to improve their performance will have a significant impact on FCR.
» Empower Agents with the Right Resources and Information
Give agents a lifeline when they need it most:
- Allow a technical support agent to drop in on the call to offer support when needed
- Make sure managers are available to answer questions (via chat or email
- Ensure that managers are monitoring calls for quality assurance (and barging in when needed)
- Allow agents to conference in a manager when necessary
- Give agents access to a knowledge base, agent resources and a FAQ for agents.
All of these resources and sources of support will go a long way to increasing FCR.
10. Increase Agent Autonomy
Cut the script and the red tape. Autonomous agents who are not bound by strict scripts and restrictive policies are more capable of effectively meeting the needs of the customer by being flexible, responsive and personal.
When you remove unnecessary restrictions from capable agents (i.e. power to give refunds, offer promotional discounts, waive shipping costs, make changes to account information, etc.) you will dramatically decrease the number of calls transferred and increase first call resolution.
11. Enhance Internal Communication
Having an open door policy when it comes to suggestions from staff about how to improve inefficiencies, procedures, etc. is important for increasing first call resoltuion. Managers should continually solicit information from inexperienced and seasoned agents about their experience and how to improve it.
Managers should also monitor for agent effectiveness, track FCR and provide feedback to agents daily. When internal communication is a two-way street, the company wins.
The 11 tips mentioned above will allow you to take a systemic approach to increasing FCR. While not all may be applicable to your situation, tackling many different issues and making many different changes will have the largest impact on first call resolution. In order to be effective, you must commit enough time, resources and energy to consistently monitor FCR and fix issues that negatively influence FCR and enhance factors that increase FCR. If you do, the results will be amazing!