Imagine you just bought a new device you’re excited to use. You follow the set-up instructions to a T, but it’s not working. Eventually, you’re left with no option but to call customer service. The agent pinpoints the problem, and boom—you’re on your way.
There’s something to be said about the relief you feel when a customer service rep helps you resolve an issue quickly. You pick up the phone expecting the worst—a long hold time and multiple transfers—and you hang up feeling grateful for the great support you received.
Create similarly positive experiences for your audience by tracking first contact resolution. Monitor this key CX metric to spot ticket patterns and make adjustments to your support experience so you can increase customer satisfaction and retention.
What is first contact resolution (FCR)?
First contact resolution—also known as first call resolution or first touch resolution—is the percentage of customer tickets that are resolved by agents on the first attempt. Examples include an agent solving an issue with a single phone call, chat conversation, or email response.
First contact resolution, when done right, is a win-win: Customers are happy, and so are your call center agents.
Why is first contact resolution an important metric?
Call center metrics like first contact resolution are beneficial for all parties involved. Tracking FCR is a good way to get feedback about how your company is doing.
Many consumers use self-service channels—like chatbots and knowledge bases—to solve their problems without help from an agent. But when they do need to reach out to customer service, buyers want their issues handled promptly and effectively. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 76 percent of shoppers expect someone to engage with them immediately when contacting a company.
FCR allows you to determine whether you’re helping or causing additional frustrations for your audience. By tracking FCR, you can gauge how well your support team is meeting customer expectations.
How do I measure FCR?
To calculate your company’s first call resolution, take the number of customer tickets resolved in a single interaction (email response, phone call, chat session, etc.) and divide it by the total number of tickets received.
First contact resolution formula
Make sure the interactions being counted fall within the same time frame.
Many businesses get tickets that are impossible to resolve in one interaction (software bug reports that aren’t considered solved until the bug is fixed, for example). If this is the case for your company, you can limit your calculations to the interactions that could have theoretically been solved on the first attempt.
What is a good first contact resolution rate?
According to the Service Quality Measurement (SQM) Group, the industry standard for a good FCR rate falls between 70 and 79 percent, which means about 30 percent of tickets take more than one interaction to resolve.
A first contact resolution rate of 80 percent or higher is considered “world-class,” according to the SQM Group. But only 5 percent of call centers achieve that distinction.
The industry benchmark average for FCR is 70 percent, so most businesses should strive to hit that number.
Pros and cons of tracking first contact resolution rate
FCR is a great tool for measuring success, but it isn’t without its ups and downs.
The SQM Group’s first contact resolution guide indicates that for every 1 percent improvement in FCR, operating costs are reduced by 1 percent because less time is spent providing support.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a high FCR rate is tied to higher customer satisfaction. For every 1 percent improvement in FCR, there’s a 1 percent improvement in customer satisfaction, according to the SQM Group. Customer referrals and retention also positively correlate with the FCR rate.
Employee satisfaction rises at the same rate as FCR—even higher in some cases—according to the SQM Group. If agents need to deal with repeat customer calls regarding the same issue, they’re likely also dealing with many frustrated or angry customers, which can be stressful.
While a high FCR rate is worth celebrating, it isn’t a surefire sign that your support experience is perfect.
A high FCR rate could indicate that your self-service resources are lacking. If customers frequently reach out to you with simple issues or basic questions, you may need to add more content to your website so they can handle more things on their own.
Agents might also drive up your FCR rate by finding quick, Band-Aid fixes that aren’t helpful in the long run. They look for the easiest solution rather than diving deeper to find the “why” behind the issue. When this happens, customers may need to reach out again after some time to start a new ticket about the same problem.
4 best practices to improve first contact resolution
You can improve FCR by implementing training and tools that focus on FCR and next issue avoidance (NIA), a metric that helps agents predict problems that may arise.
Empower your team with agent training and role-playing
Sometimes, agents know how to resolve an issue, but they stumble on their words and make a few missteps because they’re not familiar with the problem. Help your team solve problems fully and efficiently by role-playing customer scenarios that could be resolved in one interaction.
A good scenario to role-play includes dealing with a customer who is frazzled or emotional. If an agent can tell a customer is stressed—maybe because they’re being terse or there’s a crying child in the background—achieving FCR is especially important. It helps the customer mark one thing off of their to-do list without taking up their entire day.
Once you’ve completed a few practice scenarios with agents, record tips from the training in an internal knowledge base. You might create a document with call center scripts, or you could share video or audio recordings of agents in role-play training.
Use self-service to improve FCR customer support
When a customer calls with a fairly straightforward issue or question, direct them to your online help center so they can read a blog post, guide, or FAQ page that details the problem they’re facing as well as solutions.
This gives them the independence to understand and solve problems on their own. If they face the same issue again, instead of making repeat calls, they can reference your online knowledge base or help center to troubleshoot their issue.
Make customer information accessible with a CRM
“Let me look into that for you, and I’ll call you back in a few hours.”
When a support agent says that, they’re often having a hard time finding customer information. Enable agents to get the details they need by investing in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
A CRM stores all customer data in one centralized hub for easier access and analysis, which means agents are better able to solve issues in one interaction. This not only boosts customer satisfaction but also facilitates collaboration between different departments.
Beyond improving FCR rates, a CRM helps support teams to meet customer expectations, too. According to our CX Trends Report, 71 percent of consumers expect a company to share their information internally so they don’t have to repeat themselves.
Set up automated ticket routing
Say a customer reaches out to your support team with a niche problem. There’s a good chance the average agent won’t be able to solve it, but there are a few people on your support team who specialize in this type of issue and can find a solution.
Automated ticket routing connects customers to the agent who’s best equipped to handle their issue, increasing the likelihood of first contact resolution. Ticket-routing strategies also help support teams stay organized and deliver high-quality customer service.
From first contact resolution to next issue avoidance
Improving FCR is a great way to keep buyers happy and gauge how things are going in your call center. But this metric is just one piece of the customer experience pie. Your goal to improve customer satisfaction and team efficiency must stretch a bit further.
Train your support agents on how to anticipate a customer’s next question or an issue that will likely come after their first interaction, so they can follow up and address the problem before it balloons. This will prevent some follow-ups and help you understand your customers better.
Customer service software like Zendesk can enable you to achieve next issue avoidance and strengthen your team’s ability to help buyers—all while boosting customer and employee satisfaction.