In Customer Relationship Management (CRM), first contact resolution (FCR) is defined as accurately addressing the needs of customers during the first time they contact the business, thus eliminating the need for follow-up calls or emails.
What does a customer expect when he or she calls a contact center for an issue?
With the adoption of digital channels of communication, customers also contact the business through email, with a certain set of expectations:
Similar demands are also seen on the other web-based medium – live chat.
At a time when an avalanche of new products is released in the market every year, when technology is a compulsion in consumers’ lives, and when the quality of customer service is monitored very closely by the market, the importance of first contact resolution is taken very seriously by businesses.
First contact resolution is one of the key metrics for measuring and monitoring the performance of customer service. Businesses have realized that the faster a problem is solved, the lower the cost to them. Tracking first contact resolution is also an effective way of measuring the success of new initiatives taken to improve the quality of customer service.
Some of the ways in which first contact resolution can be improved are described below. These improve customer satisfaction as well as agent efficiency.
The business should aim to become more customer friendly. Ask the customer if their problem has been resolved to their absolute satisfaction. The customer service representative should do this at the end of every call, and at the end of every email.
Associates should ask the customers smart and apt questions that can help them to understand the problem faster. Any confusion in the mind of the customer and his or her communication should be sorted out to identify the actual root of the issue. The associates should talk smartly to such customers and ensure that not only is the problem solved quickly, but also that their time is not held up on one call.
When it comes to emails, the business can create a fixed template for the customers to use. This way an unnecessary exchange of emails can be avoided. In case a back-and-forth interaction takes place, managers should step in and make sure that the problem is identified and the issue brought to a close. In such cases, rather than exchanging too many emails, the manager or the associate can call the customer directly and resolve the problem.
Whenever there are escalations or consumer complaints, the staff should handle the problem in a mature and friendly way and not get into conflicts with the customer. Conflicts only exasperate the problem. Customer service contact centers have to be prepared to deal with irate customers and angry emails, especially if they are part of a tech support team or a customer complaint unit. Senior staff should be deployed to handle these calls so that they can calm the customer down and resolve the issue without the reputation of the company being harmed.
First contact resolutions become possible only when the agents have adequate knowledge about the product or service, the company, its processes, marketing promotions, etc. Possible questions and solutions to them should be provided as well to ensure agents are not caught on the back foot. Managers should encourage their associates to talk to each other about how difficult problems were solved so that best practices can be implemented throughout the team.
Past cases should be examined so that the customer service representatives can learn about how the situation could have been handled differently. Managers should stop emphasizing average handling time (AHT) and reduce the pressure on their contact center employees. This way the agents would spend more time trying to solve the customer’s problems, rather than looking at the clock. Two minutes more spent on a call is better than taking ten more calls on an issue. Agents should also be sent for regular soft skills training.
Invest in call center software that will automatically update call logs, show new information in real-time, create tickets as events occur, and show the agent's caller details when a call comes in. Leverage call-back technology to minimize hold time for customers to reduce their frustration.
Use analytics to improve efficiency and find answers to crucial questions: why were calls transferred, what factors played a role in the lack of first contact resolution, how to overcome these factors, what products cause the most problems, and which of the company’s policies receive the maximum complaints. Analyze customer data and their demographic profiles.
Once you understand the customers and anticipate their problems, the contact center can route the calls and send the emails to the agents most qualified to solve them. The agents can be encouraged to take ownership of the problem from start to finish to make sure it is solved. Write scripts that the agents can follow so that they are not caught off guard in their calls.
In conclusion, first contact resolution plays a vital role for the business in a manner that goes beyond the narrow confines of the contact center. It impacts the reputation of the organization, the opinion that customers have about the brand and their continued loyalty. Bad news and the good news spread like wildfire on social media. Solve the problem worse and the company will not only lose face but also its customers. Solve the problem quickly and the company has satisfied customers and repeat business.