Part 2: First Call Resolution Rates (FCR)

 

This is the second installment of my series about customer service KPIs. For part one, about Net Promoter Scores (NPS), click here.

For many companies, call centres are a key component of customer service. One crucial indicator of call centre performance is First Call Resolution Rates (FCR, also referred to as First Contact Resolution Rates). This can also apply to other modes of customer contacts, such as email.

 

Why Measure FCR?

FCR is essentially the proportion of customer service calls (or enquiries through other means) that are resolved in the first contact (obviously). More information about how FCR is calculated here.

FCR is a good indicator of how efficiently your customer service team is working, and correlates with overall customer satisfaction (CSAT, one for my next blog post!).

Customers value their time. According to a 2013 survey by Forrester Research, 77% of customers report that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do in providing good customer service. The less time they spend on the phone with you to resolve a problem, the more time they can spend enjoying your product. This makes them more likely to buy again and/or recommend you to their friends.

Also, you value your staff time. Dealing with queries in the first instance, rather than a series of calls back and forth, saves your staff time and saves you money. In his masterclass, Michael Allen (a prominent call centre consultant) explains the proven ROI on repeat reason reductions of just 20% of call volume.

 

How Does Listening Boost FCR?

It’s easiest to get it right the first time if you have the information you need. Training your customer service agents to actively listen to the customer equips them with the knowledge to ask the right questions and accurately understand the customer’s query. This will quickly increase the proportion of contacts that get resolved the first time around.

In general, good communication in the workplace, not just with customers, will help the customer service team work efficiently. If an agent has to speak to a superior about an issue, it’s important that they are able to summarise it well and ask the right questions to get the information they need.

 

Case Study: Housing Partnership

Hold on to your hats. This one is a doozy. You can skip this section if you just want to know what to do, rather than get an example of what not to do!

Last week, my oven stopped working. I contacted my landlord, which happens to be Brent Housing Partnership (BHP). I had to call them EIGHT times and they had to call me THREE times, plus the duration of each call (excluding hold time) was 10-20 minutes. It took a week and probably a couple hours of staff time to resolve the problem.

Every time I called, I was on hold for about 30 minutes. So, I got several hours of work done to the dulcet tones of BHP holding muzak. While this may have annoyed many customers, the problems only really started when I got through.

Each time I called, I had to re-explain the problem, give my address, verify my identity (lest someone wanted to report my oven issue for me!), and summarise the previous series of calls. I went through this rigmarole every time, only to be told to call back in a few hours when the agent who deals with appliances in my area was “probably” back in the office (spoiler: she never was). I’m sure I spoke to the same agent at least 3-4 times, but each time it was taken like a new call.

It was clear they had a script because they went through all this information in the same order every time. However, all they needed to know was my location and the enquiry was about an oven to establish that the relevant agent wasn’t in the office. The agents hadn’t really been taught to communicate like humans, rather they were just following a list of protocols.

This was bad enough, but it got worse. In my eighth call, I threatened to write a formal complaint, and my call was finally escalated to the manager. After being put back on hold, while I assume the agent was explaining the situation to the manager, I got through to the manager.

The staff obviously hadn’t communicated well to each other, because I had to re-explain my problem and summarise the previous series of calls again to him. Only then was I asked how long I have had the oven to establish if it was still in warranty. An active listener would have established such crucial information at a much earlier stage. The warranty had expired, so he had to investigate whether it would be a repair or replacement and he would call me back. He ended the call before I could say anything.

The manager than called me back later that day to inform me that this does indeed mean I get a new oven. He would have to arrange delivery and asked me when I would be available. This is information that he should have obtained in the previous call. No matter if it’s a delivery or replacement, I would need to be available in any case. He then had to call the delivery people to find out when they could deliver (which he could have done before calling me to save yet another two calls), and then call me again to confirm the time.

This isn’t bad enough to make me move, but my next rental property will not be with BHP. I would also advise anyone against renting with them if they can avoid it!

 

What Can I Do?

For your sake and your customers’ sake, train your customer service staff in communication and active listening! Call centre consultants have long known that active listening reliably improves FCR.

Active listening training and good staff communication could have reduced this series of ELEVEN calls to just two. The first BHP agent I spoke to should have fully established the extent of the query, then passed a message to the relevant agent communicating all the information they needed, and then the relevant agent could have called me back to arrange delivery. Instead, they wasted hours of their time and my time, and got an irate customer. Unfortunately, poor communication and listening skills often causes these sorts of problems.

So how can you avoid your agents being as inept as these guys? Better communication!

  1. Ask the Right Questions

A good start to providing efficient customer service is making sure your agents are asking the right questions. I suppose I’m also thinking of this because next week’s #CustomerCommunication challenge is about asking the right questions. Check out Twitter for more information about this! Sign up here if you want to join. (It’s ok if you’ve missed the first week!)

Ask questions that are open, relevant, and cover new ground – I call these Glistening Questions. If you’re doing the challenge, you’ll learn all about how to do this! This is one of the 5 CLEAR Keys that Glisten Training is based on. Glistening Questions often uncover information that might help explain a problem, reveal what small gesture could make a customer very happy, and generally builds rapport with customers.

In addition to knowing a good structure and format for their questions, your agents must know the crucial information they need to obtain. For example, to arrange a delivery you’ll need a time, location, and a contact number. Sounds simple, but people (e.g. BHP agents) often forget these important details! It might be a good idea to have a prioritised, categorised checklist (but not a rigid sequential script). This way your agents will remember what information they need to obtain for each variety of call you commonly receive.

 

  1. Summarise

Make sure you got it right by summarising the content of what the customer says back to them. It can be something simple like “So I understand your oven, which was provided by us, isn’t switching on even though the hobs still work fine. You’ve had it since you moved in 6 years ago, so it’s out of warranty. Is that right?” This helps establish that the full query is understood and that no crucial information is missed.

Many call centres train their staff to summarise the call at the end, but it’s important to use this as an intermediate step, too. This can actually speed up handling time and make sure no important information gets lost during the course of the call.

Summarising is a component of Reflecting, one of our 5 CLEAR Keys. Glisten Training teaches trainees how to summarise effectively, using relevant language of the customer to build rapport and understanding.

 

  1. Don’t End Prematurely

Many call centres emphasise minimising the duration of customer service calls (a.k.a. Average Handling Time, Agent Handle Time, or AHT). While it’s important to be efficient, ending a call too early might mean that the customer has to call back.

A simple question like, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” or “Is there anything else I need to know to help you?” before ending the call might be all it takes to prevent a premature ending.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post about FCR. If you want to learn more about active listening and effective communication, check out our courses!

Keep your eyes peeled for my next installment of this series, which will be all about how to improve your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).

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