Over Christmas I did a lot of travelling. One evening, the railway franchise I was using had to cancel the last three services home from London. This was frustrating, but disruptions like this can be inevitable, especially at colder and busier times of year.
However, to get a refund, I had to interact with the company an extra six times in total across disparate channels. This is always a frustrating experience, especially when my enquiry would have been one of the most common. I’d wanted them to get it right first time – but for many organisations, this has traditionally been difficult to do.
First Contact Resolution (FCR) is the definitive metric of 2018. In this article I will explore why it can be one of the most effective measures of customer service efficiency. However, first I’d like to consider some facts:
- 55% of customers admit that they would pay more for a better customer experience
- 94% of customers said they would be willing to buy from that same company again if they have a low-effort service experience
- 89% of customers cease business with a company after a poor customer experience
- A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%
- By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator
As this evidence demonstrates, customer service needs to be precise and low-effort, and adhering to these principles provides many businesses with real benefits in terms of attracting and retaining customers.
By giving customers the correct information quickly at the first point of contact, companies can make their customer service operation stand out amongst competitors, driving better corporate performance.
Many people will wonder why more companies don’t do this. Unfortunately, it’s because there are several barriers to achieving First Contact Resolution:
Problem: Lack of Information.
Your customer service advisors often don’t have access to the correct information. Customer details are stored in disparate systems, with many organisations having more than one CRM (Customer Relationship Management) resource or corporate database, making it impossible to get an understanding of the customer you’re talking to.
Answer: Integration or Unification.
Most enterprise-grade contact centre offerings can now offer integration into best-of-breed CRM systems such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics or SugarCRM. This will proactively present your advisors with greater information on the incoming contact, and support them in handling their enquiry.
Furthermore, some vendors now offer their own lightweight CRM systems to capture and consolidate customer information within a single architecture.
Both approaches have multiple benefits. The single customer view and proactive presentation of customer details provides a 360º view of the customer to help us deal with their enquiry effectively. It also allows us to personalise the customer journey. Knowing the name of the customer is just a small way in which your advisors can help them feel more valued by their business.
Problem: Lack of Consistency.
The most frustrating aspect of my encounter was a lack of consistency in the service I was offered across channels. Each channel gave me a different answer, and in the end this seemed to result in greater delays to my enquiry, rather than streamlining it.
The reason for the lack of consistency stems from many systems siloing their channels by the system that supports them. Agents have to flick between multiple applications, each with their own templates or knowledge bases which have to be updated and maintained. Automated responses will also be limited by siloing. However, companies that use an omni-channel solution cut through this issue with a single knowledge base, which is far easier to keep updated.
Problem: Long Queues and SLAs (Service Level Agreements).
Traditionally, having to queue an indeterminate amount of time to speak to an agent was a fact of life. However, as IVR has evolved into digital self-service, why do I have to speak to a human at all to resolve my enquiry?
You don’t need to talk to someone to achieve FCR! What are your most frequent enquiries about? Much of the time they will be around 4 or 5 key questions or processes. In my case it was trying to get a train ticket refunded. Despite the frequency of this type of enquiry, I was given an SLA on email of over 20 days – or in other words, no commitment to resolve my issue before that time period had elapsed. Some organisations, for example in the utilities sector, have looked to use intelligent automation capabilities to respond to huge volumes of enquiries with the precise information requested by the customer. Automation can be achieved across any channel, and particularly when combined with integration to information systems, allowing customers to be directly connected to information without any need to speak to a human.
These are just a few ways that an organisation can improve its FCR rating, but why is it such an important metric?
For many years Average Handling Time (AHT) has been the core measure of efficiency for contact centres, with a greater focus on this as the size of a contact centre grows. However, fundamentally AHT is a quantitative measure for customer service and is agent-centric. It is focused on the time taken to deal with an enquiry without focusing on its outcome, and is a measure of agents’ efficacy without providing any information about the customer journey. This is not always effective, as a short call which throws a customer enquiry into the long grass of the back office is just a problem passed on rather than solved.
First Contact Resolution, by contrast, is a qualitative metric focusing on the outcome of the customer enquiry. It is a customer-centric measure, placing them at the core of how you measure your efficiency. This is just one mark of a good customer lifecycle.
Furthermore, just because you’ve dealt with your customer’s enquiry doesn’t mean FCR should impact on regular contact with your customer. Customer service continues across the customer lifecycle, do you follow a successful call with a Customer Satisfaction (C-SAT)? Do you schedule regular SMS or email to promote up-sell and cross-sell? Or to just keep customers abreast of your latest development of CSR projects? Indeed, if you are, is it personalised to them?
Regardless of which metric you choose, you need to ensure your contact centres (both in terms of people and processes) are underpinned by a forward-thinking customer engagement solution that can empower you to consistently improve your performance and maximise FCR.
Johnathan Zemlik: Senior Marketing Executive - Business Analyst.