Increase efficiency, drive down cost, and improve customer satisfaction all at the same time

April 29, 2011

How can your organization increase efficiency, drive down cost, and improve customer satisfaction all at the same time? By getting it right the first time. –Increasing first call resolution (FCR) is an incredibly powerful way for a call center to achieve success. Call center consulting company SQM contends that every 1 percent improvement in FCR equals a 1 percent improvement in customer satisfaction. Increases in FCR also and subsequent customer satisfaction levels, over time, decrease operational costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars on average.

“First call resolution is extremely important for two reasons; first, your customers will be more satisfied with your service, and second, it is more efficient which keeps the total cost of call competitive,” says Kim Box, who led call center operations at Hewlett-P for 15 years. So how can a company improve on this critical performance metric?

1. Measure it.
FCR can be a tricky stat to capture – some companies rely on post-call surveys, for example, but the customer might not really be sure the issue is resolved until they see a credit on their next bill. Other companies track calls from a certain customer within a certain time period, which can incorrectly drive FCR numbers down, as call center expert Colin Taylor blogs. Since all techniques are going to have their flaws, simply picking one and keeping consistent methodology will reveal improvements or declines over time. The Ascent Group customer service consultancy reports that 51 percent of survey participants who measured FCR for over a year reported improvement.

Zendesk also highly recommends regular checkups on your help desk’s overall health and offers a variety of tools to measure your help desk’s performance. We recently launched our Customer Satisfaction Ratings feature, which enables companies to measure the quality of customer service being provided, by allowing customers to rate the support received. Meanwhile, our integration with GoodData is another way companies can measure key metrics that will help them understand how their help desk is running and create business processes accordingly.

2. Train and support for it. “
Organizations can improve their performance of first call resolution by having well trained call agents who have robust knowledge management systems that are efficient and kept very current,” Box says. Give call center staff the proper training on both customer service and your product, and arm them with the skills and the information they need to be able to resolve a caller’s problem right away. Box also suggests using technology that helps match callers to the right rep: “Have a very brief menu of options when calling that can route the call to a pool of agents who have the skills to best resolve the call,” she advises.

3. Monitor for it.
Listen in on calls to understand where agents are getting stuck and note trends – but be sure to keep it upbeat rather than punitive. The focus should be on assisting the team and improving the company knowledge base.

4. Empower for it.
Agents who have been carefully hired and properly trained then need the authority to handle customer issues before they need escalation. No customer really wants to have to ask to “speak to a supervisor” – they want to be talking to someone who can solve the problem in the first place. Giving your reps the power to make their own decisions makes your customers happy, and it also keeps your reps happy, reducing agent turnover. More operational cost savings!

Zendesk recently published a white paper on how Groupon manages its support team and we learned that making its agents feel empowered is a big part of its support strategy and training, and something they see as an integral part of its success.

5. Reward it.
Actively promote the importance of FCR to staff – be sure to communicate that resolving a customer’s issue on the first call is of highest priority. Of course, money talks, so one of the simplest ways to drive home the point is by offering cash rewards for improving FCR performance (again, maintaining a consistent method of tracking is key here.) Given how much impact FCR has on a call center’s bottom line, it’s well worth the additional compensation cost.