Part one in a two part series on First-Call Resolution

For most contact centers, nearly one-third of inbound calls are repeat callers who weren’t satisfied the first time, and more often than not, the antiquated switches that contact centers leverage, just do not do that great of a job reporting on the true FCR (First-Call Resolution) in a given center…Why? Think of the iceberg analogy than Lean practitioners often use to explain COPQ and the hidden costs that fall below the water line. What rises above that line is easy to quantify…it is the lowest hanging fruit though highest on the berg, so to speak.

Below the line, especially in contact centers are things like repeat callbacks, which is the opposite of FCR.In the old call center mentality pre-six sigma for service days, FCR was a blue sky, nice to have metric, but nothing that managers held agents accountable for achieving. Instead, they opted for metrics focusing solely on time, like AHT (Average Handle time = talk time + post-call wrap up and any hold time during the call) or ASA (Average Speed of Answer = how fast you pick up the phone).

What these metrics actually do is incite bad behavior, i.e. the kind of behavior that you do not want your agents to learn. For example, an agent can keep AHT low as well as ASA by picking up the call and immediately hanging up on the customer, something most of us have experienced should we had to have called a call center (something I would rather cut my left leg off or will spend hours online searching for rather than having to call).

The agent AHT is an average of the daily AHT for a given time period, so naturally if they hang up, they will have a few second AHT. Mix that into the normal AHT of an agent, and suddenly, their monthly stats look the lowest of any other agent. See what I mean by ’incite bad behavior’? We like to call this ’Agent Badness’ though personally, I think it is more of a sign that the agent’s are not getting adequate coaching, but that is for another blog.

And, AHT is influenced by multiple, equally likely root causes, so pinpointing improvements will only frustrate your black belts (I do not suggest contact center AHT projects for Green Belts ever, unless they are working on addressing a component of a larger Black Belt project). By shifting your objective to improving FCR, you will have a much easier time proving and sustaining your results, namely reduced Cost of Goods Sold and improved customer satisfaction ratings.A focus on FCR will also reduce customer churn and improve agent morale.

First, it helps to understand the inputs that drive poor FCR performance:

  1. Agents frequently don’t have the authority to resolve an issue, even when the solution is obvious (EMPOWERMENT). This results in call escalations to a higher tier, with increased hold time and abandons. It also means the next callback will be an escalation call that ties up supervisor time.
  2. The agent may not have sufficient coaching time or ability to effectively deal with the customer call. (COACHING, NOT TRAINING, as the latter has been proven to not move the needle at all whereas the former, is very successful at driving higher FCR rates).
  3. Agents need to find information more easily to provide answers or actions for customers. When the information is difficult to access or unavailable, sometimes agents will guess at the answer or fail to provide an answer, both of which can lead to a callback.
  4. The back-end systems might not be up to the task. If the agent makes an address change, but it doesn’t propagate through the systems, then the customer will call back.
  5. You need clues into customer perceptions and behaviors and why the repeat calls are happening in the first place. This can help, for instance, when you discover customers are calling back trying to get a different result if their account is being suspended.

Part two will list the steps to getting started with a Six Sigma project…

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