Call centers are all about customer service, and one of the hallmarks of top-notch service is a high first call resolution (FCR) rate. If you can help people quickly and efficiently, and do it with a smile, you’ve got your foundations in place.
When you are tracking FCR, you’re able to measure both operational efficiency and the quality of your customer experience—no wonder it's commonly regarded as the most important contact center metric.
To understand your FCR rates and make improvements, you need to understand how to benchmark first call resolution, what the averages are across different industries, and why it's so important to your success.
First call resolution measures the percentage of calls that are resolved at the first attempt without the need for a second call about the same issue. This means no transfers, callbacks, or escalations.
The terms first call resolution and first contact resolution are often used interchangeably. However, generally speaking, first call resolution refers to phone interactions, while first contact resolution also encompasses channels like email, live chat, or social media.
While first call resolution sounds simple, it’s actually quite complicated, which makes it one of the most difficult KPIs to assess correctly. The key is clearly defining what FCR means for your business and then developing a QA framework to measure it consistently.
But first, let’s take a look at why tracking first call resolution is so important for your call center.
First call resolution is closely tied to several essential aspects of your call center, including customer service, agent performance, and operational efficiency. It’s not a stretch to say that your FCR rate is indicative of your business’s overall performance.
52 percent of customers rank first call resolution as the most important factor in their customer experience—compared to only 14 percent for the second-highest factor. This gap highlights the importance of FCR in assessing your customer satisfaction levels.
A high FCR rate means fewer repeat calls, freeing up agents to handle more calls, reducing wait times, and improving your CX. Ultimately, customers are calling to get their issues resolved fast, so it makes sense that they’re satisfied when you deliver quick resolutions.
Research finds that customers are 2.4 times more likely to stay with a company that solves their problems quickly. A satisfied customer base is a loyal customer base that will bring repeat business for years to come.
The less effort involved for the customer, the more satisfied they’ll be, And the more satisfied they are, the lower the chances of churn. With a one-call resolution suggesting low effort on the customer’s part, FCR is important for long-term retention.
As we’ve seen, satisfied customers are loyal customers, and eventually, these loyal customers become brand advocates.
With these brand advocates spreading the word and bolstering your company’s reputation, you’ll start to acquire more new business via referrals. Word-of-mouth goes a long way, and FCR is the first spark in spreading the word.
You’ve probably seen it in your own workplace—when things are going well, people are happier and more productive. Morale feeds productivity and vice versa, and this applies to contact center employees, too.
If your agents are delivering high FCR rates, they’ll feel knowledgeable and capable. Even just tracking FCR can lead to a more productive team, as you’ll identify areas where your agents need further support to thrive.
First call resolution has a huge influence on other call center metrics, particularly those related to customer satisfaction and experience, such as CSAT, NPS, and customer retention.
FCR also feeds into agent performance metrics. If FCR is high, then agents are ready to move on to the next call quicker. This will have a positive impact on average speed of answering, average wait time, transfer rate, and more.
The fewer interactions it takes to resolve a customer issue, the less you have to spend to achieve that resolution. Efficient, happy agents mean lower churn and less spending on hiring, while increased customer retention bumps up customer lifetime value (CLV).
In fact, research has shown that for each 1 percent improvement in FCR rate, call center operations costs fall by 1 percent. When you find ways to improve FCR, you’re also finding ways to use your resources more efficiently.
To calculate first call resolution rate for a given time period, you take the number of customer queries solved at the first attempt and divide by the total number of customer queries. Then, to get a percentage, you multiply the result by 100.
FCR = (Total Number of Cases Resolved at First Attempt / Total Number of Cases) x 100
For example, say your call center receives 500 customer queries in a day, and 375 of those are resolved on the first call. Using the formula above, your FCR rate for that day would be 75 percent.
To determine whether or not you have a ‘good’ first call resolution rate, you need to compare your own FCR rate against different averages. It can be a general number for call centers or one for your specific industry.
In general, the higher your FCR rate, the better. However, you don’t want a high FCR rate at the expense of lengthy talk times or average handling times.
Doubling or tripling the time you spend communicating with customers in order to improve your first contact resolution rate actually offsets many of the benefits you would receive from improving your FCR.
Research has found that the average call center FCR for 2023 is 68 percent, but it can be difficult to pin down an exact number across an entire, far-reaching industry. Broadly speaking, an FCR rate of between 70 and 75 percent can be considered ‘good’.
This would mean that between 70 and 75 percent of queries are resolved in the first interaction, and somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of customers would need to reach out more than once for the same issue.
Ranking your organization's FCR rate against industry standards can be a more precise way of seeing where you stand. You may find that you fall below the general global average but that you’re actually performing above industry benchmarks.
For example, industries like retail (77 percent) and nonprofit (75 percent) have the highest FCR rates, likely because calls are relatively simple, while industries with more complex queries, like telecommunications (61 percent) and tech support (65 percent), rank lower.
This may be a bit more difficult to come across, but if you can find out the average first call resolution rates of your closest industry competitors, this can give you a sense of where you stand.
Furthermore, it can offer clear motivation. If your average FCR rate is 71 percent and you discover that your nearest competitor’s is 73, this can push you and your team to close the gap.
Comparing current FCR performance against previous results is a useful way to understand if you’re moving in the right direction or falling short. By digging a little deeper with analytics and reporting, you can even figure out what is having the biggest impact on your FCR.
For example, maybe you implemented a new coaching program focused on soft skills, and your FCR has climbed by two percentage points since then. This could serve as evidence that your training approach is reaping rewards.
Benchmarking your FCR against customer expectations is another approach you can use to better understand your call center’s performance. This involves viewing your FCR in the context of other metrics and different channels.
Customers may have different expectations depending on the channel they use to contact you. On the phone, for example, customers expect to be helped within 9 minutes. Using email, they expect a response within 2.5 hours.
If you want to improve your first call resolution rate, you’ll need to look at your call center’s performance from a lot of different angles. Let’s look at the key steps you can take to deliver a better FCR rate.
You must establish what ‘resolved’ means for your business, as well as general and specific FCR rates. Typically, an issue is considered resolved if no repeat contact or follow-up is required after the first interaction, but this can vary in certain cases. Perhaps it’s unavoidable that a complex technical issue requires multiple interactions, for example.
Once you’ve got a clear definition of ‘resolved’, it’s time to look at FCR rates. Getting granular and setting separate FCR targets per issue, department, or even channel, can allow you to employ targeted strategies in each of these areas and improve your overall FCR.
By conducting root cause analysis, with a particular focus on repeat calls, you can find out what’s preventing your agents from solving customer problems in the first interaction. This involves listening to call recordings, analyzing CRM data, and reviewing customer feedback.
Typical reasons for repeat calls—and therefore lower first call resolution—include disconnections, poor agent knowledge, complex queries, and mistaken transfers. Once you’ve identified the issues, you can take steps to rectify them.
The easier it is for the customer to connect with an agent who can solve their issue, the higher your FCR rate will be. To ensure that every customer ends up speaking to the right agent, you should review your internal workflows and procedures.
Interactive voice response (IVR) and intelligent routing solutions can filter customer calls and route them to the appropriate department. Not only does this improve the chances of a first-time resolution, but it also improves agent productivity by saving them time.
An ideal customer journey is seamless and requires low effort. This means meeting customers on their own terms and making it as easy as possible for them to contact you and resolve their issues.
One way to do this is to offer omnichannel support across phone, email, SMS, live chat, socials, and more. This is a proven approach, with studies showing that 78 percent of customers want to engage with companies on their preferred channels.
In addition to your traditional support channels, you can also empower customers by giving them access to self-service options like FAQs and knowledge bases. In fact, 61 percent of customers prefer self-service for simple issues.
This can have the knock-on effect of freeing up agents for more complex queries, further improving your FCR rate. Whatever options you provide, make sure customers have clear information about what resources are available and how to access them.
38 percent of errors that limit FCR are due to agent mistakes, while 49 percent are linked to organizational policies and procedures. Empowering your agents with better training and extra responsibility can counteract both of these problems.
For example, you could role play common scenarios, particularly those involving difficult or agitated customers. This can prepare agents to solve any problem on the first try or be able to offer refunds up to a certain amount, preventing the need to escalate calls further.
Whichever approaches you use to improve your FCR rate, it’s important that you measure their impact and analyze what’s working and what isn’t. This way, you can be sure that you’re not wasting any resources, or even damaging performance with ineffective strategies.
Using solutions like QA software, a CRM platform, or a conversational analytics tool, you can eliminate data silos and conduct in-depth analysis, breaking down performance by team, department, channel, and more. You can also review direct customer feedback.
You can streamline the customer service process—whether via phone, live chat, email, or social media—by creating a list of predefined responses to common questions. These scripts can help your agents quickly respond to common issues, increasing productivity.
These standard responses can also ensure that typical issues are resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, lowering the chances of a repeat call and improving your contact center’s first call resolution rate.
Every customer interaction should end with your agent asking, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” The goal should be to ensure that you have resolved all of the customer’s issues and that no new concerns arose during the interaction.
By asking this final question, not only will your customers view you more favorably, but you’ll also collect data on how well your customer support works.
QA scorecards provide essential insights that can be used to train and motivate your agents, identify contact center trends, and reveal areas where processes and workflows can be improved.
These scorecards will allow you to evaluate agents’ soft skills, call center processes, regulatory compliance, customer outcomes, and more. This way, you can see what you’re doing well in terms of customer service and make changes to improve first call resolution.
After each customer interaction, use a CSAT survey or NPS to see if your customer was truly satisfied. This follow-up outreach can help you understand how satisfied your customers are with your support team and what you need to improve. These scores provide immediate insight into FCR and can prompt you to fix problems immediately.
First call resolution is arguably the most important call center metric. 83 percent of customers expect a one-call resolution, and FCR impacts everything from agent morale to operational costs. It’s not a one-and-done metric either, you need to work on it continuously.
If you can effectively benchmark your first call resolution against industry standards, competitor averages, and even your own past performance, you can then take action to improve your FCR rate and surpass these standards.
Scorebuddy offers the tools to support these improvement strategies, including custom scorecards, business intelligence, integrated coaching, and more.
Try it free for 14 days and see how Scorebuddy can boost your FCR.