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Improving First Call Resolution Techniques

First call resolution has been used for a number of years to measure the performance of contact centres. As the name suggests, it is used to determine how many customers have their queries answered the first time they make contact.

However, the concept is not always as simple to measure as some may think, for a number of reasons. And, it is much harder to quantify than other measures, such as abandonment rates and call time, for example.

Strong first call resolution statistics in some cases rely on customers contacting with simple queries that can be resolved on the spot, rather than those which require a follow-up or an action to be put into place.

As Gary Schwartz, senior vice president of marketing at Confirmit, explains:"What is resolution to the company may not be resolution for the customer."

Reasons for poor first call resolution

Poor agent performance or inadequate chains of communication are not necessarily the reason for low levels of first call resolution – especially in the age of the internet.

Figures released by ContactBabel recently found that 10 percent of consumer interactions now take place via email. This figure increases for the retail, telecoms and media industries.

Some 86 percent of contact centres are now capable of dealing with requests via email, and a significant number of these are answered in the same working day.

This increasing reliance on email communications for simple queries mean that consumers are only likely to phone call centres if they have a more complex query – which is less likely to be resolved in a single interaction.

People are also less inclined to provide personal details via email, therefore call centres will still have the role of sending out new bank cards or similar documents, meaning the clients query will not be resolved until they receive the items they requested.

Social media also has a role to play in this, especially among the younger generations, and more often than not the answers to simple queries can now easily be found online.

Systems to improve first call resolution

There is also an increasing realisation that the focus for improving first call resolution must extend beyond the agents themselves.

Rufus Grig, head of Azzurri Innovation, speaking at the Call Centre and Customer Management Expo and quoted by Call Centre Focus, explained: "The increase of automation to answer customer questions means that call centres are increasingly solving more complex issues which involve back office systems, and collaboration with other departments and an often mobile workforce."

Research released recently by the Aberdeen Group suggests that business intelligence techniques can apply to the call centre and help improve agent performance.

The paper, entitled Unlocking Business Intelligence in the Contact Center, suggested "through operational intelligence, contact centre agents can understand metrics such as customer satisfaction, first call resolution, SLA compliance, and customer churn/customer retention", which will help them improve at their roles.

Based on the findings of interviews with more than 70 companies, the report found that some 62 percent of the top-performing firms use call centre intelligence when communicating with customers.

Half of these were also said to be "enabling operational business intelligence".

Speech analytics was also said to play a major role in decreasing repeat callers and increasing first call resolution. The technique provides insight into caller's gender and emotional responses, among other metrics. When stored correctly, will allow call centre professionals to search through large amounts of data to identify particular trends and problem areas, allowing for new approaches from agents and improved first call resolution.