First call resolution (FCR) – whether a customer’s problem is handled the first time a customer contacts a call center – is a popular metric for tracking efficiency, and it is strongly correlated with customer satisfaction scores (CSAT). According to a study by The Ascent Group, FCR is listed as one of the five most important metrics tracked by call centers. Organizations that have low FCR rates also tend to have low employee satisfaction and high turnover rates.

FCR, in other words, is a metric that warrants attention and careful tracking. If customers have to call a company’s customer service department multiple times, they are bound to become frustrated and dissatisfied with the level of service, and agents who are doing repetitive work on issues that have already been raised will start to show frustration.

Increasing FCR rates is not simply solved by encouraging agents to get to the root of the problem and ensure that a customer doesn’t make a repeat call; resolving customer concerns after the first contact requires systemic changes throughout the call center organization to ensure that the problem is solved according to how the customer feels – not just by reduced calls. Is the customer truly satisfied? Was the problem handled properly after the first contact? To help improve FCR in your operation, follow these five tips.

First call resolution tip #1: Set up a consistent data collection method

Before you even start to make internal changes for improving first call resolution, you need to make sure that how you collect FCR data is consistent across the organization. It may sound fairly straightforward, but it’s amazing how many organizations have different standards for measuring FCR. Keep in mind that simply increasing FCR rates may not improve your CSAT rates if the customer doesn’t feel that the problem was sufficiently solved. Start, therefore, with a system that is designed around the customer’s needs, and then design a tracking system that is consistent across your whole organization, in every department.

First call resolution tip #2: Provide incentives for agents

Setting up a consistent method for tracking first call resolution is your first step, and the next is making sure that your customer service team understands the importance of helping customers on the first call. Make this metric a priority by educating and training your reps on how to ensure that the customers’ needs are being met the first time they contact your company. Offering incentives for agents to improve FCR rates is a great motivator, and it communicates to your team that you are committed to helping the team focus on their FCR skills.

First call resolution tip #3: Make sure every department is talking to each other

Did your marketing department just put together a promotion or discount that your agents don’t know about? Are the agents aware of any updates to products or services? A common reason for repeat customer calls occurs when there is a disconnect with what the customer knows or has heard and what the agents know. Understandably, customers will become frustrated if they expect to receive a discount, or have heard about an updated service, and the agents must first conduct fact checking before they can assist the customer. Make sure that every department is funneling information to the customer service team so that they are well-informed and knowledgeable when they speak with customers. Remember – call agents are often the face of the company.

First call resolution tip #4: Make sure you understand the issues behind the repeat calls

Remember when we said that improving first call resolution is a systemic issue for a company? To understand and help your agents on the front lines, you need to understand the problems that are causing customers to call back repeatedly. Are there company policies that are causing customer frustration? There may be issues that your agents are helpless to solve on a first call because they are a part of company policies that the customer service team has no control over. Examine patterns in customer complaints, and evaluate from an organizational standpoint if you need to make larger policy changes to decrease customer frustration.

First call resolution tip #5: Empower your agents to be a part of the solution

Your agents are on the front lines, and they are the ones listening to and assisting customers with issues. Make your agents a part of the solution process. What are they hearing from customers? Are there specific reasons that agents are unable to help customers on the first call? Do the agents feel that they don’t have adequate training, or are there issues stemming from a lack of information available to the customers? Create an open environment for agents to honestly provide their input and feedback so that together, everyone in your organization is committed to improving first call resolution.

By taking a holistic approach to improving first call resolution, you will be helping both your agents and your customers feel less frustrated and more satisfied with the use of their time.