First contact resolution (FCR) is widely considered a primary indicator of customer support success for support organizations today. In fact, InsightSquared went as far as to label FCR “the golden metric of customer service”. It makes sense, too, because FCR is not only a standard for meeting customer expectations, but a measurement that determines the efficiency of support teams. Put more simply, FCR indicates whether a customer’s issue was resolved in one single attempt to engage with a customer service representative. The idea is that if the issue is resolved in a single contact, the customer will be satisfied.

FCR is certainly a valuable data point all companies should take into consideration when developing their customer support strategies and methods. However, we are operating in a complex business world, and FCR isn’t always the best indicator of success – sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense for a particular business model or situation.

B2B versus B2C: There’s a difference
One of the primary reasons FCR doesn’t always make sense is the vast set of differences between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer service. Since B2B clients often bring more complex issues to their customer service representatives, it follows that the solutions are more complicated as well and therefore take longer to resolve. The result is that FCR rates are typically lower for B2B customers than for B2C. As a result, FCR is not an accurate measure of success in the B2B space because tech-savvy customers are well aware their complex issues may not be easy to solve right away.

While FCR metrics for a B2B company may indicate ease-of-use and intuitiveness of the product, if first-call solutions are more common than collaborative customer service solutions, this may actually have negative implications. For one, high levels of FCR in a B2B environment could imply that customers do not feel comfortable reaching out to their vendors in search of highly complex solutions. This in turn translates into clients not making the most out of their tool. Additionally, B2B companies who focus heavily on FCR over other metrics could hinder their support team’s ability to collaborate and communicate throughout the business as the agent rushes to find a quick solution rather than taking their time to find the best solution. This results in increased follow-up requests, dissatisfied customers, and overall inefficiency for your business.

The self-service dilemma
Self-service can only be deemed successful if a business’s entire customer support effort is measured across all channels. Self-service options typically reduce the number of tier-one service calls and improve the quality of those interactions when metrics such as speed to answer, cost per contact, first-level resolution rate, first-call resolution rate and cost per incident are considered.

In today’s business world, self-service offerings are not optional. In most cases, clients appreciate and expect the opportunity to help themselves either through FAQ pages, searchable knowledge bases, telephone interactive voice response systems or online discussion forums. These features save companies money and help customers save time and avoid frustration. Companies that seek to empower their customers through self-service options cannot expect FCR to be a consistently accurate measure of success.

The discrepancy comes from the fact that if a client attempts to fix an issue using self-service channels and finally resorts to calling a customer service representative or reaching an online help desk, that engagement isn’t actually a first contact. Yet many businesses fail to consider this very important detail and, as a result, are using flawed or inaccurate results when assessing the effectiveness of their support teams. To resolve this discrepancy, use of an omni-channel customer support software is strongly recommended so that businesses can accurately assess their FCR stats. Improvements in FCR are actually one of the key indicators of self-service success, which can easily come off as counterintuitive, but if you are able to solve customer issues through self-service in the first attempt, it is a win-win. When self-service is in the picture, omni-channel effectiveness is more important than FCR.

The complexity of perception
Finally, FCR has its limits with regard to providing robust insights into customer support effectiveness. In many cases, FCR rates are not consistent with customer satisfaction and are thus misleading. While resolving an issue on the first contact is ideal in many cases, operating based on this metric does little in the way of showing companies where their product or support teams need to improve. FCR tells businesses how effective they were in an isolated moment, but not necessarily how customers viewed the experience and where a business should focus improvements beyond call resolution. The issue may have been “closed” in the first contact, but was it resolved correctly and to the customer’s satisfaction or was the customer left feeling rushed and confused? More importantly did the customer ending up coming back for follow-up because their issue wasn’t resolved completely?

If your support team is measured on FCR then that is where they will focus – closing tickets on the first contact. To be an effective B2B support organization you want your support team focused on closing tickets accurately and efficiently, even if it takes three or four follow-ups. The best way to measure this is to ask your customers. Transactional surveys are one of the best and easiest ways to do this – at the end of every transaction simply ask if the issue was resolved to their satisfaction. It is the age old debate of quality vs quantity – do you want to close a bunch of tickets as fast as possible, whether it’s right or not, or do you want to solve customer issues as accurately as possible so that they don’t have to re-contact you and the overall customer experience is improved? Hopefully you recognize the value in the latter solution.

In addition to efficiency, there are a variety of perceptual indicators B2B companies should focus on:

  • Accessibility: How easy is it for clients to get in touch with a customer service representative? Are there multiple channels through which to do so?
  • Responsiveness: When customers get in touch with the support team, do representatives respond quickly and with concern? How long to clients need to wait to receive an answer to their problems?
  • Knowledge: Are customer service representatives fully informed and prepared to answer even the most complex questions?
  • Professionalism: Do support team members take their jobs seriously and treat customers with respect?
  • Resolution: How quickly, and how often, are support teams able to find a full resolution to client issues?
  • Customer Satisfaction: How happy are customers with the product or service as a whole? Did they have a positive customer support experience?

When it comes to B2B customer support, perception is everything because a client’s experience is directly tied to his or her company’s success. As such, it is important not only to realize how different FCR is when it comes to support of this nature, but also to understand that this metric simply can’t provide an in-depth or accurate view into support team success.

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