We recently discussed steps to increasing your Net Promoter scores and how satisfying customer interactions create Net Promoters for your business.  In our experience, we’ve found one key across nearly every business vertical that identifies the success rate in satisfying customer interactions.  This key is actually measurable with a metric that will do more to achieve the balance of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency than any other, when tracked accurately and business operations are focused to maximize it. That metric is First Contact Resolution (FCR), defined as the percentage of customers who have had their issue, transaction, inquiry or request completed on the first contact, regardless of channel.

As a contact center consulting team, companies that achieve high FCR can, on average, expect to retain 90 percent of their customers, even if services, features, and prices aren’t favorably comparable.  This is largely based on satisfying the incumbent relationship.  Or, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. On the contrary, from 35 to 55 percent of customers who do not feel their issues have been resolved satisfactorily, even for a single interaction, will be shopping you against your competitors.

Just yesterday, I contacted a travel company who couldn’t adjust my frequent customer account and couldn’t find the right person to resolve my issue, even after multiple call transfers. First, I wasn’t able to find out how to change my profile on their website (and couldn’t access a Web chat feature to guide me). Then I called the toll-free number, which probably increased their cost-per-call by 10x (for more, click here for my prior blog on developing a contact center strategy). In the end, I spent a long time on the phone, which was dissatisfying, and the net experience made it less likely that I’ll recommend this company to my equally busy friends.

The Financial Impact of Customer Experience

FCR also affects revenue. Unresolved issues have the biggest impact on the contact center’s financial performance. Revenue is at risk as a result of the inquiry or problem remaining unresolved. Most contact centers are not aware how much revenue they are losing as a result of unresolved issues. Conversely, businesses can increase their opportunities to upsell by 20 percent once the initial issue is resolved. Trying to sell before the problem is resolved, makes the customer feel irritated at the business pushing the next sale rather than resolving their issues. Our studies show that FCR improves both customer and employee satisfaction, and results in a slower agent attrition rate. Contact centers with lower FCR tend to have low employee satisfaction due to a high level of stress on the employee who handles that second and third call from the customer’s issue that was not resolved the first time. Stress increases agent churn, which in turn drives up operating costs in recruiting, investigating, interviewing, hiring, and training new agents.

Measuring FCR

While FCR is the single key to optimized experience in my opinion, it’s often not easy to achieve or even to measure.  It’s important to consider contacts in all access channels, and not phone calls alone, to truly understand the customer’s experience.  However, as no two contact centers are alike, allowances should be made for idiosyncrasies of the business, such as seasonality of business or  varying definitions to FCR measurement. It’s important to understand the business to set the parameters that match the customer’s expectations, and future posts will dig into the tactical considerations for measuring and improving FCR.

If you’re interested in learning more about FCR, I’ll be presenting the keynote (and blogging) on the customer contact experience and best practices at the upcoming Customer Experience Management Summit and presenting on optimizing mobility customer support at the Contact Center Association’s Virtual Event – “The Social Contact Center.”   I encourage you to register for these events and reach out to me if you’re at the Summit.  And please follow me on Twitter (@lambrobert) to share your thoughts with me at and after these events.

When was the last time you called a company and didn’t get a resolution to your issue?  How do you prevent that customer frustration at your business?