For as long as call centers have been around, executives have been struggling to efficiently and effectively measure them. While each organization is different, most of the call center leaders we’ve worked with are focused on three big competencies – operational efficiency, agent performance, and customer experience.

But as these executives will tell you, an increased focus on measuring their service centers across these three areas – combined with ever-growing types and volumes of data – has created an unexpected challenge: metric overload.

In fact, if you look at the call center executive dashboards at most Fortune 500 companies, you’ll see a laundry list of metrics: “classics” like average handle time (AHT) and abandonment rate as well as more innovative measurements like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT).

Each of these measurements may be useful in answering specific, operational questions. For example, AHT and call volume are critical to forecasting staffing levels.

But when too many metrics are cobbled together into an executive view – the result is a muddled, disjointed view – instead of a clear, compelling story.

But what if there was a simpler way? What if you could use a single key performance indicator (KPI) to measure agent performance, customer experience, and operational efficiency?

Focused performance management for the Call Center starts with FCR

Whether you’re the CFO the COO, or the Chief Customer Experience Officer, you should look at one metric every day: First Call Resolution (FCR). FCR measures the rate at which you properly address the customer’s need the first time they call.

At its core, FCR is a customer experience metric: a customer not having to call back usually means a happy customer. But the value of FCR as an operational efficiency and agent performance measure is often overlooked.

FCR as an Operational Efficiency Measure

Most finance-focused call center executives have traditionally cared more about AHT and call volume than FCR. After all, fewer calls means less agents, and shorter calls means more calls handled per agent; both result in leaner (and cheaper) staffing levels.

But most research suggests that focusing on AHT doesn’t actually lead to lower costs and in many cases drives negative outcomes.

Improving FCR, on the other hand, is not only a good move in terms of customer experience, but also a profitability win: resolving a customer’s need the first time means fewer calls, lower costs, decreased churn, and ultimately, improved profitability.

FCR as an Agent Performance Measure

For your agents, “focus on FCR” is a clear, measurable goal. Agents doing the things they learned in training, adhering to best practices, and making every effort to resolve the customer’s issue will be reflected in a favorable FCR.

Sub-par FCR numbers should be a red flag to leadership that the tools, training, or other resources provided to agents are not getting the job done. Moreover, handling a customer’s second or third call is significantly more stressful for agents, so avoiding those repeat calls by resolving the issue the first time contributes to a more positive working environment for your agents.

To get the most out of FCR as an agent performance measurement tool, consider using a queue-specific FCR; in other words, the first call is considered an FCR “success” if no repeat calls come back into the same queue.

FCR as a Customer Experience Measure

Lastly, and most obviously, improving FCR drives a more positive customer experience. Recent studies on this topic found that customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings are 35-45% lower for customers who must make a second call for the same issue.

Moreover, Service Quality Management Group found that for every 1% improvement in FCR, you get a 1% improvement in CSAT.

Beyond the CSAT gains, driving up your FCR should improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and churn rate.

To get the most out of FCR as a customer experience measurement tool, we recommend using a cross-queue or “all-in” FCR; in other words, the first call is considered an FCR “success” if no repeat calls come back into any queue.

There will never be a single silver bullet for measuring your call centers, and those in your organization tasked with managing the day-to-day operations of the call center will continue leveraging a myriad of metrics to do that effectively. Start with FCR to set a clear vision focused on happy customers, effective employees, and increased profits.

The results will follow.

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