Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting first-contact resolution, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- First-contact resolution is a term that refers to solving problems on the first try. It's one of the biggest opportunities to improve customer service and reduce costs. Imagine you discover a billing problem where you've been over charged. You contact customer service and the rep promises to fix it. A few days later you check your bank statement and realize the billing error still isn't fixed. You call the company again. The rep tells you they're really sorry and she promises to get it fixed this time. She even agrees to give you a small discount for the inconvenience.
Let's look at how customers are impacted in a scenario like this when a problem isn't resolved in the first contact. It's aggravating dealing with the same problem over and over again. It's a waste of time to repeatedly contact a company and it creates a sense of distrust when the company can't seem to do things right. Repeat contacts don't just hurt customers. Companies lose out too. Costs are increased from having to spend extra time solving the problem. Employees are frustrated when they can't solve a problem on the first try.
In the long run, companies will lose business if customers give up and decide to go to a competitor. Improving first-contact resolution requires us to track it, identify it's impact, and solve the problems that cause repeat contacts. Step one is tracking first-contact resolution. Now this can be tricky because there isn't a precise way to do this. A customer might say their issue is resolved at the end of an interaction only to discover a day later that it really isn't fixed. What's important is that you have some way of identifying issues that aren't resolved on the first try.
Even if the measurement isn't 100 percent perfect. One option is surveying customers sometime after the interaction and make sure their issue is fully resolved. Another option is to track repeat contacts from a certain customer within a certain time frame such as one week since that usually indicates a lingering problem. Step two is to identify the impact of first-contact resolution on your company. Here's an example. Let's say your company gets 10,000 customer service calls per month and it costs an average of five dollars to handle each call.
If you knew that customers have to call back 30 percent of the time to solve a problem, you could easily see the impact of first-contact resolution. The total cost to answer 10,000 calls per month at five dollars a piece is 50,000 dollars. If 30 percent of problems aren't resolved in the first try, the company is wasting 15,000 dollars per month on repeat contacts. Quantifying the impact can instill a greater sense of urgency to fix the problem. It takes it from hey we're getting a lot of callbacks to hey we have a 15,000 dollar problem.
Of course, we need to understand what's causing customers to repeatedly contact us so we can do something about it. That leads us to finding fixes. Step three is solving the problems that cause customers to repeatedly contact us. Searching for icebergs is one way to do this. Identify a problem that wasn't resolved on the first try and see if this is really a bigger problem that impacts other customers. One customer service leader found an odd situation where a customer wasn't getting billed even after the customer repeatedly contacted the company to fix the issue.
The company was losing about 25 dollars per month by not billing this customer. When the customer service leader went iceberg hunting he found that it was really a much bigger problem that had cost the company 50,000 dollars over six months. Another approach is to identify the top reasons why customers might contact your company a second time. You could review your first contact resolution data or simply ask your employees to tell you what issues generate the most repeat contacts. Once you've identified these top issues you can find ways to prevent them from happening.
Focusing on first-contact resolution is one of those great endeavors that clearly benefits both the customer and the company. Your customers are happy because problems get fixed right away and your employees are happy because they're able to fully solve problems for their customers.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service