It used to be fine if we could handle contacts quickly in the phone channel but over the years we have seen an explosion of possible customer contact channels, and speed has become less important than first contact resolution (FCR), with the new challenge being “omni-channel FCR”. In forums that I chair such as the Global Operations Council, conferences, and client meetings, I hear the same four questions:
- How can we measure FCR in each channel?
- Then, how can we measure FCR across channels that our customers use?
- What is the “right” FCR percentage in each channel and across channels (omni-channel)?
- How can we master omni-channel FCR on an ongoing basis?
First off, let’s try to understand why omni-channel FCR is such a big challenge. Not only are there dozens of channels being used today …
… but most of these channels operate separately, reinforcing the word “channel” (these two definitions convey this clearly: (a) “the bed where a natural stream of water runs”, since “channel” derives from the word “canal”, and (b) “a usually tubular enclosed passage”1). Further complicating the situation, many cases companies partner or outsource some of these channels or integrate 3rd party solutions into their homegrown ones. On top of this, many of these channels feature different answers or content for the same questions or issues, a key challenge that “Knowledge Management” has tried to attack over the years.
Compounding these separate or “silo’d” channels is that customers don’t understand or care that these channels don’t, or can’t, operate together – After all, to them it’s the same company, and in most cases they didn’t want to make the contact in the first place. They often express their frustration in classic cases like:
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- “I just punched that into your IVR” or “answered the questions in the IVR” and so why do I have to repeat them to you?
- “Can’t you see that I am online and was trying to find out when my package is supposed to arrive?”
- “Don’t you know me?”
This last plaintive question is core to the 2nd book that David Jaffe and I wrote, Your Customer Rules! so we placed it as the first of seven “Customer Needs” to produce great customer experiences and a “Me2B” culture (“You know me, you remember me”2).
Once you embrace how complicated we’ve made it for our customers to get answers or help, thanks to too many disconnected channels, the last two questions become critical: figuring out the “right” FCR percentage in-channels and across channel, and mastering omni-channel FCR.
A quick definition of “omni-channel” might help, this one from John Bowden, one of my former colleagues at MCI in the 1990s:
“Multi-channel is an operational view – how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel.
Omni-channel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent.
Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer.
Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!”3
And just in case you need support for how important it is to operate on a “seamless, integrated, and consistent” basis, let’s look at the returns from managing and mastering omni-channel4 (CEM = Customer Experience Management):
Now that we’ve established how hard it is to provide omni-channel support and FCR (proliferation of usually “silo’d” channels, often with different content), and grappled with the definition of omni-channel and its importance, let’s return to the four questions that I introduced at the start. There are several foundations that you will need to put into place to answer these questions, as covered in both of our books (The Best Service is No Service5 and Your Customer Rules!2) and as enabled by Big Data Customer Experience (CX) analytics, such as6:
- Creating central data repositories to collect and display “single threads” of customer “conversations” across all channels;
- Deciding when and how to engage socially or with other live channels, vs. providing automated responses;
- Anticipating where and when customers want to contact you.
Turning to each question, here is what I’ve seen from the customer experience leaders we interviewed in our two books and have heard from the Global Operations Council member companies and my clients over the years:
1. How can we measure FCR in each channel?
- Ask your customers if you revolved their issue after the contact, in some cases the next day or a week later if they have to take actions. Problem = Low response rates, often biased.
- Check to see if the same customer contacted you again within, say, 5 days, on the same issue. Problem = Agent coding and other ways to capture repeat contacts are not reliable.
- Capture which agents or other staff are “causing” repeat contacts or “starting the snowball rolling downhill”, and which ones are resolving or “melting the snowballs”. Problem = Collecting these data at the agent/customer level across different locations or providers, especially if you’re using outsourcing partners.
2. Then, how can we measure FCR across channels that our customers use?
- Send relevant web log data, IVR logic selected, and other “upstream” contacts to your CRM or desktop software for agents to see the whole thread, real time. Problem = Knowing which channels are “upstream” and linking them in real time.
- Combine all customer “voices” and actions in a single database, with key words accessing it, enabling what we like to call “Knowledge Sharing”. Problem = Keeping this database current.
- Track the entire customer journey with steady data feeds, or what at Antuit we call “Predicting and Improving Real-Time NPS or CES [Customer Experience Score]”. Problem = Some CRM or other customer systems and data are hard to access (hence the value from Big Data’s ability to “mash up” these difference sources).
3. What is the “right” FCR percentage in each channel and across channels (omni-channel)?
- 100%! We debate a lot about whether contact center FCR should be in the 80s or 90s, or IVR “containment rates” (FCR) in the 40s or 50s, but anything less than 100% is a failure from the customer’s point of view. This is made worse when you do look at the customer journey: If she starts on the web to find out if her package is arriving today and fails to find an answer, then navigates your IVR to ask the question but there’s no option, and then talks with one of your agents whose answer is vague or not reassuring, then that customer might have to contact you another time = 4 or maybe more contacts!
- 0%, meaning that in many cases “zero contact resolution” or ZCR is the best solution (as we proposed in The Best Service is No Service 5).
- It depends, by customer issue and customer value. Maybe we can explore this in a future column, but since “customers aren’t created equal” (as I suggested in an article 12 years ago about outsourcing7) doesn’t it make sense to provide even higher FCR for your best customers?
- First off, replace speed metrics (AHT, sales per hour, etc) with FCR as one of your top KPIs.
- Next, pull together your channels into one place (physically or virtually using Big Data) and make sure that your content is the same across channels, and that you practice Knowledge Sharing everywhere.
- Get together across all functions to view and analyze your customers’ experiences across all channels, “walk in their shoes” (for example, “be a customer” and see if the content is right and the same across your journey), and spend quality time on all four of these questions!
1 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/channel . Accessed 12 February 2017.
2 Your Customer Rules! Delivering the Me2B Experiences That Today’s Customers Demand (Wiley 2015). Here are the 7 Customer Needs that Lead to a Winning “Me2B”Culture:
1. “You know me, you remember me”
2. “You give me choices”
3. “You make it easy for me”
4. “You value me”
5. “You trust me”
6. “You surprise me with stuff that I can’t imagine”
7. “You help me better, you help me do more”
3 “The Definition of Omni-Channel Marketing” by Mark Stocker, Modern Marketing April 2014; quote from John Bowden, former SVP Time-Warner Cable and MCI VP Mass Markets Customer Service, today VP Member Services, Sears Holding.
4 Aberdeen Group Paper “Omni-Channel Customer Care: Empowered Customers Demand a Seamless Experience, October 2013.
5 The Best Service is No Service: Liberating Your Customers From Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs , Bill Price & David Jaffe (Wiley 2008).
6 “Omni-Channel Management and CX [Customer Experience] for Enterprise Value at Amazon.com and Other Leaders”, presented by the author at the 2014 13th KCCM Conference in Seoul, 27 May 2014.
7 http://searchcrm.techtarget.com/news/1052123/Offshoring-math-101 . Accessed 12 February 2017.