Don’t Use First-Call Resolution as an Excuse to Shunt Customers Aside


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I tried to return something at a business I have patronized for many years. The customer service representative told me the barcode on the product wasn’t in the system. The implication was that I was lying and couldn’t have bought it from the company.

The situation was funny in a weird way because the company somehow managed to charge me using the non-existent barcode. The service rep immediately tried to get rid of me, though, once she had delivered the company’s “right” answer. Her attitude was that any further conversation was a waste of time. So get lost.

I have recommended the company to numerous colleagues and friends. Now, I feel very different. My doubt makes me wonder what future service will be like, especially regarding more expensive products. I’m not sure I’ll be able to give rave reviews ever again.

Many of today’s contact centers have shifted to a focus on first-call resolution, which at first glance is wonderful. Finally, customers are being factored into a key measurement of success! In the mad rush toward “one and done,” however, customer service often suffers. This mantra has become as much of a hindrance as a help.

The survey questions didn’t cover my area of concern or allow comments.

The concept behind first-call resolution is that customers are helped completely the initial time they call a company. Customers are happier as a result, and the company will ultimately spend less on support because it saves time. Better service also improves customer retention. So what’s wrong with this concept? Nothing, except for how it’s actually accomplished.

In the first place, how many companies really find out what their customers think of their service? In my professional and personal experience, not enough. And, even when businesses do conduct surveys, they don’t always ask the right questions.

No comments

After a recent unpleasant encounter with a contact center, I was happy to fill out the survey, so I could let management know. Funny, though, the survey questions didn’t cover my area of concern or allow comments (which are hard to tabulate automatically). Undoubtedly, as a result, this company has a distorted view of my satisfaction and can hardly have a valid customer perspective.

Mike Trotter, of Purdue University’s Center for Customer Driven Quality, suggests a simple solution. Ask one question just as you finish the call: “Are you happy?” If the answer is, “No,” find out why and make changes to your operations. This excellent approach delivers valuable information, so why don’t more companies do it?

What makes excellent service from a customer’s view? Have you ever seriously asked your customers? Listen to what your customers tell you, and I’m sure it will have two elements: knowledge and attitude. Many companies spend lots of time training people on products or services, because they think this is most important. Attitude is just as important, if not more so, and this is where most companies fail.

A customer should be happy getting correct information, shouldn’t she? Well, not if she feels undervalued or misunderstood at the end of the call. That was the case with my experience. Is that first-call resolution or customer dissolution?

First-call resolution isn’t a proactive measure. It implies that you wait for a customer to call you. So even if you handle contacts expertly, this is only part of the total customer experience. You should be providing a full range of relevant, valuable services to customers, when they’re needed. Delivering that critical nugget of information—an open appointment or a flight cancellation with rebooking information, for example—to customers wherever they are will differentiate your business to strengthen loyalty and turn your customers into advocates.

First-call resolution should be first-contact resolution. Even though phone calls may still be the primary way you interact with customers, you need to include multiple types of contacts, such as email, chat, video and web collaboration, for superior customer service. Expand your opportunities based on the requirements and expectations of your customers, and you’ll gain a competitive advantage by becoming more indispensable.

First-call resolution must be more than the latest business mantra. It needs to help your company deliver holistic, matchless, customer-centric service. Combine complete knowledge of your products and services with a healthy attitude and understanding of your customers and their expectations to provide a comprehensive and proactive customer experience. You’ll succeed at first-call resolution—and much more.

Betsy Wood
Nortel Multimedia Applications
Betsy Wood, evangelist, Nortel Multimedia Applications, participates in a global team helping companies deliver definitive customer service. Wood's 2 years of international experience include marketing, sales and consulting with Nortel and AT&T.


  1. This article is very good and feel that I also have the same line of thinking. The key to meeting FCR is being proactive. I feel CC solutions have moved away from FCR and have moved on. Also given the global way the cc’s are going the drift seem to be faster. It is true as mentioned in the article that FCR should also look at addressing frustrations before it sets in.

    The approach I took when creating the product called Zivah is to bring the focus back to FCR. I also recommended more effective usage of CTI information so that supervisors can provide just in time support when indicates point to FCR not being met. Though we could have simple ways of ensuring FCR can be met, I find most of the leading logging solutions not building simple features to support agent while on call.

    S Ranganathan

  2. Thanks for publishing this enlightening article Betsy. FCR is definitely the most important metric a call center can measure. When FCR is measured from a customers point of view then improvements in FCR will lead to improvements in customer satisfaction.

    Have a quick read through SQM’s Whitepaper First Call Resolution (FCR) – The Metric That Matters Most to get a sense of how the customers point of view needs to integrated into FCR measurement.

  3. Customers want a voice in shaping their own experiences. With multi-channel service expanding touch points, and social media accelerating word-of-mouth, your service alignment is pivotal.

    Regards- church doors.

  4. Hi Betsy,

    Great article and I agree 100%. I recently found a company that is completely customer-centric when it comes to assessing call center performance.

    Their views on first call resolution are completely in line with yours as well.

    Thanks again for publish this article Betsy!

  5. It’s true I wouldn’t have been very happy with the answer you received, either! First-call resolution can actually backfire with such customer support, a little “psychology” goes a long way.

    Pierre Copti


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