Why First Call Resolution May Not Improve Your Customer Satisfaction Scores or NPS Scores


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Of course, your first call resolution numbers are very important to you and your call centre. After all, you have worked very hard to achieve your first call resolution targets.

Not only will good first call resolution results save your company money, they also suggest a better outcome for your customer. So it just follows that good first call resolution performance should improve your Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores and NPS scores, right?

Not necessarily.

Question: How many customers who contact your call centre expect to have their problem solved through one interaction?

Answer: Virtually every single customer!

When was the last time a customer contacted your call centre and said, “I know you can’t solve my problem right now. I completely understand. Here’s my number. Just call me back with my solution as soon as you can.”

This just does not happen!

Customers expect first call resolution.

So when you meet customer expectations, it is just that – meeting customer expectations – nothing more. It is neither extraordinary nor special.

Have you ever read a review of a restaurant that raved about the clean dishes?

Of course not. Why?

Because clean dishes at a restaurant are a basic, baseline customer expectation. Having clean dishes does not provide any direct benefit to the customer above and beyond what he already expects and is entitled to.

On the other hand, if a restaurant does not clean its dishes well, the customer’s experience is likely to be diminished significantly. Those dirty dishes will hurt the restaurant’s business.

First call resolution is a lot like clean dishes at a restaurant.

If you don’t solve a customer’s problem or resolve the customer’s issue during the first interaction, it will be held against you. It will lower your customer satisfaction scores and NPS scores and deteriorate customer loyalty.

Solving a customer’s problem or resolving a customer’s issue during that initial interaction, without more, does not necessarily translate to higher customer satisfaction scores or NPS scores.

Unfortunately, in the call centre world, there is no prize for meeting customer expectations.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jack Dempsey
Jack Dempsey is the Chief Executive Officer of Pretium Solutions. Jack directs Pretium's revolutionary customer loyalty program, the Golden Touchpoint™, which is in active use in approximately 50 countries and over two dozen languages. Pretium Solutions is a premier provider of cutting-edge, sustainable and globally-recognized customer experience management solutions and customer service, call center and sales training, consulting and leadership programs.


  1. Jack, while I agree that customers won’t give a company high marks for meeting expectations (only punishment for missing), I’m surprised to hear that FCR is as commonplace as clean dishes in a restaurant.

    Frankly, my perception is that a lot of call centers still don’t resolve customer issues on the first contact. So why would customers expect FCR? They might want it but would they expect it if it’s not a common practice?

    I want my Internet service to be up 100% of the time. When it’s not, I’m not happy. But given the history I’ve had with ISPs, I don’t really expect flawless service. If I found an ISP that was a lot more reliable, I’d be more loyal.

    Can you share any research on how FCR links — or doesn’t — to improvements in customer loyalty (e.g. NPS)?

  2. Bob,

    Sorry for the short delay in getting back to you. Thanks for your comments.

    Of course, all calls are not created equal, and in some cases, FCR is unrealistic from a practical standpoint. Perhaps I should have qualified my contention about customer expectations by making it clear that the FCR is expected when it's reasonable for a customer to have such an expectation.

    In your ISP example, your internet service goes out leaving you without internet access. I would presume in this case that you have no expectation that the problem will (or even can) be resolved instantly. Arguably, it would be unreasonable for you to have an expectation of FCR in this case, although I know from having conducted extensive research in the telecom call center industry, there are always exceptions. My guess is that your expectation is that when you call your ISP to report the problem, they will create a service order or trouble ticket and get to work on bringing your internet back up.

    If on the other hand you called your ISP to report an erroneous charge on your bill, would you expect FCR? My research shows that customers generally expect FCR on billing and similar issues.

    My car recently broke down, so I called AAA to have it towed. I was expecting a 1-2 hour window before they could pick it up. I agreed to have AAA send me a text message at the time they dispatched the tow truck so I would know they were on the way. I had called in at 10:59 a.m. and received the text message almost immediately after I hung up. The message indicated the tow truck would arrive at 11:05 a.m. That is FCR well beyond my expectations. Kudos to AAA.

    My point about FCR is not about what the customer wants but rather what they expect (perhaps more accurately, what is reasonable for them to expect). The value of FCR when it is expected is less than the value of FCR when it is not expected. Like calls to a call center, all FCRs are not created equal.

    Hope this explanation/clarification helps or at least makes sense!


  3. Agree: FCR expectations will vary from one situation to another.

    And you’re right in pointing out that companies shouldn’t just blindly assume that increasing FCR rate will increase customer loyalty.

    Over time, as more companies get the basics down, FCR will become the norm. When that happens, what should companies do in call centers to increase their NPS?

  4. That's the magic question, Bob. And while I can't provide a short answer, I can confidently provide the right answer, so please bear with me here.

    NPS goes up when the critical mass of call center agents do the following 3 things effectively: (1) solve the customer's practical problem or need (the "duh” component); (2) address and satisfy the customer's emotional need related to the practical need; and (3) provide a perceived low-effort experience for the customer (i.e. create the perception that the company is easy to do business with).

    So many companies out there focus their energies and resources on (1), then sprinkle on some "soft skills training” (how to be nice to the customer) and wonder why they can't get their NPS to break above certain plateaus.

    The reason is they are often completely unaware that (2) and (3) are critical preconditions to high NPS. They over-engineer on the practical side of customer service, filling up the call center with technical and functional experts who are proficient at (1). That's great, but if they have no idea how to handle (2) or (3) or even recognize how critical (2) and (3) are in the effort to create a quality interaction and customer experience, it is difficult, if not impossible, to move NPS out of mediocrity.

    There are other things that need to happen inside the call center to provide the right foundation for agents to do (1), (2) and (3). For example, systems and processes that are designed for the company's benefit need to be modified so as to create a customer experience with the customer in the center of the interaction, not the company. Sometimes agents are handcuffed by systems and processes that impede their ability to provide a low-effort solution for the customer.

    There is a particular set of skills, methods, techniques, and even more important, attitudes and behaviors that need to be learned, then coached, coached, coached on the call center floor. It just can’t (and won’t) happen as a result of a one-time seminar, or off-the-shelf standardized training program for 2 or 4 hours, etc. It may take a week or two of consistent coaching before the new skills work their way into the customer interactions on a regular basis, and it takes follow-up and the right kind of performance management system to keep it going.

    And the front-line employees are not the only ones who need it. Supervisors, quality assurance, team leaders and yes, even managers need to learn and know the skills well enough to be able to coach them to the front-line on a daily basis and keep it all alive. They also need to be on board (supportive) at a high level, which takes the right kind of leadership skills. Without that, no improvement effort can be effective for more than a short period of time. I would submit that any meaningful performance improvement initiative for customer service/customer experience will die a certain death eventually without the support of leadership, from the C-suite on down.

    Look at how companies like Amazon or Zappos approach, train, implement and support their customer service / customer experience. It’s a thing of absolute beauty, and their efforts not only produce consistently high loyalty scores, but even more importantly reap huge bottom line rewards. Moreover, from what I understand, those companies are simply awesome places to work. Everybody wins – company, employees and customers!

    I could go on and on here, but I'll spare you. I am passionate about this stuff and love the discussions!


  5. Great answer, Jack!

    Don’t know if you like the term “delight” — I’ve had mixed feelings about it myself — but it seems to me that the really outstanding companies figure out a way to get customers to feel “I’m delighted” with the CX.

    I’ve never spoken with Amazon.com on the phone (not exactly something they encourage!) but I’m usually delighted with the online experience and ease of doing business.

    Zappos also excels online, but when I visited their HQ I learned they spend a lot of time trying to hire exceptional people (some might say quirky) to add personality to their call experiences. It’s their opportunity to leave an impression.

    In my CX article to kick off last year (Customer Experience Management: Past, Present and Future) I noted that most companies are fixing and refining their processes (phases 1 and 2 of the CEM journey). Yet for industry leadership they need to be innovative, which requires some creativity and risk-taking.

    Some companies may choose to “go digital” and leverage new mobile or social technologies. Others could “go personal” and make people the secret sauce like Zappos to create an emotional bond with the customer.

    Thanks for the discussion!

  6. As per the above discussion and experience our NPS and FCR scores does’not have correlation.we have high nps,but low FCR.

    is it mandatory to have FCR and NPS should always move in same direction.


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