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Seven Steps to Improving Your Agent’s First Call Resolution

Posted by Guest Author - William Balvanz

Jun 29, 2020

William Balvanz is the Training Specialist at Voyant, a US-based UCaaS provider. He has years of experience in the call center space, as well as cloud-based communications. We have once again called on William to provide some direction as to how to coach your agents toward First Call Resolution for your customers.

First Call Resolution

The primary key performance indicator for technical support and retention agents, First Call Resolution (FCR) is satisfied when the customer’s issue is resolved with their first contact.  

This is frequently expressed as a percentage, where given a timeframe, the total number of calls resolved with initial contact is divided by the total number of calls taken in the same period of time.  Sometimes the denominator is the total opportunities for FCR, as in, the total number of calls minus callbacks.

The exact definition of a “resolution” can depend on the line of business and nature of the issue.  For example, a Tier 1 technical support agent may consider a call resolved if a case is entered for a higher tier to work, or a customer retention agent may have a resolved call if the customer did not cancel on that call.

Coaching_AgentsYou Can Only Coach to Your Culture

This KPI, as well as others like Average Handle Time, can hurt your business and its relationship with your clients if the culture of promoting it values the mathematics of the metric over the behaviors used to drive the calculation itself.  Be careful that you are not raising the number itself to a pedestal, instead, promote the underlying means to get to that number.

1. Exploring Expectations

The first step in analyzing this KPI, and most others, is to evaluate if the expectation for meeting the First Call Resolution goal is realistic.  If the majority of your agents struggle with this KPI, it might not be attainable.  This can be because of a low tenured staff, because of a new site or just an influx of new agents.  It is not uncommon to graduate metric targets based on tenure.  If you are confident that the FCR target is realistic, you can move to the next step.  If not, look to redefine your expectations so they are attainable.

2. Support Systems

The next step is to ensure that your knowledge base and support tools are in place and accurate.  No agent can possibly have all of the answers, so it becomes imperative to have some kind of database that defines your procedures, products, and processes.  Are theses systems limited to floor support “red hats” only?  Is the knowledge base easily searchable and accurate? If you are not providing the proper tools to your agents, it is hard to hold them accountable for their inability to resolve issues.  But, if you are, it is time to move to the next step.

3. Training

This step is the interface is the human to systems part of the chain.  Is your training program adequate, does it provide routine steps of evaluation and a place to work on call skills and time in a helpful environment?  Does your training program specifically teach how to use your excellent knowledge base and provide practice in searching for specific articles?  Do your agents have experience (even simulated experience) in handling the most common types of calls.  If you can truthfully answer yes to all of these checkpoints, then we can move on.  If not, you might look for advice on better training methods.

4. Use of Systems

Now that we have established that the support systems exist, they are adequate, and the agent has been trained on them, we can look to see if the agent is using the systems correctly.  Note that we are on step four of the process and this is the first time we look at agent behavior.  Keep this in mind and be certain that your house is in order before aggressively coaching an agent.  

This can be observed through recorded calls, especially those with screen capture capability.  You can also hot-desk and sit with an agent, but that raises a completely different set of problems.  Another option is a live service observation, listening into the call from another desk.  

If the agent is reaching the wrong conclusion due to incorrect use of tools, that can be a training issue.  Practice can help, too, and so can job aids (listing the most common articles, for example).  This behavior (correct and efficient use of tools) can be put into SMART goal format and an action plan can be written around it.

If the agent is using the tools effectively, we can move onward.

5. Interaction Effectiveness

This is another agent behavior point (as will be the last two) that can have an action plan written around it.  Does the agent troubleshoot according to the guidelines established by the knowledge base and training?  Do the questions follow an efficient and effective methodology?  There are agents who take shortcuts (often in order to make Handle Time goals) but in doing can miss important details.  

Writing an action plan on this can be enhanced with the right job aids and motivation.  But, if the agent is following the proper steps and still failing to resolve the issue, it is time to stiffen the coaching methods in the next two steps.

6. Will to Resolve

Frankly, does the agent want to resolve the issue?  I have experienced agents who did not understand what was expected, and others who feel the position they are in at the present time is not where they want to be. If the agent understands what is expected and refuses to follow those procedures, it is time to immediately move to the next step.

If your agent wants to be a success, give them a path.  Set SMART goals and milestones that can help motivate.  Do not shy away from anecdotes that empathize with their opportunities.  One thing that can be really frustrating is a consistent shift in focus; one week it is hold time, the next week it is adherence, the next week it is first call resolution.  This can be devastating if you have not made it clear what the major plan for this agent will be.

Resolving issues for the callers seems to be such a fundamental aspect of many types of call center skills that it might escape a supervisor that anyone might not grasp this concept.  Explain to the agent the process of resolving the issues once a case is built, or the impact of churn in the case of customer retention.  Do not assume anyone above you or below you on the chain has the same perspective that you do.

If your agent feels unappreciated, then give them some encouragement.  Let them know that if you do not have to spend time in your one on one meetings shoring up foundational protocols that are represented as First Call Resolution, you can focus on giving them more diverse training, maybe even setting them up for a promotion or other opportunities.

7. The Right Fit

Finally, at the top of the mountain, we get to the fundamental question: Is this agent the right fit for the job?  For some managers and supervisors, this is a very tough topic.  If you and the agent have done everything up to this step and they are still not meeting expectations, it might be a case that this position is just not right for the person.

Maybe they would be better in some other line of business.  Maybe they are just not good on the phone and they are miserable every day.  Maybe their attitude is just awful.  Step 6 might lead directly here, for example.

It is recommended to have another manager, especially one above you, to sit in on your one on one when this step is reached.  If the metric in question, in this case First Call Resolution, is very important, and you have explained that to the agent, it might be time to put them on a disciplinary plan.  Give them X weeks to hit the goal or demerits are assessed.  If it comes to this, be fair, firm, and supportive.  If they make their action plan and goals, celebrate with them, but if they fail it may be time to cut ties.  In a case that the agent simply refuses to follow the guidelines, accelerate the milestone goals.

Look at it this way, an agent who is not meeting resolution goals is costing your business money through repeated interactions.  It is a manager’s job to protect the profit of the organization.

When the Agent Knows More than the Knowledge Base

A situation may arise when an agent’s previous experience grants them an edge in certain types of interactions.  In cases like this, the agent may be passive-aggressively going through the numbers but setting an expectation to the customer that it probably will not work.  Firstly, address the language and expectations set, but then give the agent a path to submit changes and updates to the knowledge base itself.  

Final Notes

First Call Resolution is an important KPI in terms of productivity and profitability, and it can often be one of the most important.  It should not be overlooked or underestimated.  By working through a process of analyzing and correcting different steps in the process, you and your agent can work out the best way to tackle this issue and gain compliance - or you can discover that you may have a person who is simply not a great fit for what needs to be done.

Topics: Contact Center, Employees, Monitoring, customer experience management, Homepage, Productivity

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