First Call Resolution – introduction to Quality Management

By Editor & Publisher Niels Kjellerup Ashgrove rev. September 2003.

Summary –First Call Resolution has been found to be the single most important key challenge to improving Customer Satisfaction. The absence of First Call Resolution has been found to account for a minimum of 30% of a call centres operational cost. So by focusing on this issue you will get the best of both worlds – improved productivity and improve customer satisfaction.


During the past 9 months research conducted into 4 large Call Centres has led me to believe that focus on Quality Issues is not only Nice, but Needed, if the Call Centre Industry is to move beyond the vicious circle of cost cutting & decreasing Customer Satisfaction. The Idiotic Vendor Metrics (IVM) inevitably resulted in high staff turnover & Customer dissatisfaction. Instead of providing senior management with measurements which captured the Value Created, all they got were reports on call volume, call length, call abandon rate, wrap-up time & a service level, which at best proved the centre was understaffed. No wonder senior management has a hard time understanding, how the Call Centres add value to the business model. MEA CULPA (we’re the guilty party for blindly adopting the IVMs, which were all the vendors could provide). A whole cult of benchmarking developed to prove to management that we’re weren’t any worse than the average of the Call Centre Industry. Forget World Class & Best of Class – these meaningless comparisons will just further alienate you from your senior management.. It doesn’t make business sense.

 The 90-90 Benchmarks

Twelve months ago, I defined two benchmarks for the Call Centre, which in my experience could give us a handle on reality and which reflected really successful Call Centres –

1)      90% of all calls answered by a person in 20 seconds &

2)      90% of all calls handled to satisfactory completion (to the customer) at entry point, also called First Call Resolution.

A couple of months later a third benchmark came along –  Staff turnover <5% p.a.

The more we worked with these benchmarks, the more they grew on us. Suddenly the importance of process integration became clear. The importance of integrating the Call Centre with Sales, Marketing and other departments , such as risk assessment, claims evaluation became clear. It became crystal clear that benchmark 1 was a function of benchmark 2, i.e. we couldn’t get the staff numbers to man for the high call volume periods, because we couldn’t document the value we created. 

The First Call Resolution Model.

This is what the customer want – no wait and somebody with the authority to handle matters for me quickly and personally.

What does the service rep need to perform it ?

1)      Information systems which allow a single view of the Customer

2)      Education in the companies culture, procedures, rules and products & services

3)      Training in how to engage the customer, establish communication, build a relationship, identify the real need and fulfill this need.

4)      Authority to go with the responsibility of dealing with the customers. That means a full understanding of  the organisation and how cutting across functional areas influences these issues. The authority to cut red tape, i.e. set aside rules because they in this specific case are junior to service policy. This is the hard part – Rules are created because someone ‘knows best’ what is in the organisations interest. Most of middle management functions are created around managing the rules.

5)      Team leaders and supervisor, who are constantly in touch with the rep and encourages call resolution.

6)      Quality Call Evaluation scoring each rep with a scoring system set up to encourage First Call Resolution.

7)      An awards program which encourages First Call Resolution behaviour and attitude for the rep.


What are the gains for the Call Centre ?

This are the preliminary results from the Case study of 4 large (+200 seats) Call Centres –

1)      Dramatic fall in Call Volume – a minimum of 20% of all calls are repeat calls from customers needing an answer or help, they didn’t get..

2)      The cost of a complaint call not handled at point of entry escalates by 500% when referred.

3)      The cost of  a claim call which is deferred to a senior manager cost 650% more than if handled by the rep.

4)      An un-handled query cost 350% compared to First Call Resolution.

5)      A simple identification problem, where the customer needs to fax documentation cost 280% compared with an over the phone procedure.

These are all minimum escalation costs. My estimate from the case study is that 25- 30% of a Call Centres operating cost is spent on dissatisfying the customer, i.e. no First Call Resolution and then rectifying it.

As an added bonus Customer Satisfaction improves immediately resulting in actual Value Created for the business Model.

Moving towards First Call Resolution.

Some people will tell you, it’s easier to pull a tooth on a Rhino, than getting First Call Resolution authority to the customer service rep. Not true, in one recent case, we ran a campaign encouraging Call Centre staff to identify rules which got in the way of First Call Resolution. 16 such major stumbling blocks were identified and within 2 months 15 of these rules had been documented, queried and resolved.

The key starting point for success is a detailed of map of ALL processes  and a single view of the customer CRM system.

Further you will need a Quality Management system in place. This is an extension of existing Quality Monitoring & Call Evaluation. Without such a system you will find it very hard to provide senior management with the documentation of 1) The existing situation as regards First Call Resolution and 2) Actual Value Created for the business.

What is Quality Management? (Value Creation in Call Centres, as I prefer to call it)

According to Datamonitor report 02/02 (ref bftc0678) Investing in quality management will help to turn call centers from a cost to a profit center”. Datamonitor outlines 3 trends for the future of interest to Call Centre Managers  

1. Quality management in call centers will be analytics driven;

2. Quality management in the call center will not be limited to the agents’


3. There will be a shift from point solutions to upgradeable packages in the

quality management area;

What this means to you, is that Call Recording & analytical software to analyse the outcome of calls is already available and allows you to monitor not only the individual rep, but get an overview documentation of what Values are being created by the Call Centre for the enterprise.

Using Quality Management tools allowed me to identify First Call Resolution as the single most important area for improvement in any service call centre. The idea that we can learn from what the customers tell us about ourselves is not new, but rarely practiced. 

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