Exceptional customer service can make or break a business. When issues are resolved quickly and empathetically, positive brand associations develop. But unresolved problems chip away at customer loyalty and inflict real costs.
That's why first call resolution (FCR) is a vital metric for customer service teams. The stakes for first call resolution are high: according to Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service report, 28% of customers worldwide say that getting their issue resolved in a single interaction is “the most important aspect of a good customer service experience.”
This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about first call resolution—what it is, why it matters, how to measure it, and most importantly, proven strategies to improve your FCR rates.
What Is First Call Resolution?
When customers resolve their inquiry within a single interaction with your customer service team, that’s first call resolution. Your first call resolution rate, meanwhile, measures those one-and-done resolutions as a percentage of your overall customer service inquiries.
While first call resolution is, as the name would suggest, a phone-centric metric, it’s easily confused with first contact resolution rate. (And to make matters trickier, both use the same acronym). First contact resolution measures not just customer calls but the full omnichannel customer service spectrum: email, chat, social media, and more. While this guide focuses on first call resolution, it’s good to analyze each metric to get both the zoomed-in and zoomed-out perspective.
There are quite a few ways of measuring FCR, and most aren’t precise. Judging whether a call is “resolved” or not is more art than science: some customer service teams send post-call surveys, others check to see if customers call back within a specified timeframe, and others simply ask customers whether or not their issue has been solved.
But make no mistake: first call resolution offers critical insight into the broader customer service experience. High FCR typically means your team is savvy at understanding issues, solving problems and setting customer expectations. Low FCR likely indicates gaps in training and systems—and frustrated customers.
Why Is First Call Resolution Important?
FCR generates powerful ripple effects across other critical call center metrics. Most importantly, it boosts customer retention, efficiency, and growth, all while reducing operating costs and improving the customer experience.
First call resolution is an important metric to track because it:
1. Retains customers
Making life easier for customers pays off. According to the Harvard Business Review, reducing the number of problem-solving steps customers need to take increases customer satisfaction, loyalty, and repeat business.
Not surprisingly, 95% of customers who get their inquiry resolved within the first call will keep doing business with a company; for those unlucky enough to have to call back a second time, 23% express their intention to quit.
2. Boosts efficiency and cuts costs
Calling back a second (or third) time isn’t just annoying for customers. It’s also tough on contact center employees, who are more likely to be faced with repeat callers who are agitated or impatient. It’s inefficient and costly, too: repeat calls make up 23% of call center operating budgets.
With a high FCR, agents spend less time revisiting unresolved cases and more effort on high-value interactions.
3. Speeds up growth
As companies scale, the increase in support volume can overwhelm call center agents. But by improving first call resolution rates, support teams can do more with less: high FCR enables business growth without expanding staff.
High FCR can also increase customer lifetime value, since customers whose issues are resolved within the first call show a 20% increase in acceptance of cross-selling offers.
4. Improves CX
Customers value their time. Even longtime, satisfied customers may quit after just one bad support interaction. But effectively resolving issues makes customers feel valued, and it may even turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Resolving customers’ problems within the first call makes them more satisfied: each 1% improvement in FCR produces a 1% bump in customer satisfaction scores (CSAT).
How To Measure First Call Resolution Rates
You can’t expect to improve FCR without first measuring it. Fortunately, the FCR formula itself is simple enough:
First Call Resolution Rate = Number of contacts resolved on first interaction / Total number of contacts.
The goal, of course, is to continually improve this rate over time. But measuring FCR rates is a challenge, not least because it’s at least somewhat subjective: only customers can say with certainty whether they felt resolution was achieved.
Most companies use one or more of the following methods to measure FCR:
- Ask customers if they feel their issue was resolved: At the end of the call, agents can ask customers if their issue was resolved. The challenge here? Agents may avoid asking this question if they know the issue wasn’t resolved. Meanwhile, customers may choose the path of least resistance (saying “Yes, it’s resolved”) since by this point, they’re ready to get off the phone rather than taking the time to be candid.
- Use surveys: Surveys tend to generate more candid responses, though the response rate will be much less than the response rate to in-call questions. Send a quick email or text survey to customers after closing a case asking if their issue was fully resolved.
- Look for callbacks about the same thing: This method assumes that if a customer doesn’t call back with the same issue within a specific timeframe (say, 10 days), their case was successfully resolved. This is an easily-implemented method, but it’s not particularly accurate since it’s also possible that the customer may have either given up or found a way to solve the issue on their own.
What Is A Good First Call Resolution Rate?
So what FCR rate target should customer service teams aim for? SQM Group surveyed over 500 call centers and found that 70-79% is considered a good FCR rate. Above 80% is world-class, while call centers with an FCR rate below 70% probably need improvement.
Your expectations should vary based on factors like:
- Complexity of Products and Services: For tech support issues or financial questions, one contact may not be enough for full resolution. Technology companies average a 65% FCR rate, while retail averages 78%.
- Support Channels: Email and messaging allow agents to research issues and follow up asynchronously. Phone calls depend on resolving during the contact.
- Call Routing: Direct routing to the right team boosts first call resolution.
- Average Handle Time: Longer interactions allow more customer issues to be resolved in one go. Quick calls make it harder.
- Self-Service Usage: Heavy usage of FAQs and help sites can deflate FCR rates but improve customer experience.
5 Ways To Improve First Call Resolution Rates
To improve first call resolution rates, start with a focus on these five priorities.
1. Start With Excellent Customer Experiences
The basics of excellent CX go a long way; soft skills and emotional intelligence lay the foundation for boosting first call resolution. But apart from having a pleasant experience, customers care about one thing more than most: speed.
Freshworks analyzed one million customer interactions and found that one pattern that successful customer interactions had in common was brevity: one message from the customer explaining the issue, one message from the agent providing the solution, and a final customer message thanking the agent.
Beyond speed, positive customer experiences are also driven by:
- Setting expectations: Customers appreciate candid time estimates and realistic expectations.
- Personalizing interactions: CRM data can help agents personalize service, easily bring up past customer data, and build rapport.
- Showing empathy: Express understanding for your customers’ situation and needs. Don't rush conversations: let customers fully explain issues before responding.
- Resolve without transfers: While escalation can sometimes be appropriate, in general, agents should take ownership of issues rather than pushing customers elsewhere.
2. Empower Your Team to Resolve Issues
A study by MetricNet found that more training for customer support teams translates into higher FCR rates. And it makes sense: without the right knowledge and tools at hand, agents will struggle to resolve issues on the spot.
Fortunately, training and tools work wonders. Rostelecom, a telecom provider, improved overall FCR by 1.5% by retraining agents on common issues like hardware setup, billing and payment, and connection problems.
Here’s what a plan to empower your team might look like:
- Ongoing training on products, systems and soft skills enables agents to handle more scenarios.
- Access to expert input while troubleshooting, along with searchable knowledge bases and clear documentation, helps agents address unfamiliar issues.
- Customer history via CRM provides insight into ongoing issues and past resolutions.
- Discretion to make exceptions empowers agents to resolve issues creatively based on the circumstances of each conversation.
- Incentives for high FCR rates motivate agents to achieve one-contact resolution.
3. Expand Self-Service Options
When customers encounter an issue, most don’t call customer service right away. Instead, according to Harvard Business Review, 81% of customers try to solve issues on their own before reaching out.
You can help customers resolve issues themselves with strategies like:
- Knowledge bases with articles, videos, and tutorials.
- Conversational bots onsite and in messaging apps.
- Forums and communities for crowd-sourced questions and solutions.
- Interactive tools for customers to check order status or calculate options themselves.
OneCard, a fintech firm, was able to boost first contact resolution by 12% using a combination of knowledge base improvements and agent training.
That said, it’s actually common for expanded self-service to lower your FCR rate. As customers use self-service to tackle quick-to-resolve issues, your support team is increasingly left with complex inquiries that are more likely to require multiple calls.
But don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Remember: because effective self-service means higher customer satisfaction rates, it’s good for customers and for your business.
4. Use Technology and Automation
For businesses that are still using legacy call center software, the productivity gains from switching to new technology can be immense: CEQUENS, a Communication Platform as a Service provider, increased first contact resolution from 29% to 70% by modernizing its help desk software and upgrading self-service options.
Call center technology and automation opportunities include:
- CRM: Customer Relationship Management tools provide customer history and context right in the agent console.
- Knowledge management: Puts the resources agents need right at their fingertips, connecting them to documented solutions and subject matter experts.
- Support portals: Allows agents to troubleshoot more effectively by screen sharing.
- Automated ticket routing: Connects customers to the agent best-suited to address their specific issue and achieve one-touch resolution.
- Speech analytics: Advanced analytics software can detect gaps in agent knowledge, helping businesses understand what training is needed.
- AI-generated suggestions: Machine learning can use context to recommend suggestions to agents, improving FCR.
5. Address the Root Cause
To get to the root cause of low first call resolution rates, dig into the data and talk to your team. Start by letting the numbers tell the story. When you see FCR dipping, segment your data to reveal what's driving it. Product complaints? Inadequate training? Outdated policies? Then, get anecdotal data by talking to your agents to find out the types of issues that seem to always require escalation or transfer.
To complete your root cause analysis:
- Evaluate resolution rates by channel and support department.
- Check whether some agents have much higher resolution rates than others.
- Look at FCR by time of day. Are resolutions lower when call volumes surge? How can staffing or systems be adjusted?
- Listen to call recordings to identify what's not working in live interactions.
- Review key performance indicators like average handle time, CSAT, repeat contacts, escalations and self-service usage to spot trends.
With a better understanding of root cause dynamics, you can improve FCR by adjusting your training, improving knowledge resources, reallocating staffing, and streamlining processes.
Avoiding Potential FCR Pitfalls
So far in this guide, I’ve been unabashedly pro-FCR. But to implement this metric effectively, you need to be aware of its potential pitfalls.
An overemphasis on efficiency metrics like FCR can have unintended consequences. Agents may rush interactions, prematurely closing cases to inflate resolution rates. Equally concerning, incentives rewarding FCR could prompt agents to falsely report issues as resolved, when in reality, they require escalation.
Avoid these potential traps:
- Closing out issues that should be escalated.
- Following rigid workflows instead of listening empathetically and solving creatively.
- Customers pushed through SOPs instead of personalized service.
- Having a bias for quick fixes rather than root cause analysis.
- Not taking extra time needed for complex resolutions.
Keep an eye out, too, for any signs that your high FCR rate might be due to dysfunction rather than efficient service. In some cases, high FCR rates can be caused by an abundance of customers calling with easy-to-solve issues because your documentation and self service systems are inadequate.
The Impact Of AI On First Call Resolution
By automating simpler queries and empowering human agents, AI is transforming the customer experience and changing the way customer support is conducted.
AI affects first call resolution in three main ways:
- Automating self-service with virtual agents: Chatbots and voice-based conversational AI can handle millions of routine customer queries. This deflects simple questions away from human agents so they can focus on solving more complex issues.
- Augmenting human agents with AI: Agents are empowered with AI-generated recommendations, customer history summaries, and predictive call routing to resolve issues quicker. AI gives agents the right context and solutions for each customer interaction.
- Analyzing interactions: Speech recognition and sentiment analysis tools and speech recognition extract insights from customer interactions. This allows companies to detect pain points and adapt approaches in real-time to improve resolution rates.
AI tools that interact directly with customers, like chatbots, may increase FCR by leaving only the most complex inquiries for human agents to address. Meanwhile, tools that support agents typically increase FCR by giving reps quicker access to the best solutions for each issue.
Higher FCR Rates, Happier Customers
FCR is one of the most important metrics for customer experience, and it’s a powerful force for good—as long as you balance your focus on resolution rates with consistently high-quality customer interactions. Avoid pitfalls like rushed service and incentives that encourage agents to falsely close cases.
By combining empathy, knowledge, and AI-enabled insights, you can resolve more issues the first time while delivering satisfying experiences. The result? Happier customers, lower costs, and agents empowered to handle complex issues for years to come.
For more on customer service KPIs, check out our article on the top customer service metrics to track. And to send CX knowledge straight to your email inbox, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll get our latest CX leadership tips, marketing strategies, insights, and industry trends.