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What is first call resolution and how can you improve it?

14 min read
What is first call resolution and why is it critical for business growth? Read our full guide to this contact center metric, how to improve it and tips for creating a customer-centric approach to resolving calls.

What is First Call Resolution (FCR)?

The first call resolution (FCR) or first contact resolution metric is a contact center measure that gauges how many customer calls or contacts are resolved on the first interaction. Ideally, customers only have to get in touch once to solve a problem or answer a query – any more than that and your cost to serve increases.

It’s a great way of measuring how efficient your contact center is, and for tracking your agents’ efficacy at customer relationship management. It’s no wonder it’s considered one of the key call center metrics to monitor.

First call resolution is measured with a calculation of your first call resolution rate. First call resolution is the action of resolving a query on the first interaction with a customer; a first contact resolution rate is the percentage of customers who experienced first call resolution.

What’s the difference between call resolution and first call resolution (FCR)?

Call resolution measures the number of customer inquiries or support requests that are resolved in general. First call resolution is a more in-depth measurement that can help you to understand multiple facets of your contact center, from customer satisfaction to your customer service team’s skills.

Free eBook: 2023 Global Contact Center Trends Report

Why is a good first call resolution rate vital for business success?

Why FCR is the most important call center metric

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 FCR = Resolved incidents on first contact / total incidents * 100

It protects your bottom line

The SQM Group’s 2021 research has found that for each 1% improvement in first call resolution rate, the operating costs for your contact center reduce by 1%. By investing in the tools needed for great first contact resolution – technological support, agent support and training etc. – you are directly investing in protection for your profit margins.

It increases customer satisfaction

Similarly, for that same 1% rise in first call resolution, there is a 1% increase in customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is key for business success for many reasons: it can reduce your cost of serving customers by 20%, and increase revenue by 15%. Not only that, but when you have high customer satisfaction, you’re more likely to retain customers.

It can also help to raise your Net Promoter Score (NPS), or the likelihood that a customer will recommend your business to others. By aiming to resolve customer inquiries on the first call, you’re able to increase the likelihood of new customers being acquired through referrals.

It improves customer experience (and generates revenue)

Providing quick solutions to customer inquiries can transform a negative customer experience into a positive one. Resolving a customer’s issue can be the difference between at-risk customers staying or leaving, making it a vital part of the customer retention process.

Not only that, but It’s important for business revenue generation to provide a good customer experience: customers who think an experience was 5/5 stars are more than twice as likely to buy again, with 80% of satisfied consumers spending more.

It provides a better experience for your customer service team

Tracking first contact resolution rates and addressing issues can help to provide a better employee experience. You can pinpoint if factors contributing to your first call resolution rate are a lack of training, support, staff members or more, and help your team to thrive rather than struggle. With turnover rates often high in call or contact center environments, it makes good business sense to provide support to employees with helpful insights and action.

How to measure first call resolution

The first call resolution (FCR) formula

To work out the percentage rate of first contact resolution, you need the number of interactions that resolved a customer query on the first contact, divided by the total number of interactions you’ve had. Multiply this by 100, and you have your first call resolution rate.

What’s a good first contact resolution rate?

Here are some first contact resolution rate benchmark examples:

FCR industry benchmarks

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The SQM group’s 2021 research found that the retail industry has the best performance for first call resolution, standing at 78%. The healthcare industry (specifically health insurance) follows closely behind at a 72% first call resolution rate. Tech support (65%) and telco (61%) have the lowest first call resolution rates listed.

Using a post-call survey method, the SQM group estimates that an average call center has a first call resolution rate of about 70% – 79%. This means that 21 – 30% of customers have to make repeat calls to resolve their issue or query.

They have also found that calls that deal with complaints are the hardest to resolve with one call, standing at a first call resolution rate of 47%.

However, given that a tech support issue might be simple and a healthcare or health insurance call might concern a complicated problem, it’s important to note that call complexity might not have as large of an impact on first call resolution that you might think.

How to improve your first call resolution rate

To improve first-call resolutions rates, first you’ll need to pinpoint why customers are calling more than once.

Figuring out why first call resolution rates are low will require an understanding of where the contact experience has failed. For example, multiple calls might have been caused by:

  • The type of call made (complaint, account admin etc.) and complexity of the query
  • A product or service issue that’s too complex for one call to resolve, or that happens more than once
  • A technological problem, such as calls dropping
  • Transferral to the wrong department or an unavailable person
  • Long hold times
  • An issue with your customer service team members, such as not being able to resolve inquiries, either due to lack of knowledge, lack of access to information, or lack of authority to fix the problem

The following best practices for first call resolution will help to narrow down potential factors affecting first call resolution and provide suggestions for fixing them.

Gather continuous data and break down information silos

To help you understand where the customer journey or experience is failing, you’ll need as much data as possible. The more information you can gather on your call quality, customer experiences and technological capabilities, the easier it will be to understand why customers are calling more than once.

Often, businesses can suffer from silos, where information is kept corralled within different departments. For example, quality assurance for your frontline agents and the product development team might be handled by entirely different management. This means that key information might be withheld from teams that could benefit from this information, such as  – such as product issues being withheld from the support team.

You should try:

  • Using a platform that can bring all your data together for a holistic view on your customer experiences, giving you insights into how to improve first call rate factors
  • Appointing a customer experience team to take on the responsibility of evaluating all aspects that might impact customer journeys and cause repeat calls

Tackle the underlying reasons for customer calls

To ensure that you’re able to head off issues and queries and reduce the total calls made, you first need to understand how customers have arrived at the decision to call. Whether it’s a product failing or a customer service issue, pinpointing contact drivers that lead to calls can be helpful for preventing further calls on the same issue.

You can try:

  • Mapping the customer journey and discover which experiences might be leading to customer’s repeat calls
  • Using an interactive voice response (IVR) system to filter calls and refer customers to the appropriate resources on the customer journey
  • Keeping records on common customer issues and training your support staff to ensure they have the answers they need

Provide multiple avenues for resolution

Rather than relying on calls specifically to resolve issues and queries, it’s best to provide multiple avenues for customers to find their answers. Maximizing your support team’s time for complex calls helps you to improve customer satisfaction, with customers able to solve minor or simple queries themselves.

You can try:

  • Creating a self-service customer service portal or hub with FAQs
  • Using live chat, social media messaging and other communication channels to meet customers where they are and reduce the need for calls

Empower your customer service support team

Your frontline support team are often the only source of a back-and-forth interaction with your brand that your customers will have, making them a vital factor in your first call resolution rate. Empowering your team to have all the information, training and the technological support they need can often help to improve your first call resolution rate dramatically.

It can also be helpful to crystallize your company policy on escalations, and which issues need to be handled by higher authorities. Rather than leaving your support department unsure of protocols and what they should try handling, decide on priorities from a management level down to make their jobs easier.

It also goes without saying that you can easily cut down on long wait times by hiring enough staff for your supporting team. Without enough staff, it’s likely customers will have to call back to have their issue heard.

You should try:

  • Ensuring that product and issue resolution training is in-depth and accurate, particularly after product updates, to help provide the best experience to customers
  • Providing agents with live insights to help them tackle issues, such as detailed customer information and readings on emotion, intent, sentiment and more

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3 proven tips for improving first call resolution

1.   Focus on customer experience

The ideal customer interaction should be a smooth experience, and low on customer effort. If your customers are finding it hard to find information, get in touch or be understood by your agents, chances are that they won’t come back for another experience. Our research has found that organizations risk 6.7% of their revenue, or $3.1 trillion, when customers are lost due to bad experiences such as poor customer service.

By focusing on customer experience as a key factor for first call resolution, you’re able to circumvent issues that might contribute to multiple calls, such as long hold times or lack of agent knowledge.

You can try:

  • Send post-call open text questions in surveys to your customers to understand what they valued and didn’t value about their interaction in their own voice
  • Track metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer effort score (CES) and more to understand where experiences are stronger and weaker

2.   Introduce empathy

In our research, we’ve found that while long wait times do impact the experience during customer interactions, it’s not necessarily the deciding factor in what makes a customer happy. We found that only 2.7% of consumers valued low wait times, while 6.2% said helpful agents made them happy and 5.2% said agent empathy made a difference. Empathy, in this case, can be as simple as support agents repeating the issue in a summarized way back to customers to ensure they’ve understood, or apologizing for negative experiences.

First call resolution is important – but it’s also vital to ensure customers feel they can reach out to you when they have a problem, rather than feeling dissuaded by your support team. Chances are, they won’t come back if they weren’t happy – and each of their phone calls is an opportunity to keep them on board.

You can try:

  • Ensuring that showing empathy is at the core of the agent training and hiring processes
  • Creating scripts for call center support agents to follow to help them demonstrate empathy on first contact, as well as live insights on customer emotion

3.   Close the loop

A customer experience doesn’t begin with a customer service call – and it doesn’t end there, either. Closing the loop after a call can help to reduce further calls by providing further information, directing customers to other resources or flagging that their concerns have been addressed.

You can try:

  • Notifying your customers through marketing when you’ve resolved common issues or specific issues they’ve flagged
  • Automating follow up emails and messaging to ensure customers have all the further help they need for the enquiry

Improve your first call resolution rate with Qualtrics

The first contact resolution rate formula is a simple method of measuring first call resolution. However, there are other ways to monitor your agents’ performance, customer satisfaction and more.

Get a more holistic view of what’s happening when customers reach out with XM for Customer Frontlines from Qualtrics. Receive continual customer feedback on your brand experiences and help your team close loops effortlessly. Deliver in-conversation, AI-driven insights to your customer service team to ensure that the first call is the only one customers need to make to get their issue solved.

You can also integrate multiple systems within contact center software to ensure the entire customer journey works seamlessly together. Tackle customer drivers at their source and reduce repeat calls easily.

Qualtrics integrations


Free eBook: 2023 Global Contact Center Trends Report