The First Call Should Do it All

“Just put me through to someone who can solve my problem!” I was done–totally fed up with the lack of customer service I was receiving.

This happened to me not once, but twice in recent memory: The first time with my local cable/phone provider, and the second with a major travel company. Both experiences left me frustrated, completely spent, and vowing to never, ever, do business with them again.

Perhaps I was being somewhat unreasonable; well, at least after the fourth or fifth call to each. Every time I had to explain the problem to the phone rep all over again, as if I had never spoken to this company before.

I would try to interrupt this well rehearsed script by saying “I’ve called several times before, so just look in the notes.” Each time, the rep just kept plodding along, following the script, completely oblivious to my interruptions and my frustration: “Mr. Holody, I just need to verify some information…okay, now, ‘how can I help you?’”

Thinking I could make this person’s life easier, I cleverly said, “May I speak to a supervisor?” Well, that was clearly taken as an insult by this rep as if they were not capable of solving my problem. (They weren’t.)

Ultimately, after literally 14 calls to the cable provider and eight calls to the travel company (not to mention several e-mails and at least two registered letters), I actually got the problems solved with each company.

Ever so confident that this would NEVER occur in my contact center, I sat down with my group and asked how we could we make sure this does not happen to our customers. I also wanted to know what our first-call resolution rate was and how we measure this metric.

It’s important to note that we all want first-call resolution, but we need to be sure we have an accurate measurement. Here’s what we at Seta Corp. have implemented:

➢ How to track: Total number of calls, less the calls requiring escalation = the number of calls answered on the first call. Divide by total calls to get the percentage of calls resolved on the first call.
➢ Here are our fourth-quarter numbers:
83,386 total calls less 5,818 calls that were escalated = 77,568 calls with first-call resolution. 77,568 divided by 83,386 = 93.02% first-call resolution.

Now that we have this measurement in place, we will monitor this metric on an ongoing basis, continuously looking to raise the percentage of first-call resolution.

We also need to identify the reason calls need to be escalated. For example, give the first-line reps an appropriate level of authority to deal with customers. Our reps have been empowered to give the customer up to \$25 in money back or \$50 in merchandise just to resolve any customer situation/complaint.

The key to the successful implementation of this level of authority is to make sure the rep ASKS the customer what they want to resolve the problem. The sooner this is identified in the call, the sooner the rep knows if they have the authority–or not–to resolve the issue. If it is beyond the rep’s level of authority, the sooner the call gets escalated, the better for the customer, the rep, and the company.

Next time, we’ll look at the other side of first-call resolution: limiting the number of calls to or from a customer it will take to resolve any problem or issue.

Timothy J. Holody (timh@setacoproration.com) is s chief operating officer of Seta Corp./Palm Beach Jewelry, a multichannel merchant based in Boca Raton, FL.

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