Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar LLC


Whenever I broach the topic of First Call Resolution (FCR) there are two debates that kick off almost right away: first, what is first call (contact in the modern world) resolution? What do we identify as a call? What do we identify as a follow-up call? What timeframes do we use, and what gaps are needed to make sure we are dealing with different calls?

The second issue is why call (or contact) and not interaction; why do we discriminate against any non-service call (or contact) and why don’t we focus on those as well? The function performed in the interactions that are not service-related should matter equally in a world driven by experience continuums.

Both debates have very strong opinions on all sides of them (there are as many definitions of what constitutes a first call as there are organizations tracking the metric).  There are issues of latency, time-spent, time-lapsed, and gap-in-between to address all the different interactions, and there are interactions that are not necessarily customer service-focused that need a quick resolution – so how can we provide an answer to all of them? Is there a better metric?

I think it is fine time we changed the concept and name of FCR to RTFT-R (right-time, first-time resolution). Yes, it is not a TLA (three-letter acronym), but it truly reflects what it is happening in the world today. And it fits very nicely with my ongoing series on how to use knowledge in the near future (which I am currently developing under the sponsorship of Coveo).

As you probably recall from reading the many writings I have done in the past few months about this topic, there is a shift underway in the world of knowledge management. We are moving to a world where knowledge only has value when it is being used, not when it is being prepped to store. As a result of this, the previous stores of knowledge are losing (even more) their power and being replaced by communities, forums, and even subject-matter-experts that are available at the drop of a – well, message to enter the customer interaction, provide their knowledge, and then continue with their day. I first wrote about this in 2002 under the term “secret customer service” – with the caveat that latency was the real killer (if you remember those days, finding the right person and getting an answer from them was not an easy task, it would take too long).

This model of secret customer service is what we are seeing today emerge with the idea of knowledge-in-use. The information exists and can be found in real-time; the use of faster processing, better data management tools and the added complexity of online communities help find the right person, the right information, in the right time – and use it to close an interaction (that is, any call or contact – regardless of business function).  This new model — regardless of where the answer is and can be found and used at the right time — is what is replacing the FCR model.

FCR was an outdated metric, one focused on how well the organization did to serve the customer – but still from the company’s perspective, not from the customers’.  You can easily see this by the debates I mentioned above – what defines a call? What defines closure or resolution? Who gets to define both those parameters? None other than the organization, who is looking to measure something that is supposed to be related to satisfaction and loyalty (measurements of effectiveness) – where in reality continues to measure how well the company performed against the perceived need of the customer – a perennial measurement of efficiency.

As we move from company-centric to a better mode of customer-centricity, and we see the need to evolve to use better metrics, to focus more on the customer needs (solve an issue, right here, right now) and how we can measure the delivery against those metrics – RTFT-R is a metric that makes sense. It answers all the questions surrounding its use: how effective we were, how timely we were, and how efficient we were – all into one metric.

It is time to leave behind the outdated, efficiency-driven, company-centric metrics we use today in favor of effectiveness-focused metrics that will be relied upon to answer questions related to satisfaction, loyalty and effectiveness.

Measuring whether the right time and the right information were used to solve a problem is the first step towards that.

Don’t you think?

About Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.

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  • IMHO, FCR is still a valid metric and it is one that branches from efficiency across to customer effort and ultimately customer satisfaction.

    I am not a fan of over simplified metrics such as NPS, yet I like FCR because it can be a stealth customer experience entry into companies purely focused on efficiencies while ignoring customer experience.

    I don’t disagree with your additional, more granular metrics, but predict that all but the very mature organizations who truly care about customer experience (make that <1% of all organizations in the USA at present) will not put forth the effort to understand them, let alone implement them. This doesn't take away anything from your key point, but I would endorse the post with more fervor if you didn't try to discount the value of FCR. Very few organizations are mature enough to measure FCR today, and we're just now seeing a slight increase over the past few years. Let's not try to confuse the immature by calling it an outdated metric, but instead bolster its adoption, and then point to your recommended metrics as the next logical step.

    And sorry, I completely disagree with your feeling that organizations are moving from a Knowledge-in-Storage to Knowledge-in-Use metric. I've seen increasing movement in the other direction, and as an end consumer, find that curated (online or intra-contact center) knowledgebases are nearly extinct, with a huge movement to search instead. Curated KBases do take into account the number of uses, and content is freshened as the landscape changes. Good luck finding any information on troubleshooting the latest model of using search, it sometimes takes months for that content to percolate up from storage. Though this is out of my core focus on customer experience, I find myself raising it as one of the key problems in every organization we help, and probably is the largest problem we’re seeing across industries for both self-service and contact center aided service. I could be an evangelist for a solid knowledge base vendor, if there are any left!

  • I generally agree with the contents of the post, and would like to make two comments:

    – The definition of “first call” likely changes with the location of the interaction along the complexity / volume line. Least complex situation “first call” would indeed be a first call. In enterprise technology situations, on the other hand, we may need to talk about “first attempt”, where the interaction with the customer may involve a number of diagnostic cycles, multiple individuals and several channels.
    – Measuring knowledge by use is an excellent concept which I fully support. Isn’t it one of the guiding principles for KCS?

  • I like the way Kevin thinks!

    Most people just want to quickly get to high quality answers that are easy to understand, succinct and completely answers their questions. Answers that the responsible brand stands behind. They have little interest in wasting time wading through communities or general search results. New style KBs that blend editorial controls with relevant stakeholder engagement and gamification do serve a valuable purpose and will only grow in usage over time.

    Kevin, I would love to chat. Please feel free to contact me directly.

    Chuck Van Court
    CEO, FuzeDigital
    KBs of the future

  • First off, many apologies for being late to the party –
    been on a road-trip and was not checking here to see comments – but
    thanks much to all for commenting! @Kevin, Don’t take this the
    wrong way, but why on earth will I try to bolster adoption of FCR?
    It IS and outdated metric, what you are saying is the equivalent of
    telling people that “you are too far behind, but will get you setup
    to be only a little behind and then see what happens”. I want them
    to avoid FCR and come to the new world faster. I disagree with your
    statement of how many orgs could do this, there are many that are
    far behind but way ready to take the plunge into the new world – I
    talk to them everyday. They want to bypass a lot of the stuff we
    did/ talked about for the last 10 years and move forward starting
    now. While it involves a lot more work, it is doable if they put in
    the time and effort – so why would I tell them to put in the time
    and effort to do it and still be behind? I wrote last year a post
    advocating for the return to a single-channel of excellence in
    customer service – if somebody where to do that (highly doubtful
    given then current craze to have “every channel conceivable, no
    matter how poorly, supported) then I’d advocate for FCR as a metric
    (since my channel of choice would be the phone – 6 minutes to a
    correct answer versus 8-10 hours on social channels, and 30-200
    minutes on email — and still not sure it is the right answer on
    the latter). Alas, until that makes it an issue – FCR it outdated
    and the discussion of what is a call and gaps between calls to
    consider it closed is a waste of time. The other comment on KIS v
    KIU, I am sorry but my experience is completely different from
    yours – else I would not have written that. I am getting the sense
    that we are talking to different companies altogether – I am more
    in sync with leading edge, early adopters looking for
    differentiation and you are more talking to mainstream to late
    adopters. If that is the case, we shall chat again in 3-5 years and
    we will have a different conversation. An organization I have been
    helping lately had 18,000 entries in their KB – yet only 12 of them
    had been accessed more than once in the past six months. The rest
    of the answers agents used came from SMS, chatting, and even ESN. I
    call that KIU v KIS very simply put. I have many other examples,
    but this one makes it very apparent. Besides, once you move to
    communities populated by SME, the concept of KIS goes away very
    quickly since you are no longer the controller of the storage of
    the knowledge – but that is a different conversation. I think that,
    as I said, we are talking to diff orgs. Thanks for chiming in, not
    trying to convince you or convert you (although I always welcome
    the convert – kidding) but merely present more data to my argument.
    @Haim, Easy part first, absolutely part of KCS and on v5 even more
    important. The point you make about first call v first interaction
    is very interesting, and one that pollutes the metric even more.
    Let’s say the first interaction happens via twitter, takes 6 hours
    to get escalated to email, where it takes 4 days to get resolved
    after 3 back-and-forth (well within averages). You, the customer,
    take 4-5 days more to use the information in your email inbox, then
    notice it does not work (again, well within averages). We are now
    8-10 days away from first interaction – if the customer comes back,
    how do you measure this? I won’t go into the many nuances, but that
    is a very common example of interactions between companies and
    customers in recent times. Even without delaying the use of the
    information, the shift from measuring an interaction with
    @Animal2034 and John Smith is something that most organizations
    still cannot handle today (some of them legally cannot share the
    information from one channel to another). I still advocate for the
    use of multiple triage channels but one for resolution – but that
    is another discussion again. Thanks for chiming in, appreciate the
    read and the comment. @Chuck, Thanks for chiming in – our
    discussions on what is Knowledge and how to use it appropriately go
    back many years, so won’t bring all that in here. Alas, while i see
    your point i also see many organizations realizing that the
    dichotomy between where the knowledge resides and who the knowledge
    is used is widening. Organizations don’t know that much about their
    products and solutions anymore (with few exceptions, but even then
    – customers are gaining power via communities) and they are seeing
    their power (via knowledge ownership) diminishing. This is
    happening everywhere – even in stalwart industries like healthcare
    and FS. this change is not due to legal or compliance or “official”
    information, but it is due to usage of the knowledge and what
    customers consider “knowledge”. this is a significant shift in the
    world of customer service (which, btw and for future discussion,
    does no longer exists as a separate activity from anything else as
    it did until not that long ago) and one that no vendor is yet
    prepared to address. As i said, all these conversations about KIS v
    KIU are not the best use of this space — but i’d be happy to have
    them anytime. The use of FCR though – totally outdated metric, even
    more so in a world where CS is no longer a single action. thanks
    all for the comments, looking forward to more – but likely won’t be
    able to check back here until the weekend. Talk soon, all of

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