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Monday, November 10, 2008

First Contact Resolution Catches Up With “Customer UC”

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

The search for enterprise benefits from UC capabilities always seems to revolve around improving business results and that usually means communicating more effectively and efficiently with customers.

When real-time customer service was primarily focused on telephone call centers, a key enterprise challenge for customer satisfaction was to minimize caller wait time for live assistance. Although telephone self-service applications can be used to minimize such demand, there are always situations where live assistance is still needed to supplement the limitations of the telephone user interface (TUI) to efficiently satisfy caller information needs.

Even with fast access to live assistance from a call center “agent,” the need for particular expertise cannot always be provided because it is impossible to train all agents to know everything. As a result, agents would have to either try to find an “expert” to assist in providing necessary information during the same call, or require follow up calls to resolve the caller’s problem. This consideration led to a key metric for customer satisfaction, “First Call Resolution” (FCR), based on getting other personnel quickly involved in satisfying all the caller’s needs during a single call.

“Different Strokes For Different Folks”

Now that customers can easily access information on the Web without necessarily talking to a live person, the name of the FCR game is shifting from voice-only telephone contacts to multimodal contacts. In particular, live assistance can be invoked more flexibly, contextually, and selectively by customers than by manually initiating a phone call.

With online search via Web browsers becoming the primary source of information access “on demand,” customer assistance is shifting away from ad hoc phone calls to contextual online contacts for customer. The latter includes:

· “Click –to-email”

· “Click-to-chat”

· “Click-to-call”

Not only can this be done at a desktop PC or portable laptop, but with the growing consumer adoption of personal “smart-phones,” multimodal customer contacts for both information access and live assistance will be the new order of the day for enterprise customer support. Now “First Call Resolution” will really be only one flavor of “First Contact Resolution.”

New Metrics For “First Contact Resolution” Through UC

A new market study by long-time voice expert, Walt Teschner, who now runs the GetHuman website, confirms intuitively obvious metrics for customer contact responsiveness beyond phone calls. Sponsored by Fuze Digital Solutions, almost one thousand consumers in different age groups, gave their opinion about what would be acceptable responsiveness to the different forms of customer-initiated contact with a business.

Although, older people are a bit more demanding, there was not much difference in service level expectations between the different age groups. However, a key concern for all consumers is to know what to expect before they try to make contact for assistance.

Response expectations averaged the following:

Email - 4 business hours

Text chat - 10-70 seconds

Traditional telephone callers expect a call to be picked up within three rings by a person, but with most call center systems there are other time delays before reaching live assistance, including preliminary call screening via an IVR interface, then waiting in queue for an available agent.

However, the study did not get into the issue of fully completing the customer contact, i.e., the “resolution” of the caller’s reason for calling. Apparently, that is not as much of a problem to a caller as it is to contact center management who worry about agent performance (call“ handle time”) and staffing requirements. Obviously, if the caller doesn’t get the results they want, they will be still be extremely “dissatisfied,” no matter how quickly they are serviced.

As new UC capabilities become available to customers, both online at the desktop and with mobile “smart-phones,” initiating contact via email, chat or telephone will not limit interaction with live assistance to those modes of interaction. Email contacts can be escalated to online chat or voice conversations and it is those forms of interactions that could make the difference for a satisfying “customer experience,” not just how long it takes to establish contact with live assistance.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.