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Tools For First Call Resolution--Making Contact Centers More Efficient And Responsive

This article first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Business Communications Review magazine.

When you call a toll-free number to order clothing, get help with your computer, or book a plane flight, you want the call to be quick and conclusive. You want the operators or agents who handle your call to accept your order, answer your question or make your reservation before you hang up. In the contact center world, that’s known as first call resolution, and the companies that you call want it, too. If a call takes too long or leaves your issue unresolved, the company’s costs go up and it may lose you as a customer.

Nonetheless, first call resolution is a challenge for many contact centers. According to a June 2007 study of U.S. callers by the CFI Group, customer satisfaction with contact centers is crucial to customer loyalty, positive word of mouth and return on investment. Yet almost a fifth of all callers hang up with their issues unresolved. And of those, 68 percent are at risk of defection. What’s a contact center manager to do?

A Diverse Tool Kit

The dream solution is a virtual agent—a piece of
software that eavesdrops on calls, understands the
dialogue between callers and “real” agents, and
retrieves the right information automatically.
Using that information, the virtual agent directs
the real agent so that the customer’s needs are met
quickly and correctly.

Parts of the virtual agent—basic speech recognition,
for example—work today. However, “A
complete virtual or ‘cyber’ agent is perennially
three to five years out,” according to Jon Silverman,
chief technical officer at contact center vendor
Calabrio Software. “But there are a number of
other tools and measures available to help call
centers improve their performance.”

This diverse toolkit includes interactive voice
response (IVR), knowledge management systems,
agent scripting, presence and instant messaging,
real-time speech analytics, and training and policy
(see Figure below). Contact centers can apply these
tools individually or in concert, depending on the
type of process improvement that they seek. For
example, agent scripting can be used standalone
to guide outgoing sales calls, or it can front-end a
knowledge management system for improved
response to incoming support questions.