I consider First Contact Resolution (FCR) the “magic metric” for call centers, because it has impact on both quality and costs. Thus, when you take steps to improve it, you add value to your enterprise, both in terms of loyalty and bottom line.

Most managers concentrate on the quality side of FCR, and for good reason. Our statistical studies show that FCR correlates with customer satisfaction. This is very easy to understand; we know intuitively that customers are happier when they can resolve their issue with their first contact.

Often ignored, however, is the impact on contact center economics. Relatively few managers do the math to understand how improving their FCR can help the bottom line, and help them justify needed investments. While an in-depth analysis of FCR at a particular center requires specific investigation, the following is a short primer for inbound customer service/tech support centers that will help you to begin wrapping your mind around this issue.

First contact resolution relates to all of your channels, of course, and you will need to calculate FCR financial impacts for each. For illustrative purposes, let’s take the phone channel, which is still, by far, the most important.

To begin, calculate your average cost per call. As an initial cut, simply take your entire budget (include all direct costs) and multiply by the percent of time agents spend in the voice channel. This will give you the amount of budget absorbed by voice channel service. Take the result and divide by the number of calls taken. Let’s say the cost that results from this calculation is $8.00 per call.

Benchmark your FCR against that of your industry. If your first call resolution is 65% and your industry’s average is 75%, then you know your window of opportunity for improvement is, at least, 10%, just to be on par with the average for your industry.

Next, determine how many calls, on average, are needed to resolve issues that are not resolved on that first call. Our studies indicate that 1.5 is a reasonable estimate.

Pulling things together, here is a sample situation:

A center handling 1 million calls per year with a First Call Resolution rate that is 10% below industry average is overspending on calls as follows:

  • 1,000,000 – calls per year
  • 10% - below industry average FCR
  • = 100,000 – calls unresolved the first time
  • 5x – multiplier (1.5 additional calls needed to resolve the issue)
  • 150,000 – extra calls per year
  • $8.00 – cost per call
  • = $1,200,000 – potential excess costs for the center

This is a powerful starting point for discussions about how to fix the problem. It also can become a numerator for calculations of ROI. Let’s say, for example, that your analysis indicates that an agent desktop Knowledge Management upgrade could eliminate the 10% negative gap. If that upgrade costs $400,000, the ROI on the investment would pencil out at 300% ($1,200,000 / $400,000). Similar calculations could be made for investments in call center training, call center technology, or process initiatives that will improve FCR. These will help convince your CFO that granting your investment requests will positively impact shareholder value. (Note of practical advice: You may want to cultivate a friend over in the bean counter department to work with you in this exercise). 

Analytical calculations of this type are very important elements for inbound call centers, which are the focus of this particular article. Naturally, other departments, and centers of other types (sales, collections, etc.), will love improved FCR for other financial reasons that I will discuss in a future article. Do the math, then let the numbers do the talking. You will improve the economic outlook for your center while getting approval for the things you need to build a world-class call center.

“Contact Center Economics 101” articles are written by Bruce Belfiore (Harvard MBA) to spotlight practical opportunities for financial improvement of contact center operations. This article is updated and refreshed from one he published in 2014.

If you are interested in discussing how to launch an FCR improvement initiative of the sort indicated above, contact Bruce at

Topics: Contact Center Articles, Contact Center Economics 101, First Call Resolution