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12 Calls Later, My Customer Service Issue Remains Unresolved

These three businesses have a lot to learn about first-call resolution.

“We are sorry you are experiencing a problem. Goodbye.”

That’s the automated response I got when I tried to pay a medical bill by calling the toll-free number on the statement. Earlier in the call, an automated voice asked for my phone number, then responded with, “We do not show an account with that number. Please try another number.”

But the automated system didn’t recognize that number, either. So, in other words, I was on my own. Maybe it was my turn to say goodbye to poor customer service.

If this hadn’t been the 12th call I’d made to three different sources — my health insurance provider, the hospital billing office and a radiology provider billing for yet one more cost related to an ER visit three months earlier — I might not have minded the abrupt halt to this failed attempt at customer service.

After all, I was able to quickly pay the bill on the radiology clinic’s website.

But when you add that call to numerous other calls I’d already made to the hospital billing department and my health insurer over wrongly coded or denied claims, the whole thing just came to a boiling point. In one case, the health system sent a claim to my old, terminated health insurance while sending another claim to the new insurer.

By this point, I was highly frustrated, vowing to change insurers next fall during open enrollment and do my best to stay away from this hospital system’s providers.

If even one call had produced a satisfactory resolution to my billing and claims issues, I would have felt that time spent on the phone was productive. I would have felt valued and respected as a customer. Instead, I got the runaround. When one customer service rep at my health insurance company promised to look into the matter and call me back that day, I was relieved.

At last, we were getting somewhere. But that was two weeks ago, and I’m still waiting.

First-call resolution: Why it matters

All of these companies would likely benefit from tracking their first-call resolution (FCR) metric. First-call resolution is the term that refers to a call center’s ability to handle and resolve the customer’s call — on the first call.

For example, the agent might call the appropriate department while the customer holds or include the customer on a three-way call. Maybe the agent promises to check into the issue and call the customer back so they don’t have to call the call center again.

The point of FCR is to keep customers, including those who are already frustrated, from having to call back repeatedly about the same issues.

“FCR not only helps gauge customer satisfaction – the higher your first-call resolution rate, the more satisfied your customers tend to be – and, as a result, drive customer loyalty, but also measures your agents’ efficiency and, ultimately, acts as an important factor in contact center profitability,” according to customer service software provider CallMiner.

High FCR rates, combined with short talk time, is a common contact center goal, says CallMiner, which recommends calculating FCR for each support channel offered by your brand.

“If your email support has a higher FCR than live chat, for example, this signals that your team is better at providing satisfactory and comprehensive resolutions on this channel,” says CallMiner. “You can then use this insight to structure your team and focus on the most efficient channels.

“Beyond that, you can use FCR to establish clear-cut goals for your team…Once you’ve calculated the FCR, you can use it as a benchmark of your current performance and use that benchmark to determine a reasonable goal for your team.”

It’s too late for my health insurer and this particular health system to redeem themselves with me, since I’ve had to call on more than once on nearly every bill I’ve received with both.

They’ve both lost my business because neither seems to understand how much first-call resolution improves the customer experience.