Email Channel Best Practices for Improving OCR and FCR

Author: Mike Desmarais, CEO & Founder, SQM Group

csr training, contact center awardsThe email channel is the second oldest of all contact channels used by organizations, only the phone channel has been used longer. The email channel has the fourth highest contact volume of all contact channels used by SQM’s client base. The email channel is still highly used for handling high-complexity inquiries and problems such as claims, technical issues, billing, and complaints. Our benchmarking results show that the email channel makes up 10% of total contact channel volume. Email FCR is 51% and OCR is 35%, which is by far the lowest performing of all the core contact channels that customers use to resolve an inquiry or problem. Organizations should strive for a 60% OCR level on their email channel. This means 65% of customers are not able to resolve their inquiry or problem on the first contact. Clearly, for most customers who used the email channel, much effort was required to resolve their inquiry or problem. However, when the customer experienced OCR for the email channel, very low effort required to resolve their inquiry was 23% higher than non-OCR calls.

The email channel never reached its expected potential for contact volume. The main reasons for low contact volume are poor service levels, customers find written communication more difficult than verbal communication, and the inability for customers to resolve their inquiry or problem when using the email channel. These three customer service issues still exist today in many contact centers.

The rise of mobile devices allows customers to email organizations anytime and from anywhere, which means email contact volume has the potential to increase with the improvement of OCR. Retail, technology, and telco industries have the highest email contact volume. In addition, smaller contact centers have significantly higher email contact volume than larger contact centers. The main reason why smaller contact centers have substantially higher email contact volume is that, in many cases, they do not offer self-service, chat, or phone contact channels, or they encourage their customers to use the email channel.

Just because an organization builds a contact channel (e.g., email channel) does not ensure that customers will use that channel. Clearly, when the email channel was first introduced to the contact center industry, it did not gain in popularity with customers and did not achieve the original expectation of being the most used contact channel. Most organizations do not measure email channel VoC Csat, FCR, and OCR performance. SQM’s research shows that the email channel has the lowest OCR of all the core contact channels and yet has been measured the least for VoC metrics out of all the core contact channels. It is SQM’s opinion that if the email channel had higher OCR and required less effort for resolution, it would have higher customer acceptance as a contact channel to use for resolving an inquiry or problem and, in turn, have substantially higher contact volume. The key message is that for a contact channel to be successful in terms of usage, including the email channel, it must be measured from the customer’s point of view and achieve at least 70% FCR performance level.

More details can be found in SQM’s book:
First Contact Resolution

One Contact Resolution

Research and Best Practices from Award Winning Contact Centers

Available here