In general, a call is escalated mainly because of two reasons. The first is that the issue is so complex that the agent is unable to handle it due to lack of knowledge and resources. The second situation is when the call goes totally out of control from the agent's hands, due to a number of reasons, and the customer demands to speak to a supervisor or a manager. While it's impossible to eliminate escalation calls from happening in your call center, you can take measures to reduce the number.
Handling an Irate Customer
It is usually an angry or an irate customer who will ask for a manager or a supervisor to escalate the call. The following techniques can help to calm the customer, and resolve the issue without getting the call escalated.
- Listen – You will be able to determine whether a customer is angry within the first few seconds of a call. If the customer is angry, then it is better to just listen to them, before trying to defuse the situation. Let the customer vent their frustration on the call. During this time, try to understand the customer's issue, and make a note of it. Keeping a note will help you to troubleshoot efficiently and effectively when it's time, as well as to keep your focus. Most of the customers will calm down after venting their frustration on the call, and maybe even apologize to you. However, if the customer becomes verbally abusive on the call, follow your company policy on handling abusive customers.
- Remain calm – It is important to stay calm on the call to prevent the call from escalating. Remember that the customer is not angry at you, but at the situation. Do not take it personal. Keep an even tone while speaking to the customer. It is important to empathize with the customer to keep them calm. Offer apologies whenever required. You may use relaxation techniques, like taking deep breaths while the customer is speaking, to keep calm on the call.
- Repeat information – Paraphrase the issue to the customer to make them understand that you have understood the issue. This will show them that you were listening to them. It will help them to get the idea that you are serious about resolving their issue. It will give them a few moments to calm down, and make them work with you to get the issue fixed, rather than asking for a supervisor.
- Avoid putting the customer on hold – Putting an irate customer on hold will only make matters worse. You may think that it will give them time to calm down, but it will not. In fact, they will become furious and directly ask for a supervisor. When you put a customer on hold, you are actually giving them time to work up their imagination, they might think that you put them on hold to badmouth you or you lack the knowledge to handle their situation, and so on. Instead of putting them on hold, tell them what you are doing, like pulling up the records, checking the connection, and so on.
- Make the customer happy – If the issue is something that you can resolve, resolve it immediately. If it's not something that you are trained to handle, then, of course, you will have no choice but to escalate the call. Before ending the call, tell them that you appreciate the fact that they let you handle the issue without escalating it. Doing this will give the customers confident in letting the first-level agents handle their situation before escalating it, in the future.
Determine the root causes
You can make a list of all the escalated calls, and study it for any trends or patterns. Listen to the escalated calls, and check whether the issue was from the customer side or the agent's side that led to the call getting escalated. A lot of agents do a lot of things unknowingly to make the customers angry. Some agents may become flustered upon receiving an angry customer, and directly escalate the call without the customer demanding for the call to be escalated. Some agents will tag the customer as a bad customer as soon as they hear their angry voice, and the call will go nowhere from there, but down.
Identifying the root cause of the escalated calls will help you make changes in the process, to reduce the number of escalated calls in the future. You can make a zero-tolerance policy for badmouthing customers. You can train the agents more on their respective processes so that they will be better equipped to handle the customer. You can educate the agents when to escalate a call. You can even start a project to reduce escalated calls in your call center.
Escalation calls may not necessarily be a death knell for customer satisfaction, however, they are stressful for all the parties involved, the agent, the supervisor or the manager, and the customer as well.