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Customer Service

Reducing and Managing Escalations

Escalation - or asking to speak to a rep's supervisor - doesn't always mean the customer will end up dissatisfied; there are three things managers can do to decrease escalations and handle those that occur

Escalator Escalating Customer ComplaintsEvery rep is familiar with the dreaded phrase, “I want to speak with your supervisor!”, and many frustrated customers aren’t shy to use escalation as a way to get attention and possibly faster resolution.

Escalation is stressful for reps, managers, and customers, and it also minimizes reps’ ownership over service issues.

Escalation isn’t a death knell for customer satisfaction, however, and there are things that contact center leaders can do to decrease escalations and manage those that occur. CEB research has identified broad steps you can take to minimize escalations, as well as process-related changes that can help reps handle escalated calls.

  1. Create a low-escalation environment: Our research has found that a network judgment environment (for CEB Customer Contact members) in your contact center enables reps to exercise their judgment in a low-risk manner that improves customer outcomes. Through peer information-sharing and judgment skill development, reps are able to provide customers with superior issue resolution and experiences, and thus escalations are less likely to occur.

    Additionally, building opportunities for peer support can help pre-empt escalations by increasing frontline reps’ knowledge of how to handle complicated issues. One member did this by changing the organization of their teams so tier 1 reps were supported by higher-up tier 2 reps. While this may seem like a small change, this member saw a 90% improvement in same-day case closure one year after implementation.

  2. Clarify how reps should handle escalations: To standardize the protocol for escalations and ensure that neither too many nor too few calls are escalated, consider creating a set of guidelines or a decision tree for reps to use to determine when to escalate. After developing an escalation decision matrix for reps, one CEB Customer Contact member saw a reduction in both escalations and the number of reps necessary to handle calls.

  3. Effectively evaluate reps who handle escalations: Reps who handle escalated calls are often in firefighting mode and have to focus on both pacifying the customer and resolving the customer’s issue. Appropriately evaluating these reps often requires deemphasizing average handle time and placing greater value on the rep’s ability to handle a difficult customer.

    This question posted on our Talent Management Forum addresses how different companies consider escalation rep performance.

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