How to Handle Escalations in a Contact Center

Contact Center | 4 minute read

We’ve all heard that dreaded phrase before: “I’d like to speak to your supervisor.”

It’s easy to feel nervous after hearing that nobody wants to deal with angry customers! An escalation request also often means that a customer feels dissatisfied with your service, which can feel discouraging.

But, you don’t need to be afraid of escalations. In fact, it’s an opportunity for agents to improve their skills and for a company to learn where they can improve their operations. Call escalations are unavoidable; it’s how you handle them that counts!

Here, we’ll look at how to best handle escalations in a contact or call center to ensure your customer feels satisfied, and to learn more about how you can improve your company’s operations.

What is an escalation in a contact center?

An escalation occurs when a customer wants to speak with a center manager or supervisor. There are many reasons why a customer might wish to escalate, such as:

  • Agent’s lack of experience or training
  • Low operational efficiency
  • Customer dissatisfaction with a product or service

Additionally, not all escalations are requested by the customer. There are some cases where an escalation is necessary for security reasons, or where an agent might initiate an escalation to a support tier that can better assist the customer.

Is escalation the same in both contact centers and call centers?

It’s important to note that escalations can occur differently in call centers and contact centers.

In call centers, an escalation entails call center agents escalating a customer to a manager, or other support tier, over the phone. In a contact center, escalation can happen over the phone as well, but it can entail changing the communication method, such as from phone to email.

Best process for handling call escalations in a call center.

While it might seem appealing to rush through the escalation call and strive for a short handle time, it’s essential to complete all the steps below when handling call escalations.

1. Apologize.

The first step in handling a call escalation is to acknowledge the customer’s dissatisfaction, and apologize. You’ll want to apologize if you’re unable to help them, or simply because they are upset enough to request an escalation.

When you acknowledge someone’s feelings, it encourages connection and helps demonstrate compassion. Most customers will appreciate this, to some extent. And if they don’t, don’t worry. There are other steps in the process that the customer might be more receptive to.

2. Offer a solution (but ONLY if you have one!)

If you’re confident that you can help the customer with their issue, offer your support, and a solution. You might also be able to quickly find a solution in your company’s knowledge base, and de-escalate the call. Sometimes, this is enough for a call resolution.

However, if you cannot help them, move onto the next step. You shouldn’t attempt de-escalation if you aren’t actually equipped with the tools to help an unsatisfied customer.

3. Tell the customer you will escalate their call.

If you know you cannot help the customer, make sure you inform them that you will escalate their call. Delaying escalation, or de-escalating without a proper solution, makes the situation worse. Comfort the customer by letting them know you will be fulfilling their request for escalation.

4. Ask them if they’d prefer a call-back instead of waiting on hold.

It’s just polite. Call-back technology gives the customer flexibility in deciding whether or not they’d like to wait on hold. If your contact center doesn’t have this yet, it’s one of the most efficient, cost-effective ways for improving your customer satisfaction (CSat) score.

5. Inform them about what to expect from the process

Wrap up the call, and give the customer as much information as you reasonably can about what they can expect next.

If you know the center has a 24-hour call back policy, let them know that they can expect a call back within 24 hours. Or, if you know that your manager will call the customer right after lunch, give the customer a more specific time frame.

Escalated calls are inevitable.

Companies can try to satisfy their customers as much as possible, but customer complaints and escalated customer calls are inevitable! The most important parts of a call escalation are how an agent handles customers and the escalated call, and what the agent and company can learn from the call center escalation.

So, what can we gain from call escalations? Agents – use escalations as an opportunity to gain confidence and hone your customer service skills! Companies – use escalations to find operational inefficiencies and improve training for your agents!

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