In order to grow your business successfully, you must keep your customers happy and ensure they have the best possible user experience with your brand.
Therefore, if an issue arises, you need to be ready to address it immediately.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any customer escalations. Unfortunately, the world we live in is far from perfect.
The good news is we can all be prepared to handle serious customer situations when they arise.
Below, you’ll learn about escalation management and some best practices to use to keep your customers satisfied while also moving your company forward.
First of All, What is Escalation Management?
Before you can understand escalation management, you must first familiarize yourself with a customer service escalation.
An escalation in the field of customer service is when the agent at the first point of contact is unable to offer an answer or solution to the problem the customer is having, which can cause the customer to become more frustrated or agitated than at the start of the call.
As such, the customer must be transferred to a manager, which is when escalation management comes into play.
The management team must be equipped with the proper tools and techniques to de-escalate the situation in the event the first-level customer support representative is unable to do so.
There should be a variety of measures developed to use, and the manager should always start at the lowest level of options for de-escalation.
Types of Customer Escalation
There are two main forms of customer escalation: functional and hierarchical. Depending on the nature of your business, you may use one or the other, or both.
In some instances, escalation can happen quickly.
The agent may immediately recognize that they lack the resources or expertise to properly handle the customer’s issue, and because of this, they transfer the call to the appropriate department.
In some cases, it may not be so clear and straightforward as to how to approach an escalation issue.
This type of escalation is when customer issues cannot be resolved quickly and the customer demands a solution.
The agent will transfer the customer to someone higher up than them with more experience handling these types of situations.
When is Escalation Management Needed?
Escalation management is necessary when you have a customer support agent who is either dealing with a difficult customer or is simply unsatisfied with the company’s products or services and demands to speak to a more experienced individual within the company above the agent’s status.
There are many reasons why this may occur.
For instance, there may be some form of miscommunication with the customer service agent.
In some cases, this may be the agent’s fault, such as he or she is being rude, or it could be something else entirely, such as the customer feeling the agent is not qualified enough to resolve their issue.
Another possibility is the customer has already been promised a solution within a specific timeframe and that period of time has passed, leaving him or her upset, frustrated, and potentially angry.
It is for this reason that customers should never be promised anything, especially if it is a solution that may or may not be delivered on time or at all due to a number of factors.
Finally, the customer may be upset due to a violation of the service level agreement (SLA).
There are certain stipulations that customer service agents should follow as they are trying to resolve customer complaints.
This can vary from one product/service to the next. One of the most common complaints is that the agent is unable to answer the customer’s request in a prompt manner.
How Important Is an Escalation in Customer Support?
Ultimately, the fewer escalations that are made, the more efficient your customer support system is.
However, regardless of how many escalations your company receives, it is a good idea to have a certain plan in place to handle sensitive and serious customer concerns.
When escalation is handled properly, you have the chance to change the customer’s mind about your brand. You can gain any trust back that was lost as a result of the issue they experienced.
As you gain that trust back, you also restore the customer’s confidence and assurance in your brand. It may even give them a new impression of your company.
As always, a positive impression of your company will encourage individuals to recommend your brand to others.
Finally, when escalation is handled properly, customers feel much more valued. As a result, they are more likely to become a loyal customer to your brand who returns time and time again.
The Best Practices of Escalation Management
Now that you are a bit more familiar with customer escalation management, it is time to learn a few of the best practices you should use when dealing with a difficult customer or a customer who has a problem they need to be addressed by your team.
1. Prevent Customer Escalations
First and foremost, everyone should try to prevent unnecessary escalations.
This can be done by making sure that your customer service team has the proper training and tools to succeed.
They need to know how to make their own judgment calls and make decisions on behalf of the customers to satisfy their needs.
2. Get Everyone on the Same Page
When it comes to escalation management, everyone needs to be involved.
In order for it to be successful, all members of the team need to be properly trained so they know what steps should be taken.
Customer support agents and escalation managers need to be on the same page and cooperate with one another.
It is important everyone understands that they must take the time to assess each customer’s situation thoroughly, allowing them to come to the most appropriate solution for the issue, while also being considerate during the conversation.
In the event that the customer support representative is unable to fulfill the needs of the customer, they can pass it on to the next team member in line to handle the situation.
3. Offer Customer Support Training
In order for customer escalation to be dealt with properly, it is imperative that all employees (including managers) attend training and workshops to aid them in honing in on the needed skills to deal with customer issues.
For instance, active listening and showing empathy are two skills all of your customer service agents should have.
If an agent fails to communicate properly due to lack of listening or empathy, the customer will only become more agitated. This is the last thing you want or need.
Regular customer support training can also teach all staff how each tier of a customer call should be addressed, how to solve problems quickly and thoroughly, and how to maintain a seamless flow throughout the conversation.
When your team is efficiently trained in escalation practices, you can rest easy knowing your team can handle even the most difficult complaints.
4. Create an Escalation Path to Follow
There are always different levels of escalation, in terms of the phone call itself as well as the departments within your company.
Because of this, there needs to be a clear structure of escalation that is followed by all customer support agents and managers.
At the very bottom, the customer support agent is trying to resolve the situation. If he or she cannot, it may be escalated to the next level of support. And this goes on.
There may be certain situations that begin at the second or third tier due to the gravity of the customer issue.
Your own escalation path for your team to follow will vary based on the industry you’re in and the types of complaints that are often received.
5. Close Escalations Promptly
It is imperative that you respond to customers quickly, especially when they are upset. This shows them they are indeed a priority.
While you can create your own timeline, it is best if you complete customer escalations within 30 days.
If the escalation issue goes beyond that, the customer may begin to have negative emotions toward your brand and leave your company.
When an issue is brought to your attention, you will likely need to research the problem, attempt different solutions, and maybe even provide a compensation offer.
Because of how much is involved in the escalation process, you want to get started as soon as possible and complete it promptly to keep your customers happy and loyal.
6. Maintain Records of Escalations
It is always a good idea to keep records of any and all customer escalations.
This will serve as a reference in the future regarding what type of issues customers have frequently and how efficiently your team handles these issues.
When reviewing call logs and notes, you will want to ensure you check the following:
- At what point was the call escalated, and was it transferred to the appropriate department?
- How well did the agent assess the customer’s problem?
- Was the customer happy with the solutions offered?
If a specific area was not properly addressed, a meeting with the customer service agent should be scheduled to go over the call and offer constructive feedback.
These records can also be used during training as real-life situations.
It goes without saying that escalations can occur within your company. No brand is safe from them.
The key, though, is to be equipped with the proper tools and techniques so you can minimize or prevent escalations entirely and tackle escalations thoroughly to the satisfaction of the customer when they do occur.
If one of your goals is improving customer retention rates, then your customer support team must be prepared to address concerns as quickly and efficiently as possible.
When escalations are handled properly, there is less risk of a customer slipping through the cracks or the situation hindering the overall customer user experience.
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