Escalating Calls

While it would be nice to believe that Call Center Reps could and should handle every single customer call and/or complaint, the truth is that there are times when a call should be escalated to management for further handling. This should, in no way, imply that the Call Center Rep is not capable or credible, it simply means that in order to produce the desired result, there are situations where management input and handling may be required. Reps also need to recognize that management wants them to escalate certain types of calls to them-that is why they are there-and that they should view these situations as learning opportunities for future challenges.

Before escalating, Reps should do their best to handle the situation. It is critical to verbalize to the customer that you want to help and are there to help. Indicate that you will do everything you can to resolve the situation for the customer and that it is important to you to do so. If your best efforts are not working, there are two things to consider when trying to decide when to escalate a situation to management: what situations warrant being escalated to a senior person and how should the Call Center Rep position that to a customer. Let's review both.

When to Escalate the Call to Management - The following situations potentially warrant escalation to a manager or senior person:

    When you have absolutely no authority to handle a situation or customer request.

    When the client insists that he/she speak to a manager and resists all attempts for you to help.

    When the client crosses the line (for example, if the customer uses profanity or calls you names). Under no circumstances is this to be tolerated. In fact, protocol dictates that you should first give the customer a warning ("Please refrain from using that kind of language. It is not called for and I am trying to help you."); if the customer persists and continues the behavior, give another warning with a repercussion ("I want to help you with this, but if you persist in speaking to me that way, I will have no choice but to transfer you to a manager or to hang up."); finally, if the behavior still continues, act on your prior statement (simply say "I am going to transfer you to a manager now. Please hold." Or disconnect the call.) Under either circumstance, it is best to get to a manager immediately, fill him/her in on the situation, and then transfer the call or inform him/her that you disconnected.

Ways to Position Escalating the Call to the Customer - Once you have determined that a situation should be escalated to management, here are some tips to consider as you position that to the actual customer:

    Give the customer a benefit to passing him/her on to a manager/senior person. Be as specific as possible (for example, say "In order for us to handle this situation and meet your needs, it would be best for you to speak to the manager in the area…")

    Focus on what you CAN do for the customer, not what you CAN'T do-in negative situations, it is more effective for you to focus on the positive, ensuring the customer focuses on that as well.

    Whenever possible, give the customer options. This allows you to share control of the situation with the customer by giving you the opportunity to control what choices you want to give and allowing the customer to control what option works best for him/her (for example, say something like, "I could see if the manager is available to speak to you now or have him/her contact you later at your convenience. Which would you prefer?").

    Don't put the customer on hold too often or for too long-this will only make the situation worse and will create more frustration.

    Show empathy for the customer. Take a moment to de-personalize what you are hearing and try to view the situation from the customer's perspective. Often there is a very legitimate reason for the customer's reaction and you can smooth things over by being emotionally supportive.

    Treat each situation with the importance and urgency it requires. Customers are often in a hurry and they need to hear a sense of urgency in your voice and words that you view it with importance as well and that you will do everything possible to get the situation handled properly.

At the end of the day, it is best for all Call Center Reps to recognize those situations that they should be able to handle and those situations that warrant handling by a senior person. Making the right judgment call here can mean the difference between staying calm and in control (as well as using your time wisely) and becoming frustrated and out of control.