Three Ways to Handle Escalated Phone Calls

CSR on phone

Escalated calls are frustrating for everybody – the employee who knows she could’ve done the exact same thing the supervisor did, the supervisor whose hair is on fire, and for the customer who has lost time.

It’s time to fix the escalation problem. Here are three ways you can prepare your employees to de-escalate so you can take a little stress out of everybody’s life.

1. See How Much It Costs You to Resolve Most Customer Issues

When I took over a call center, the employees were empowered to fix any problem – no questions asked, up to $50. One afternoon I poured through the numbers and found that 94% of our issues could be resolved for 72 bucks or less.

The supervisors were busy as ants in a breadbox taking escalated calls. But the calls they took were almost all issues that my employees could have easily handled – had they had higher empowerment.

I figured if supervisors could make stable judgment calls, why can’t my employees do the same thing? I upped the employee empowerment from $50 to $100 and gave them training on how to make decisions that balanced the interests of our company and the customer.

And just like that, escalations sunk, and my supervisors hailed me the Queen. The exciting thing is, most issues were resolved for about $72, just like the numbers said. My employees rarely went up to the $100 level.

One way to prepare your employees to de-escalate is to take a look at your empowerment level to make sure it matches what more than 90% of issues are costing you. But don’t do this without training, coaching, and clear objectives. You don’t want money thrown at the problem.

2. Train and Coach De-escalation Skills

Everybody thinks of training agents on the company’s products and to give them necessary phone skills. But very few people in customer service actually get the training they need to get an angry customer to back down, politely control conversations with ramblers and skillfully handle the customer who demands to speak with a supervisor. Studies show that less than 10% of companies have trained customer service employees on how to handle demanding customers.

You have to provide training that teaches tactical skills in de-escalation that include empathy, asserting authority, strategic vocal tone, and anger diffusion techniques.

3. Understand the Psychology of Anger

One of the most crucial parts of de-escalation is understanding that the issue is not usually the issue. How the customer’s problem is handled (or mishandled) is what becomes the issue.

Employees need to understand that minor issues often escalate because their approach or tone was off. The problem prompted the call, but the way the employee handles the interaction is typically what leads to an escalation.

Perhaps the biggest mistake I see when employees talk to upset customers is they don’t acknowledge the customer’s concern. They jump into questioning and troubleshooting when they should first say something like, “I can see your point on that” or, “I realize this whole thing has been frustrating for you”.

Give your employees a little psychology training to go along with your de-escalation tactics, and they’ll be better positioned to create calm and control the interaction.

About the Author

Myra Golden is a favorite training partner to Fortune 500 companies with her customized, engaging, behavior-changing (and fun) customer service workshops. Through consulting, keynotes, training and blog posts, Myra Golden helps companies design and deliver the best possible customer experience.

AI for CX 2019



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