Call center agents, more often than not, have to engage in conversations with extremely dissatisfied customers who can and will escalate the dialogue into a heated argument and might themselves lose track of the intent behind. Even if the customer is unreasonable, the agent must mellow down the situation to ensure that the company doesn't lose a customer. These moments are often tricky and are centered around the user psyche. However, successful agents are those who triumph these moments purely based on instinct. Even so, a business must train their agents in situation-handling and verbal etiquette. A few methods to help service agents handle escalation in call centers have been discussed below.
Very often, when a disaffected customer calls in and is audibly angry, the service rep needs to realize that their anger is toward the company and not personally directed at them. It thus becomes essential that the service rep maintains an emotional distance between themselves and the charged environment that gets created due to the emotions of the customer. Both parties are human and are prone to human errors. However, here the onus lies with the service rep to maintain body language, tone, and professionalism and not get personally involved in the situation, especially not letting their emotions get the best of them. Regular weekly meetings can be arranged to train reps on ineffective ways of handling escalation in call centers.
Like any other job dealing with another human being, a call center customer service rep requires a high level of consistent professionalism. It means to decide, belief, and actively act like the one who is in charge. The service rep must be trained to remain in control of the developing situation with the customer and be prepared and willing to take 100% of the responsibility to actively shape and influence the case in the desired manner to defuse the heated up conversation ultimately. Here are a few quick and easy to remember pointers –
Customer service reps, often due to their position in the chain, assume they can extrapolate all details of the problem from the initial description of the customer's issue. However, this might prove to be severely counterproductive and aggravate the customer even more. Employees must avoid the trap of focusing too much on the cold 'facts' of an issue and fail to consider the emotional distress it has possibly caused. The customer service rep must understand and acknowledge the depth of emotional or mental stress caused by it and offer a solution that actively includes the same. The rep must avoid placing their interpretation of an issue and its effects on the customer and, most importantly, avoid playing a blame game and take ownership of the problem to move on to the productive stage of mapping solutions quickly.
The customer needs to be provided with a space to vent and unload all the distress caused by the error from the service or product they seek redressal. It is crucial not to rush the customer into formal exploration of the problem and let them proceed at their own pace, considering it is a fact that one cannot indeed rant forever and will eventually stop. The customer needs to know verifiably that the employee is listening to and understanding their position. Verbal or non-verbal cues can help convey the same. Nodding, smiling politely, audible acknowledgment, etc. go a long way in helping the customer feel less aggrieved. Finally, a few reflective questions, i.e., contextual questions based on what information the customer reveals over the interaction, will remove any doubt from the customer's mind.
After the customer is allowed to enlist their problems in complete detail, it is the customer service rep's responsibility to mold. It directs the conversation in ways that would receive even a negligible positive response from the customer. Any grounds on which the customer agrees with the employee can be used as a marquee to further move the conversation and de-escalation process. It has often been noticed that it is difficult to negotiate an agreement with a customer that involves numerous intricacies. In general, it is of a mammoth size that involves multiple aspects of what they are seeking redressal for. It is essential to move quickly to reach a series of small, negotiated settlements to eradicate call centers' escalation. This is so important because it seeks to welcome compromises on both ends that would produce a mutually beneficial solution. This helps in building rapport and indicates that the service rep is ready to connect on a human level to work together and resolve the problem. This also ensures more room for customer retention.
Sometimes, due to various reasons not limited to an individual agent's inadequacy, customers will refuse to accept solutions provided to them by the first in the chain of command in the customer service department and want it transferred to a superior. This costs the company money, time, server traffic, resources, and energy from a human agent whose expertise is best used elsewhere. If the superiors are engaged in offering solutions to every alternate customer who calls in, there will be no resource left to focus on improving performance. Therefore team leads should stand-in whenever a situation gets out of hand. This will reduce wait time for customers when being transferred to a manager and free up the managers' essential resources, thus improving performance and efficiency, and customer satisfaction simultaneously.
Handling customer escalation is an art and is a skill which is built over a period of time. Having empathy during such calls is critical rather than pointing out the mistake and who is right. However, what we recommend is to use an Omnichannel Customer Service platform which will provide a better insight of customer journey and help the agent easily navigate through the issues and not annoy further by asking repetitive questions.
Author Bio: Sweta is a passionate technical writer with experience in digital marketing. Outside work, she is a devoted Esports advocate.