There are two key functions of managers in the call center: One is keeping operations running smoothly day to day, and the other is addressing issues that arise that can’t be resolved by interactions with a standard customer service agent. It’s important that executives ask: Are your managers sufficiently trained for an escalation scenario? Here are some factors to consider when evaluating their competency.
Recently, I booked a hotel using credit card miles. The dates on my trip changed, and one quick phone call to the travel agent confirmed that I could cancel my existing reservation with no penalty and save money overall. We went ahead with the plan, but it turned out that the new quote was missing critical taxes and fees. At the end of the day, I was unable to reclaim my original reservation and ended up paying several hundred more dollars for one less night. Needless to say, it wasn’t a great experience.
Upon being escalated to a manager, the issue wasn’t resolved. She disparaged the employee, didn’t solve the problem, and ultimately failed to really address any of my concerns. In many ways, the interaction actually left me more frustrated—because it eroded my trust in the company’s ability to fix a situation that might go very, very wrong.
Ensuring Contact Center Managers Are Trained for Escalation
What steps can you take to ensure customer service managers are ready to deal with calls that are brought to their attention?
- Train them on crisis and stress management techniques. Usually, by the time a call has been raised to a manager, the customer is frustrated. They may be upset, angry, or even facing a crisis. Make certain that your managers have appropriate training on dealing with distraught customers. By investing in their ability to listen, show empathy, and use language and other cues to de-escalate the situation, managers will be much more effective.
- Empower them with resolutions. Escalating a call to a manager isn’t useful if they’re not able to resolve the problem. Often, customer service reps are trained to say, “The manager won’t do anything I won’t do,” in order to reduce call volume. However, if at all possible, give managers the power to resolve situations for unhappy customers. An effective manager interaction can turn around an otherwise negative brand experience.
- Embrace the apology. Sometimes managers have to hold the line on company policy and won’t be able to address a customer’s concerns. While that’s never a good scenario for managers to face, it happens. Mitigate the sting by teaching managers how to apologize. For example, “While I’m sorry that we couldn’t resolve this today, I do want to personally express my regrets that this happened. I’ll raise this to my managers to explore the issue further.”
- Clearly map follow-ups. If an issue needs to be further escalated, clearly map out what the follow-up process looks like. Who will review the timeline? When can the customer expect a call back? If at all possible, provide a direct contact number or e-mail for the manager to help alleviate the related stress.
When a problem gets escalated to a customer service manager, it’s often the result of something having gone very wrong. Your managers can make all the difference. Well trained, personable managers who are empowered to resolve problems or further escalate them with a clear plan can restore damaged customer relationships and help get discussions back on the right track.