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Customer Care Skills – How to Handle Escalated Calls

April 24, 2017

By definition, handling an escalated call is probably going to be challenging! A call becomes escalated for one of two reasons. One reason is that the issue is complex and the first Customer Care representative does not have the knowledge or experience to handle this problem. The second situation is where the first call went horribly out of control, and the Customer is now either demanding a more senior person, or is so out of control that the first Customer Care representative can no longer handle the call. This second scenario is our area of concern.

Control your Assumptions

Let us look at the first call, before we begin to approach the second. Your Customer Care Agent might tell you that this is a really ‘bad’ Customer, and much stronger words! It is very easy to get caught up in this thought, this Customer is one of THOSE types! Don’t let yourself do this, it is one of the first fatal mistakes in taking an escalated call. Assume that this Customer is a normal human being, who has a problem, and is misbehaving. Most people really don’t WANT to misbehave – they even resent the fact that they HAVE to, and they feel that your poor service is forcing them in to this bad behaviour. This is a much more healthy assumption for handling an escalated call. It will help take you into to a more PROBLEM SOLVING ZONE, and well away from the destructive defensive zone. Equally, in 90 per cent of situations it is actually true! Your first Customer Service agent SHOULD have handled the call without it getting out of control. In some cases the Customer didn’t actually have a problem at all. They became irate at the way the first call was handled. Assuming that you have person who WANTS to be calm, will help you handle them correctly, and will open the door to a more positive call.

Gather the Evidence

When your Customer Care representative comes to you with a problem call, get all the information very clearly. Encourage your Team Member to relate the issue like evidence in a police report, calmly and objectively. Separate the ‘people’ from the ‘problem’. Get an understanding of the problem, the impact on the Customer of this problem and what was offered already to this Customer. Get an understanding of the mood and attitude of the Customer at the beginning of the first call – and at the end of the call. In getting this you can get an idea of how much damage was done during the first call.

Think of your Goals

Now think carefully about your GOALS when you take the call. You will have two sets of goals, your ‘Problem’ goals and your ‘People’ goals. Ask yourself, when you finish your call, what do you want to have achieved on the ‘Problem’ side? Write this down precisely, not vaguely. Equally, on the ‘People’ side, what mood or emotional state will the Customer have to be in to agree to your settlement of the problem? How do you want them to feel about you, the Company, the solution to the problem and about the way we handle our problems? Write this down too. Now you have clarity on where you want the call to end. The call will not begin there. The call will be like a journey, where you will guide yourself, the Customer and the interaction to this positive outcome.

Show Concern as you Begin the Call

Prepare yourself mentally to take the escalated call. You want to sound like a confident and strong person, one capable of sorting this problem out. However, you also want to sound like someone who is interested in the Customer and his or her concerns. Begin the call by giving a good introduction, using your title and your FULL name. Also send a positive message in your introduction, such as ‘I am anxious to help’, or ‘I am sure I can sort this out’. Don’t tell the caller what the problem is – just give a ‘title’ to the issue so that they know you have been briefed. Then let the Customer talk.

Let the Customer Tell the Story

Again, don’t assume the Customer is in the same bad mood as they were earlier, they could well have calmed completely in between the 2 calls. Let him tell the story, and show empathy as he talks. Wait till you have got the issue from their side, and then REPEAT it back. Give them a summary of your understanding of the issue. This will reassure the Customer that someone at last grasps the problem, and they will calm further.

Offer your Solution Positively

Then, and only then, will you offer your solution the problem. The Customer will now listen to you, and will be much more likely to work with you to achieve a good solution for both parties. At the end of your solution DON’T LEAVE A GAP, always ask a closed question to try to get the caller’s agreement. If you leave a gap, they will open the issue again, always close it down.

These few tips and techniques will really help with any escalated call. But, as these are high level call handling skills, the real secret is to keep practicing!

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