How to Decrease Call Escalation in Call Center?

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Some other call center experts call such guides as “how to avoid escalation calls”, but this is not a very precise definition just because you can’t fully avoid call escalation. Angry customers are an integral part of any call center, but the goal is to take control of the call center escalation and escalation management process. Handling escalated calls should be organized immediately then such calls happen. 

But this paragraph can not contain all the needed information about call escalation. How to de-escalate a call? What is the call center escalation matrix? How to handle escalations call center? How to construct a suitable angry caller policy? What are the features of call center agents' training for handling escalated calls? What is Call Escalation Rate and how is it calculated?  How can contact center technology help you in dealing with the call escalation process?

The comprehensive, step-by-step, and complete guide is already accomplished by our specialists and carefully provided for you - just keep reading.

In this article you will find:

Call center escalation definition

Call center escalation types

When to escalate a call

Six tips to reduce call escalation rate

Call center escalation matrix: tips to build


The Call Escalation Definition

It is a call transferred from an agent to a supervisor or even a manager on a customer’s request. Sometimes call center agents can’t provide clients with the service they expected, so customers ask them to give a call to their leaders, either to a call center manager or supervisor, to make them resolve the issue. 

The objective of managers who take the escalated call is to solve the issue, extinguish the conflict and try to put a client into a positive and constructive mood. Handling escalated calls is one of the most essential skills for managers because when the escalation happens the possibility of losing a customer rises. Such problems are solved with the assistance of the call center escalation matrix - the step-by-step system of transferring calls to higher-level managers by a previously designed call center escalation process template. 

Escalated calls can harm customer service results. They take place when call center agents are not confident enough, respond to customer queries slowly, or just provide inaccurate information. An even worse situation is when an agent can’t solve an issue because of a lack of knowledge or qualification. Furthermore, such an occasion makes a customer angry and ready to escalate further. 

According to this, call center agents have to spend more time training their soft and hard skills to be able to solve any customer issues. Customer satisfaction and customer experience are priorities for every contact customer service team. Cloud-based contact center technology allows attracting managers during customer calls in whispering mode to get advice and recommendations while the conversation goes on. 

Finally, call escalation should be avoided as often as possible because handling escalated calls is a problem both for managers and customers. On the contrary, you can’t get rid of customer complaints and call center escalation procedures. So, the goal is to know how to control the situation and deal with call center escalation without losing the quality of customer experience and with high retention rates of angry customers. 

Before we’ll swap to recommendations for the reduction of call center escalation, let’s learn what are the dissimilarities between each type of escalation. 

Type of escalation: how many of them exist and how do they differ?

Well, even though the call center escalation looks simple enough, it is segmented into four distinct types. Why such an approach has been implemented? The answer is as simple as obvious: the essence is that depending on each type, the call is being transferred using the rules of a unique call center escalation process template. To say briefly, every type of escalation has a specific escalation scheme with various employees who are involved. 

Hierarchical escalation

The easiest, most popular, and most used type of escalation. It works according to the hierarchy in the customer service team: assistance tickets is being transferred from less experienced agents to more qualified ones, and if this doesn’t help, to a supervisor, or in the worst case, to the head of the department. This model of escalation management is so popular cause of its easiness in implementation and logical essence. 

The problems start when the number of call transfers goes beyond two or three times. Each new connection with a new manager makes clients angrier and angrier until they explode. Now imagine, where would the case go if after four or five call routes the resolution wouldn’t be found. We can’t be sure that this is a good example of a pleasant customer experience. 

Hierarchical escalation will not work if the call center agents aren’t skilled enough to solve common customer problems. If it is a system issue in the call center, transferring calls between agents can’t bring any positive results despite the customers’ anger and frustration. 

Functional escalation

This type is more about problem-solving than the hierarchical model. It works dissimilar - when the call is escalated, the issue ticket is sent to the departments or employees which have a suitable skill pack for such troubles. For a sample, when the customer queries apply to the personal account setup, such an appeal should be transferred to the IT department even if they are not at the next stage in the hierarchy. 

Functional escalation has clear advantages, but it sometimes can’t work just because of the customer’s mood. When the person is angry, he may wish to talk with higher management, and routing a call to technical specialists or other members of the customer service team can not help. 

Primacy escalation

This type is more about choosing the issue, not an employee who will solve it. When a highly valuable or permanent customer comes with a serious problem, for example, massive software bugs or a defective product delivered, this ticket is immediately sent to higher managers who take it on personal control. The other issues are processed through standard supervisor escalation as those which don’t need the powerful attention of the top managers. 

Automated call escalation process 

The last model is organized and performed by contact center software. Escalation management is provided via special algorithms which route calls to the selected managers or agents. The escalation management scheme can be customized or designed from scratch. 

How to determine the moment to escalate the call? 

The simplest and at the same time the only right answer is when agents tried a few times to de-escalate the call but haven’t succeeded. When it looks like the issue is unhackable for agents, it’s better to let a more experienced employee deal with it. 

Gather all information provided by customers and other people who were involved in the problem-solving process - history of messages, call recordings, reports of other departments and agents, essential information from client’s complaints, etc to create a benchmark for supervisor escalation. Send this data to the worker who is going to take over the problem, no matter if will it be a supervisor escalation or another model of escalation management. To deal faster with these issues, the angry caller policy should be implemented. 

Reasons for further escalation can be various: direct request for supervisor escalation, inability to solve the problem, lack of agents’ knowledge or experience, and so on. 

But the ideal situation is to avoid escalation and solve all issues during the first connection with a client. It is counted by the First Call Resolution rate, the score that shows how many requests were resolved during the first call or appeal in messenger or via email. 

We have mentioned the Call Escalation Rate - it is the percentage of escalated calls from the entire number of calls for a chosen period. The lower it will be, the better it is for business because of higher customer satisfaction, more qualitative customer experience, and an indirect indication of the increased customer service level.

Now it is time to deal with the tips to help reps tackle customer complaints during the first conversations, and we are going to offer you the six most efficient steps. 

Reduce the escalation rate with six troubleshooting tricks

Escalation management is also about avoiding escalation - even if it sounds strange. There are many ways to reduce the escalation rate, but all of them are focused on improving the agents’ performance and identifying the problems which can cause the escalation. To help you deal with it quickly, we compiled a list of six tips to avoid escalation - as much as possible. 

Determine what issues make the clients call and comply

Before planning any call center operation to eliminate the problems, these problems should be identified, analyzed, and segmented, shouldn’t they? This is the foremost step that has to be done before you will start to tackle the problems. 

The contact center software has many options to provide real-time stats, insights, and surveys to give you the whole picture of customers’ problems. The call recording option helps to understand the most popular issues which face clients. Customer surveys help not only to collect data about customer service quality but also to collect data about clients’ issues. The knowledge base on your website can be analyzed to determine which questions perturbed customers most often. 

When the data is collected, you can create a document with detailed information on any type of issues that are detected. Every one of these problems can be solved in different ways, as well as each of them has unique nature, reasons, and influence on clients’ satisfaction and the image of the company. Create a special knowledge base of these troubles for the agents, where they can search for any needed information for every issue. Integrate this knowledge base into call scripts to ease agents’ work and improve their performance and theoretical knowledge of widespread problems. When the task will be done, you can go further. 

Pinpoint the reasons for every issue

We always repeat that every business is unique and requires an individual approach, but the goals and objectives, as well as methods of their achievement, are often quite similar. No matter what product or service you are offering, they do have issues, and customers will face them and call you with a complaint. Nonetheless, focus on the determination of the reasons why these problems exist and how can they be tackled. 

For a sample, you are selling a product that runs on specific batteries. When it has been tested, sufficient performance has been proved for only 2 of 6 batteries provided by different manufacturers. And know you have faced massive calls about the short battery life issue. 

The reason is clear - almost certainly the bad battery performance is caused by the batteries themselves. But there is no information on your product about recommended batteries to use, so people buy numerous types of batteries - no matter of the manufacturer. 

What is the way to deal with armies of unhappy customers who are calling and bombarding the agents with questions about the poorly designed product? Put the information about advised batteries on the product’s pack and your website - in the knowledge base, FAQ, and chatbot. 

Now you how easy some trouble can be solved? And there’s no need to deal with hundreds of calls - some problems can be solved using the self-service tools of your contact center solution. We also have a blog about self-service.

Find an approach for every reason

But what to do if the issue is more complicated than just bad batteries? What if it can’t be resolved by chatbot or FAQ? When you need to play ahead and be adaptive enough to provide great client service.

An example from my own experience shows how escalation can be avoided if the agent is taught enough to make non-standard decisions. Recently a big international post service has entered the Ukrainian market and has made a collaboration with a popular used goods marketplace. How does it work - when you order brand-provided delivery service from the marketplace, it is organized by the earlier mentioned international shipping company - and I decided to choose this service, which has to be prepaid. The post offices are organized according to the franchise principle, so they are set in pharmacies or small shops, and deliveries are processed by, respectively, sellers and pharmacists who have no experience. My delivery was damaged and I decided to cancel it, but they didn’t know how to do so. The contact center also had non-working hours, so I waited until the next day came and called there with a strong wish for a “pleasant and kind” conversation with an agent. 

Everything was as I expected - there haven’t been any cancellations. And before I could ask the agent for an escalation, he has gone ahead and asked me to wait a minute. When he came back, he said that the delivery is canceled and my money are on its way back.

The moral is simple: I don’t know how they solved the issue, but the agent took responsibility and made a cancellation, even though it wasn’t available - even on their website. As a new market player, they could know little about the postal industry in Ukraine, so the cancellation option wasn’t developed. But when they identified the issue(I can bet I was not the only one who asked for such a service), they found a way of resolving it, even without escalation. As a result, I didn’t even write any bad reviews - but I wanted to do so. 

To come back to a more wide vision of the problem, you have to train agents to find an approach for every issue - even if it is unique. The client asks for a refund, but such a situation isn’t described in a call script or knowledge base. But what if his appeal is more than justified? Let the agents take the responsibility and make decisions - but provide them with high-quality coaching and soft skills training to be sure that their decisions will be wise. 

Always focus on discovering the root cause

Call scripts must be designed to find the root causes of customer issues. The main goal for a client is to solve the problem quickly and without losing effort, time, and nerves(it’s the most important part). Personalization is also an important feature - if your permanent customer who works in IT company calls and says that software doesn’t work, it would be stupid if the agent asks him “Check the Internet connection”. There is no need to ask this question to a person who has definitely checked such an obvious thing.  Call center software can be easily integrated with CRM, so agents can see who’s calling and avoid foolish questions. 

But some cases are more complicated than the one mentioned above. The objective is to find the root cause of the problem. All questions should be focused on finding out the key reason for the problem, and it looks like a game - the fewer questions you ask to detect the root cause of the issue, the more chances that you will win. 

Call scripts are the agents’ best friends

If you know the problems that face the customers, the reasons for these problems, and the ways for their resolution, then there is nothing difficult to provide agents with this information. The best way to be confident that agents are equipped with all needed knowledge is to furnish them with call scripts. 

Call scripts should cover all possible paths of conversation ongoing - the difference between products, potential problems, ways of their resolution, methods to find out the root cause, and so on.

Use interactive decision trees

Another great tool for agents is interactive decision trees, which are constructed exactly in the call center software. This tool offers to find out potential decisions during the call and change them interactively depending on where the call is going. Interactive trees help to reduce the number of mistakes and find more potential solutions than it could be without using this instrument. 

Interactive decision trees are great in cooperation with call center agents’ monitoring tools, which help managers to control reps’ performance and make changes or determine weak sides for further training sessions.

What is the best way to build an escalation matrix?

No matter which type of escalation you prefer, you require an escalation matrix anyway. But the question is how to construct it to cover all possible scenarios and provide escalation management on the highest level. Our goal is to explain it and provide a full guide completed in four easy steps:

  • Step one: determine the problem types and segment them into groups and subgroups depending on the specifics of the business and the industry, or other specified needs;
  • Step two: select different representatives and responsible managers for every group and subgroup of issues, and construct a hierarchy between them to comprehend how the calls will be transferred if the escalation will be needed;
  • Step three: set up the timelines and approximate deadlines for popular issues, but leave the place for a maneuver if the problem is exotic and requires more time to be solved;
  • Step four, the final one: describe actions that should be done at every stage before the escalation can be continued. Outline also the actions or lack of actions that often cause further escalation. 

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