Escalation Management: How to Deal With Customer Complaints

Escalation Management: How to Deal With Customer Complaints

Li Ramos
Li Ramos
Published: May 30, 2022
Last updated: Nov 23, 2022
escalation management

Handling customer complaints helps increase customer satisfaction. While you should be able to resolve complaints at first contact, there are complex situations that can’t be addressed by one customer service representative.

This is where escalation management comes into play. By identifying common escalation points⁠ and how to handle them, you can make sure your CSRs are never caught off-guard. And when your team knows just how to deal with customer complaints, they can resolve them in less time and with fewer errors.

What is Escalation Management?

Escalation management covers customer support ticket categorization and delegation. It involves prioritizing client issues based on severity to ensure that the right customer service representatives are handling them.

Customer escalation can also be automated using chatbots. If these fail to resolve the issue, they connect customers to human agents.

There are two main types of escalation management systems:

Functional Escalation

In this escalation management system, issues are immediately passed to the customer rep best equipped to resolve them. The next level of support is based on the rep’s skills or systems knowledge, regardless of their seniority.

For instance, the first responder on-call is a junior developer who is focused on the back end of product A. However, the issue raised by a customer is concerned about the integration with product B. The escalation path may then be to another junior developer on the product B team.

Hierarchical Escalation

In this escalation management system, issues are moved up the chain of command. A customer rep will pass a support ticket to either a supervisor or specialist based on their experience level or seniority within the company.

For instance, the first responder on-call is a junior developer who is new to the team. The issue may be passed to a more senior developer who may pass it to someone at a higher level until the issue is resolved.

How to Deal With Customer Complaints

A single mistake in handling a customer complaint can quickly turn into a downward spiral. That’s why your team must be prepared before engaging. And this means knowing when to handle things themselves, and when to turn to escalation management.

A customer support listening to customer's complaint

Here are the best practices for dealing with customer complaints:

1. Align customer expectations to customer support services

A big factor in how to deal with customer complaints is time. Resolving issues quickly ensures that customers stay satisfied with your business.

In cases when you can’t immediately address their concerns, however, you should temper their expectations. This can be done through automated responses if the customer complaining reaches out via email or social media.

Make sure that you specify that they will be contacted within a set amount of time (e.g. 24 or 48 hours). This also applies to customers who utilize phone support. They shouldn’t wait on hold for too long, so be sure to leave a call-back number (that won’t keep them waiting when they do dial it).

When talking to the customer, adjust the communication style and messaging accordingly. Start with level-setting information to clarify the purpose and the next steps. This shows that your business values your customers’ time. This, in turn, lowers the chances of them escalating issues any further.

2. Use positive scripting

Positive scripting is formulating a customer service script using words to instill trust, stability, and credibility. This pushes the customers to the desired outcome without frustrating or upsetting them.

According to communications expert and consultant Jack Griffin’s book, How to Say It: Creating Complete Customer Satisfaction, there are different ways to apply positive scripting:

  • Words of Calm – “I’m listening”, “We’ll resolve this”, “Let’s do this together”, “Take all the time you need”
  • Words of Apology – “We take comments like yours very seriously”, “What is necessary…”
  • Words of Helping – “Everything you need…”, “We will correct/fix this”, “We’ll expedite it”
  • Words of Credibility – “We are confident…”, “You have our word”, “We recommend…”

3. Construct SLAs for your support team

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract that defines the level of service a business is going to provide. For your customer support team, it sets the service standards reps are obligated to meet.

In terms of escalation management, SLAs make it easier to recognize and handle support tickets that need to be escalated. Thus, your business can maintain high standards for the support team since each team member has a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

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4. Develop an issue escalation process

Cross-organizational cooperation is important to involve the right people right from the start. Give structure on how to deal with customer complaints by designing a clear escalation management process.

An issue escalation process outlines the workflow and channel of decision-making to solve customer support tickets quickly and effectively. It can start with a FAQ page or a chatbot on your website to address the most common and easily fixable problems.

If these don’t help, customers should be encouraged to contact support via phone, email, or live chat features. You should also create separate pathways in handling customer complaints based on the support channel the customer used to reach you.

Quick responses should be emphasized to show your customers that they are prioritized. The customer escalation process including its resolution should be completed as soon as possible. If it goes over 30 days, customers may harbor negative feelings towards your business and are more likely to drop their transaction.

5. Train your team in escalation management

Aside from letting them know processes, educate your support team on how to deal with customer complaints effectively. Escalation management requires soft skills such as empathy, active listening, and clarity.

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To ensure they deliver the best customer escalation process, you should also equip them with the right tools and software. This includes both hardware (e.g. noise-canceling headsets, office phones, etc.) and software (e.g. CRM platforms).

This way, you can monitor and maintain the standards of your escalation process. Quality management and the data from the tools and software your team operates also provide opportunities to improve the process.

How Magic can Help Manage Customer Complaints

Improve the way you handle customer support tickets from answering phone calls or messages, escalation management, to other customer retention strategies. Magic can match you with a customer support assistant who can handle non-voice and voice support.

A Magic Assistant can help win over customers, as well as provide insights and product breakthroughs through different duties. Alternatively, they could act as your escalation manager to make sure customer complaints are prioritized and resolved at the right level of authority or experience.

They are also able to assist in manning your support channels, developing customer service scripts and SLAs, and evaluating the performance of your support team for training and improvement.

Hop into a call with us and we’ll handle the hiring process from sourcing to qualifying candidates based on your specifications.

Within 72 hours, Magic can get you a skilled virtual assistant so you can reinforce your customer service process and positively impact your company’s productivity, profitability, and growth.

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