Are you a supervisor who spends too much time fighting fires? If so, it's time to put away the matches.
If you are like many supervisors, escalated calls are the source of many of the fires you deal with every day. Some of the calls start out as a mild smolder and are transformed into a raging fire because the rep reacted emotionally to customers' behaving badly. These reps are like pyromaniacs throwing lighted matches on highly combustible materials. Some customers insist on talking with a supervisor despite a reps' best efforts to persuade the customer that they can handle their problem. Other customer calls should be escalated to supervisor who can easily(and calmly) extinguish the issue.
Firefighting by definition is a reactive activity caused by what is perceived to be a "crisis." Preventing unnecessary fires in the "escalated calls" category takes a conscious, focused effort on the part of call center managers and supervisors. Although there is long list of actions you should take to reduce escalated calls, here are a few off the top of my head.
10 Tips for Reducing Escalated Calls
1. First determine the root causes.
This will take some time to research, but it's well worth it. You can't address a problem unless you know what's causing it.
2. Consider the "fear factor."
Even if reps are empowered to handle customer issues they often don't use their authority for fear that they will be criticized if they don't "get it right." (Sure, you've told them a million times that you have their back but if they don't believe it.....).
3. Listen to calls and be prepared to be horrified.
Having listened to thousands of monitored calls I am still amazed at what reps do (often unknowingly) to make customers crazy-angry. Meet with these reps immediately.
4. Have "zero tolerance" for badmouthing customers.
Handling every customer with respect should be a core value. When reps start out assuming a customer is a "bad" customer (or deadbeat, or pain the rear, or chronic complainer...) the call has no where to go but down.
5. Make sure you have an up-to-date knowledge base that is easy to use.
A huge portion of escalated calls could be prevented if the reps had the info at their finger tips.
6. Survey your reps to find out what their understanding of when they should escalate a call. Again...reps' perception is their reality. Straighten out the perception and the behavior change follows.
7. Solicit and listen to your reps' suggestions for reducing the need to transfer a call.
According to SQM, only 9% of the CSRs they surveyed were satisfied with "real time" support they received to resolve challenging calls.
8. Make "reducing escalated calls" a project.
If you believe escalated calls are a problem, orchestrate a call center "initiative" to deal with it.
9. Reduce dependence on the rep next door.
Asking the rep sitting next to them for advice on what to do about a customers' issue is the first place most reps go for answers - sometimes those answers are just plain wrong.
10. Take away the matches by coaching reps to manage their emotions.
The vast majority of the reps I know are wonderful, conscientious people who handle customer situations beautifully. But being human, sometimes these same reps get hooked in, lose emotional control and turn what was a minor smolder into a raging blaze. It happens. When it does, the best thing you do can do is to gently ask them to hand over the matches and have a "SODA."
Have a great week.
Got a comment or opinion? I'd love to hear from you! bb(at)barbaraburke(dot)com