5 Best Practices for Effective Customer Escalation Handling

Imagine you’re a customer. You’re enjoying a product or service and everything’s fine—until it’s not. Suddenly, your fresh food box was delivered containing spoiled meat, or the videos on your streaming service constantly skip. So, you turn to the service provider.

What happens next can change the customer’s relationship with that business forever. Naturally, customers want their escalations resolved as quickly as possible. They want the business to really listen and take their concerns seriously. They want a human being—not an automated message or a robotic phone system. And if they don’t get the help they need when they need it, they might unsubscribe or never buy that product again. That is, right after they post on social media about the awful company that sold them a bad, unsupported product.

Don’t let this happen to your business. Instead, have best practices for customer escalation management in place and be ready to resolve your customers’ problems fast and effectively. Not only can customer escalation best practices help you resolve a customer’s concern, but they can also create an opportunity to transform a dissatisfied customer into a lifetime subscriber. Here’s how.

Retain Customers for Life With Customer Escalation Management

A customer who has had a satisfactory resolution to an escalation is more likely to be loyal to a brand than one who never experienced any problems. Why? Because a happy customer never has to think twice about a product or the company that provided it. But a customer who experiences a problem can be deeply impressed if they receive good customer service.

So, don’t think of an escalation as just a complaint: it’s your opportunity to deepen your relationship with that customer and retain them for life. You can turn an escalation into a great experience for your customer by making them feel heard and by responding to and resolving the issue quickly. Here are five best practices your customer success team should use during customer escalations.

#1: Listen to the Customer

Listen and learn what your customer is upset about. Then, paraphrase it and repeat it back to them to demonstrate that you’ve heard and understood the concern. For example, you could say, “It sounds like you’re having a very hard time getting your new mouse to work. That must be very frustrating for you.” Show empathy for your customer and you’ll notice their frustration level will start to go down. Best of all, it establishes a human connection, setting your company apart from businesses who don’t take the time to truly understand their customers.

Also, pay attention to the customer’s tone of voice and try to understand how they feel. Are they angry? Frustrated? Disappointed? Judge how patient they are. Some customers are more relaxed and willing to work with you, but a highly agitated customer will expect immediate acknowledgment and results.

#2: Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes

Take a moment to consider things from the customer’s point of view. If you were them, what resolution would make you happy? What would you want a company to do or say? Remember, the customer contacted you because they want a human response. They could have just canceled their service or returned a product. View their willingness to talk as a good sign, and be sure you really understand where they’re coming from.

#3: Understand a Customer’s Value to Your Business

Consider how valuable a particular customer is. If the escalation is so problematic that the customer is seeking compensation, review their purchasing history before extending a compensation offer.

Pull up their account history and think about how long they have been a customer and how much money they have spent. High-value customers are more valuable to retain, so you may want to give them more generous compensation offers. Still, make sure all compensation offers are in your company’s best interest.

Is a refund in order? Then refund the customer. Nothing will tarnish your company’s reputation faster than nickel-and-diming a customer for short-term revenue. Moreover, it will end a relationship with a customer, fast.

#4: Route Customers to the Right Person From the Start

Many companies are afraid to give escalation response teams leeway to compensate or close escalations. But then the complaint rises within the organization, potentially wasting the time of management and drawing out the escalation. Instead, try to resolve things at the initial representative’s level.

Empower your team to analyze escalations and make reasonable offers. Or if you’re in an industry or serving an audience that may demand a response from higher-level members of your organization, make sure you route those escalations to the appropriate members of your organization from the start so you don’t waste the customer’s time. Customer success software can provide tools that help you easily route traffic.

#5: Close Each Escalation Within 30 Days

Responding quickly is key, as it shows customers that they are a priority. A good goal is to try to complete the escalation, including delivering the resolution, within 30 days. If it lasts longer than that, it will start to feel like a real hassle for your customer, and they may start to harbor negative feelings toward your company or decide to simply unsubscribe. Remember, you may need to research an incident, try different solutions, or even extend a compensation offer, so get started as soon as possible.

Managing Escalations with Customer Success Software

When dealing with customer escalations, it helps to have a quality customer success platform in place. Such software can send your team reminders triggered by certain key events you have identified as indicative of concerning customer behavior. For example, if you have subscription-based software and a customer frequently searches for help topics, it may indicate that they are struggling with the software. These capabilities empower your customer success team to take proactive steps to prevent escalations in the first place or manage them better when they do occur.

Remember, listening to customers, finding a good resolution to their issue, and closing open escalations within a timely manner is key to making customers happy. These best practices for customer escalation management will help you not only reduce customer churn but leave the customer more satisfied than they were before the escalation.

Totango is a leader in customer success solutions for today’s customer-centered economy. Our tools and services will help you effectively manage customer escalations and retain customers for life. Request a demo or explore Spark to learn how we can help you build your business around your customer.  

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