Escalations are the horror movie soundtrack of the subscription-based business. Their arrival signifies one thing—impending churn. Scary as they can be, however, customer complaints can actually be beneficial.
Today’s customer-centered economy has increased customer expectations and left them only a click away from trying something new. The natural response is to speed up your escalation practices under the threat that if you don’t provide your customer with a quick fix, you’ll lose them.
While it’s certainly true that you should pay close attention to customer complaints, the customer escalation best practices you really need are geared toward using the situation as a chance to grow trust and confidence with your customer.
Customer Escalation Best Practices
Ideally, you want to minimize the number of escalations, resolve open escalations quickly, and ensure customer trust during and after the escalation. You can build out KPIs around those broad goals—measure the number of escalations month-over-month, calculate and track the average time to solution, etc—but you also need best practices to address escalations head-on. These include:
- Be honest about what happened
- Prevention through education
- Internal investigation
- Reach out before your customers call
- Follow-up conversation
Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Be Honest About What Happened
The best cure for customer discomfort is information: honest, up-to-date, and timely information. Think of a customer complaint as an opportunity to build customer trust. During an escalation, be sure you:
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Accept responsibility for finding a solution.
- Communicate how you’ll fix the solution.
- Reliably estimate how long it will take to deliver a solution, with the goal of resolving all escalations within 30 days.
- Explain how the customer can employ the solution.
You should also let your customer know if and how they can continue using your product or service while the specific complaint is addressed. Any time spent away from your brand is time your customer can spend looking at alternatives.
The process of open communication may seem labor-intensive, but it can turn an unhappy customer into a content, loyal one. If you’re not telling your customers exactly what went wrong, how you’ll fix it, and when they can get back to work, you’re allowing your competitors to offer them other solutions.
2. Prevention Through Education
Receiving many complaints in a short period indicates a broader issue, maybe stemming from miscommunication, a mismatch between your product and your customer’s needs, or gaps in customer understanding.
Such issues point to problems with your onboarding phase and the early stages of adoption. Orienting your customers correctly and guiding them to the right features in these initial interactions can go a long way toward minimizing escalations. If, after a reasonable amount of time, your customers are still having trouble seeing value from your product because of navigation, execution, or comprehension issues, it’s a good idea to take them back to those initial phases.
You can maintain your customer relationship by offering this additional support and training at no extra cost—and you should take the blame for any misunderstandings.
3. Internal Investigation
Be prepared to act as advocates for your customers. Not only should you look at escalations from your customer’s point of view, but you should also be open to the possibility that they may have uncovered a systemic problem in your company. A complaint can become an important discussion point within your enterprise: are we doing things the right way?
Look across the company for similar problems, previous corrections, and patterns. Part of molding your business to your customer’s needs involves making customer data accessible to all team members. That way, it’s easy to track the customer journey and discover the source of escalations.
4. Reach Out Before Your Customer Calls
Gathering and sharing customer data across the company helps you take a more proactive approach. A single complaint can be flagged and shared across all customer segments to warn of potential problems elsewhere. By educating each other on areas for improvement, your team will be in a great position to proactively engage customers before an escalation even begins.
If, for instance, a new feature generates a high escalation level around a similar technical problem, this information should be given priority across your accounts. That way, everyone can warn their customers of the potential fault and offer a workaround before the problem occurs.
Learning from escalation cases and applying the lessons across the entire customer base allows you to solve a problem before a customer even knows they need a solution.
5. Follow-up Conversation
The conversation shouldn’t end when you find the solution to a customer complaint. Instead, offer your customer a full debriefing on what happened and why. It’s a chance to reassure them that the problem won’t arise again and to demonstrate that you value their input.
An escalation can actually become a great opportunity to prove your commitment to building your company around your customer’s needs and fostering a strong relationship.
Using a Customer Success Platform to Address Customer Escalations
A quality customer success platform gives you access to the customer data you need to turn escalations into success. Such platforms are the foundation of the customer-centered approach to business because they create unique insights into customer needs.
A customer success platform provides three key advantages:
- Data Aggregation: Gather customer information that reveals how a customer engages with your product and is progressing on their customer journey
- Signalization: Use this data to accurately determine a customer’s current situation and future needs.
- Workflow-Triggering Capabilities: Generate contextual information that prioritizes actionable items and turns data analysis into practical, proactive, and personalized engagement.
The right customer success platform can create time-sensitive customer scorecards and health signals composed of established business algorithms and specific customer data that gives, not just customer success teams but everyone in the company, a high-level view across account segments. This helps every member of your company identify and stay ahead of escalations.
By tracking data with a customer success platform and following these best practices, every customer escalation can provide vital insight into your customer success efforts. In this way, you can use every complaint as an opportunity to improve the customer experience.
Totango knows that escalation is a fact of business life, and that’s why our customer success software helps you transform customer complaints into customer success. Request a demo or explore Spark to find out how your company can benefit from a leading-edge customer success platform.