Customer Care – Escalation Effects

As a leading conflict management training provider we are often asked to provide curricula support to customer service staff operating in various industry sectors.  The basis of concern frequently revolves around how to de-escalate angry and unhappy individuals.  One of our starting points in this process is to ask the question; what are we doing to contribute to the escalation process?

Call Directing – over recent years many organisations spanning all sectors have moved toward telephone systems designed to connect callers with their intended contact (human or recording) without the need for an operator.  This process has created a completely new dimension to concentric circles of hell where the caller can end up with no option offering that meets their needs and failure to select an option results in their call being terminated.  While many systems have the default option of pressing 0 to speak to a customer service representative, this is by no means a universal rule.  Many of us know that we are so wound up and frustrated by the time we finally make it through to the person answering the phone that they may get the brunt of our annoyance. 

Now, while individuals have to take responsibility for managing their anger, the process the service provider is putting customers through is clearly a contributor to the escalation process.  If the caller is already in a heightened state of anxiety i.e. calling into hospital, calling a utility about payment etc. then the escalation ascent may already be shortened.

One of our consultant trainers gave us a specific example of this a few weeks ago. He said, “Two or three times a week I use my local McDonalds drive through to order a crispy chicken southwest salad, with ranch dressing and a large lite lemonade with no ice.  McDonalds have thoughtfully provided a display screen against which I can check my order, which I always do.  However, between here and the pick up window something more often than not goes wrong.  I appreciate that individuals working in a fast food environment are doing boring and repetitive work and I have no interest is making their day any worse.  But on the days I alert them to the error made and they decide to argue that I did not ask for large lite lemonade, then the escalation process is triggered.”

Maybo’s training approach does not only look at managing conflict once it has occurred but encourages examination of triggers and methods to defuse and de-escalate situations. All organisations, managers and staff can look at the policies and processes they are following and begin by examining the part these could play in the relationship dynamic and asking what opportunity there might exist to neutralise escalation in advance.  Often the proactive steps we take to do this have the effect of the customer not only forgiving us for mistakes made but telling others about their positive experience.

All service organisations enjoy word of mouth referral and it’s not so difficult to make some changes and be recognised not just for what you do well, but recognised also for how you do when things don’t go so well.      

Click here to find out more about our de-escalation training 

Posted by Maybo on November 5, 2012


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