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How to create an escalation process for customer complaints
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How to create an escalation process for customer complaints

No matter how much you invest in great customer service, things aren’t always going to go to plan and you’re inevitably going to deal with unhappy customers.

There may have been an issue with a delivery, or a customer got some information wrong, or you might have made a genuine mistake.

Whatever has happened, when a customer calls with a complaint or to resolve a problem, it’s vital you have procedures for dealing with and escalating these calls when necessary.

As a telephone answering service for hundreds of small and large businesses, we’ve seen all kinds of complaints procedures and have acted as the personal voice on the phone to help customers resolve their problems, and allow businesses to keep their reputation for great service intact.

In this guide, we offer our expertise on how to create a customer escalation policy to make these difficult situations a bit easier.

Types of customer escalation

First of all, it’s important to understand the different types of customer escalations, as they’ll be dealt with in slightly different ways.

1 – Additional expertise escalation

It can often be the case that the person who answers the phone won’t have the expertise in the subject matter to resolve the issue.

In this instance, the person answering the call will need to forward the customer to a more relevant person who has the knowledge needed to help the customer and resolve an issue.

This type of escalation is common in areas like tech or product support.

2 – Automatic escalation

It’s common for customer service to be defined in an SLA (service level agreement), which guarantees the quality of service a customer can expect in certain areas, like time to resolve an issue.

For example, your SLA may require all issues to be resolved within 24 hours. Or customers are to be contacted within 12 hours.

If you don’t deliver on your SLA, the issue will automatically be escalated to a more senior person to handle.

3 – Hierarchical escalation

In this instance, the person who answers the call doesn’t have the seniority or authorisation to resolve an issue on a call and needs to involve someone more senior.

This is common in retail for issues like refunds requiring manager approval.

Designing a customer escalation policy

Providing a great customer experience doesn’t just work when things are going well.

More than three quarters of customers say they’ll continue buying from a company even after a mistake, as long as the service was good.

Part of this is designing your customer escalation policy to be as smooth as possible so even when things do go wrong, you can get them back on track quickly.

Here are the four things you can do to design your customer escalation policy…

1 – Have pathways for each type of resolution/ escalation

As we’ve mentioned, not every type of escalation will be dealt with the same way, so you should have defined pathways for each so your team knows what to do.

For example, for a hierarchical escalation, the person who answers the phone should know exactly who to forward the call to in order to resolve the problem.

2 – Develop your team’s personal (soft) skills to deal with customer complaints

Soft skills are a great resource to fall back on when customers have a complaint and can help stop a complaint from escalating in the first place.

We’ve written about how to answer calls professionally in the past, but here are some of the main things to consider:

Actively listen to the caller – It’s critical you figure out exactly what the customer’s problem is so you can resolve it quickly, so take the time to sit and actively listen to what they’re saying.

Empathise with them – When customers complain they want validation that their problem is legitimate. So make sure you don’t sound like you’re dismissing the issue and that you take any problem seriously.

Keep them updated – If you do need to escalate an issue to a more senior person, explain the process to the customer so they know what’s going on. Don’t just put them on hold.

3 – Record escalation calls for learning and training opportunities

You might think a customer complaint is something you want to deal with and forget about.

But there’s always learning to be taken away from a complaint, or how a complaint was handled.

Recording your calls and reviewing how complaints were dealt with can help you identify good and bad points about your service and improve.

4 – Create SLAs

If you don’t currently have service level agreements for your customer service, it’s definitely worth considering drafting them, as it can help your customers and your teams understand exactly what is expected out of your customer service.

One of the main reasons customer service fails in the first place is that teams don’t know the standards they’re expected to meet, so will often do the minimum.

Benefits of creating escalation policies

You won’t want to spend too much time dwelling on customer complaints, but there are several reasons why you should take the time to clearly define and improve your escalation policies.

Here are just a few of the things you could experience:

Better customer experience

A customer is four times more likely to leave for a competitor if the issue is service related, compared to product issues, according to Bain & Company.

By providing customer experiences you can retain more customers.

Build a better reputation

Around 70% of the buying experience is based on a customers feelings about the service they got, according to a study by McKinsey.

By providing great customers experiences even when things aren’t going well, you’ll continue to build a positive reputation for your business.

Retain more customers

As we’ve mentioned, most customers are likely to forgive a mistake with a product, if they feel the service was positive. Dealing with customer complaints and escalations effectively can help you retain customers you would otherwise have lost.

Hire a telephone answering service for customer calls

Having a professional telephone answering service in your corner can make a big difference when it comes to customer escalations.

Our dedicated team have the soft skills needed to calmly deal with customer calls and complaints, ensuring issue are escalated in the right way so any problems can be dealt with effectively.

Plus, as a specific resource, a telephone answering service can dedicate 100% focus to customer calls, and won’t see them as a distraction from their day-to-day job.

If you want to see how a telephone answering service can benefit your business but aren’t ready to make the investment, get in touch to take advantage of a free trial.

06th April, 2023

Posted by Face For Business

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