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What Is Escalation/Incident Management? Prevention, Challenges, and How Real-Time Monitoring Can Help


The Team at CallMiner

September 26, 2017

angry woman screaming into phone
angry woman screaming into phone

A Definition of Escalation/Incident Management

In short, escalation management involves transferring calls to supervisors, managers, and other agents who have more experience than the agent who initially answers the call. Because customer service is a top priority for organizations, escalation management is an important process to have in place to ensure customers’ calls are addressed efficiently.

Call center agents who cannot resolve complaints can transfer the call to someone who has a better chance of finding resolution and avoid giving them an incorrect solution or no solution at all. Escalation management procedures also help companies during peak hours by shifting calls to managers and supervisors rather than risking callers hanging up or being on hold for an unacceptable amount of time. Thanks to advanced call center speech analytics features such as voice analytics and live monitoring, escalation management plans are much easier to implement.

Ways to Prevent Escalation

One of the best ways to reduce the need for escalation management is to create a more efficient and successful call center via higher rates of first call resolution. Call centers first should empower agents to make decisions via adequate training in policies, products, and services. Call center agents also need proper training in deescalating customers and politely and effectively engaging with them. Call center agents who have the proper training, knowledge, and communication skills often can address callers quickly and successfully.

Myra Golden, MHR, recommends four ways for call center agents to reduce escalations:

  1. Reflect the brand promise – First, establish trust with the customer by reflecting the brand promise. Remind callers of what your product or service does deliver to them if they are angry about not receiving a particular benefit or perk.
  2. Don’t push – People naturally push back when they are pushed. Call center agents must be trained not to push back, or customers will escalate to a supervisor.
  3. Be regretful and direct – Be confident in your interactions and refuse requests directly with regret to appear credible. Get to the point and be gentle in your communications with customers.
  4. Demonstrate that you are listening – Do not cut off the customer in mid-sentence or tell him that you cannot do something or to ask questions. Customers will perceive that you are not listening if you interrupt. Rather, make the customer feel heard and understood by allowing him to explain their situation. When you do speak, demonstrate that you are listening.

Other tips for managing escalation include coaching agents to take ownership of a situation and avoid transferring difficult customers to others, encouraging agents to ask for help and leverage positive escalations when needed, training agents to use calming words, and defining clear escalation paths.

Download our case study on how to reduce churn and increase customer satisfaction with speech analytics.

Challenges of Escalation/Incident Management

One of the largest challenges facing call centers is knowing when to implement the escalation process. Sometimes, call centers use the process in situations that are not emergencies; thus, they rely on it too much. If your call center has a high escalation rate, chances are, you have inefficiencies. High escalation rates often mean call center agents do not have adequate knowledge to handle complaints and rely on senior agents too much, are not empowered to solve customer issues and have to transfer calls to agents with more authority, and are not resolving issues quickly enough to keep the call load to a minimum.

Of course, the risk of relying on escalation management is that customers will become even more frustrated when they contact your company. They may have to wait on hold while the call transfers, or they may have to repeat their personal information or their problem each time they are transferred. Delayed responses make customers’ impatience and anger rise.

Another challenge with escalation management is that supervisors and managers who have to field calls during peak times do not have as much time to dedicate to their own jobs. As a result, the efficiency and efficacy of the call center diminish when supervisors have to do agents’ jobs.

Real-Time Monitoring and Escalation Management

Real-time monitoring for call centers gives managers the ability to know what transpires between customers and agents during calls. Managers receive call analytics, dashboards, and alerts from tracking speech patterns and acoustics to get a feel for the call while it happens. Managers quickly can remedy situations and support agents as needed while ensuring a consistent level of customer service, ensuring compliance, and knowing which agents need more training and which are the best at resolving customer issues.

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