Make Sure Your Language Doesn’t Invite Escalation

Women with headsets working at a call center

I blocked off yesterday afternoon to listen to a random sample of recorded phone calls between customer service representatives and customers (patients and providers) for my client. I’m preparing to deliver a full-day De-escalation workshop to this group in a couple of weeks.

One of the things I noticed is that some of the employees have a tendency to use language that opens the door for escalations. It’s unintentional. I’m sure of that. The workers are overwhelmed, if not stressed. Their customers can be difficult. To try to control conversations, provoking language is sometimes used. I hear things like:

  • “That would be something you need to speak to the dentist about. I have no way of knowing that information.”
  • “So, we are just the lab. We don’t work directly with patients.”
  • “My supervisor would just tell you the same thing that I’m telling you.”

When customers hear statements like these is exactly the point I hear escalation. The response from the customer is often something like this. “I need to speak to your supervisor, please.”

The customer escalated because the language created a barrier in the consumer’s mind. The only way around the fence is to escalate, as far as the customer is concerned. When a client hears, “That would be something you need to speak to the dentist about. I have no way of knowing that information.” they feel pushed into a corner. They want help, and they don’t think the person on the phone can or will help. So, they feel provoked to take action to help themselves.

In my onsite training for this team, I will teach them to turn “escalation-inviting” language around this way:


“That would be something you need to speak to the dentist about. I have no way of knowing that information.”


“Any specific details on your treatment plan will come directly from your dentist. We make the product, based on the molds presented by your dentist, but we do not have your personal information or medical records. I’m sorry for any confusion about this.”


“There’s nothing we can do.”


“I wish there was a way I could help you. At this point what we need is to speak directly with your dentist. You can expedite this process by calling your dental office, tell them you spoke with us and that we have not received your molds.”

Escalations are time-consuming and frustrating for everybody, even for customers. I know you don’t want your customers to escalate. Join me for my “How to De-escalate”   on -demand video training and your people will walk away knowing exactly how to preempt an escalation.

How to De-escalate Angry or Agitated Customers

De-escalation Training to Help Your Employees Get Angry Customers to Back Down, Pre-empt Escalations to Supervisors and, In General, Handle Difficult Customers with More Ease.

Online, On-demand video training with Myra Golden – now available for  immediate viewing

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Myra Golden is an author, trainer and keynote speaker who has been helping companies for over twenty years to improve the customer experience through her customer service training workshops. Myra has a master’s degree in human relations and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, helping her to understand the challenges of developing the best customer experience as it relates to the psychology of the employees. Myra has helped Verizon Business, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Michelin Tires, Frito-Lay, Vera Bradley and many others improve the customer experience through her training. She was named one of the Top 10 Customer Service Bloggers by Huffington Post and she is the co-author of Beyond WOW!

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