Managers Are Usually to Blame for Escalations

Customers are shrewd and impatient. They’re not going to mess around with a customer service employee who feigns (or lacks) authority to resolve issues. Customers will put their “get me a manager” card on the table in a hair’s breadth. And managers get frustrated with this, but it’s your fault, managers. You teach customers to escalate by holding all the power in your headsets. 

When customers reach a manager, and within seconds, they have the apology and fix they sought, what will they do the next time they have a problem? They’re going to go straight to the manager. Stop this cycle of frustration and delay. 

Over the weekend, I had a problem that an employee couldn’t or wouldn’t resolve, and she couldn’t bother to apologize. So, I asked for a manager. 

In under two minutes, I was talking to a manager who fixed things, “I’m sorry for your experience tonight. I can see you are one of our best customers. I can certainly help you. I’ve just emailed a $25 discount code that’s valid for 30 days. Again, please accept my apology for your experience.”

You can stop the cycle of escalation by doing three easy things. (These are so simple you can do them this week.)

One. Coach employees to apologize. One of the easiest ways to diffuse anger is to apologize. The employee I spoke with before escalating had a defensive posture and didn’t apologize at any point. “I can’t compensate you further” was her focus. Yet, the manager led with an apology. Guide your employees to make an apology (regardless of fault) part of the dialogue. It can be as simple as, “I’m sorry for any misunderstanding.”

Two. Flag your best customers. I escalated to a manager because the employee was inflexible, yet within two minutes, the manager laid out the red carpet, acknowledging, “You’re one of our best customers.” The employee should have been flagged that I was a “best” customer (ordering weekly). Let your employees in on the secret of your best customers and empower them to do a bit more to retain your most loyal customers. 

Three. Studies show what we already know – customers are delighted when something follows problem resolution. That something can be as simple as a discount code. The manager that I escalated to finished things off with “I’ve just emailed a $25 discount code that’s valid for 30 days.” Why couldn’t the employee do this? I would’ve been satisfied with a credit as low as $5 or $10.

You can preempt escalations, and it’s not that hard to do. Coach employees to apologize, up their empowerment to where most issues can be resolved without going to you, and flag your best customers and uncork your best wine to make them happy.

If you find you need more help with positioning employees to de-escalate intense interactions, I run an online De-escalation Academy.