Escalated but Satisfied

By Jodie Monger, Ph.D.

All contact centers have escalated calls that must be handled. Your strategy to handle escalated calls is an extremely important part of your customer service delivery plan. Clients who have problems that have not been handled to their satisfaction are those who can inflict the most market damage to your call center’s reputation. On average, each dissatisfied client will tell more than twenty people about the experience. However, an effective service recovery negates the negative effect and actually increases loyalty to your company.

Whether or not your contact center actually caused the problem, you are responsible for it. How effective is your escalation team? You must depend on them to complete an effective service recovery and preserve the relationship (that is, the asset base of your company). Research indicates that customers who have had a problem that has been effectively addressed are more loyal to the company than those customers who never had a problem. This may be surprising, but it underscores the importance of the escalation team to your company.

Quantifying customer satisfaction with the agents that handle escalated calls often meets with resistance. The automatic reaction is that clients handled by the escalation team are already unhappy with the situation and will certainly give low evaluations of the service provided. The thought is that there is nothing that will make these people happy, short of giving them free service. Unfortunately, omitting the escalation staff from your caller satisfaction measurement program and thereby not holding the team accountable to the caller evaluations of services can be a costly mistake.

Callers with issues that must be escalated are part of the reality within your overall service delivery. This portion of your strategy must be measured and must demonstrate continuous improvement over time as expected for all teams. The same post-call survey questions should be asked of the clients to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison is possible across the teams in your contact center.

While scores are not as impossibly dismal as you may expect, Customer Relationship Metrics’ research indicates that the scores will be slightly lower.  This may simply be a result of the client being transferred when the call is escalated.

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After your post-call survey program has been in place for two months, you can quantify the consistent gap in scores (if any) between the escalation staff and the first tier agents. As with any team, the goal and expectations for improvement are based on a calculated month-to-month improvement to reach the year end goal. While the escalation staff may have a slightly lower goal, it should be challenged to stretch in the same proportion as any other team. Considering the contribution to your call center’s bottom line, you cannot afford to overlook customer satisfaction measures for the escalation staff.

Don’t underestimate your clients. They are quite capable of understanding the underlying effectiveness of the resolution. They will bestow scores accordingly. Hopefully, your escalation staff is trained to solve problems, to think outside of the box, and to even say “No,” in a way that leaves the client satisfied. You must measure the clients’ perception in order to prove the value of your escalation team and the amount of revenue saved by them. Loyalty is at stake.

Jodie Monger, Ph.D., is the President of Customer Relationship Metrics, L.C. For more information about completely automated telephone surveys, contact Jim Rembach at 336-288-8226, jim.rembach@metrics.net, or call their demo line at 866-537-8500.

[From Connection Magazine October 2004]

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