Before I dive into escalations, let me give you a little background. As a contact center manager, I am a wearer of many hats.  There is just no way around it, the expectation of those of us running day-to-day operations is that we are the glue that binds everything together.  As a manager of a contact center for a small business, my time is even more critical.  From staffing, to policy, to future-state planning, my hands are in everything.  With our business growing and a commitment to great outcomes for our clients, I have found myself spending more time on client escalations recently.  While I could spend time explaining all the techniques I use to fix those hectic situations, let’s instead spend some time talking about how to avoid those escalations in the first place.

#1 Touch it Once

The biggest driver of escalations in my world, stems from aging tickets.  My team is great at multi-tasking and working multiple client requests at the same time.  This is a good thing!  However, at times, it comes with a price.  When my agents break the Touch It Once rule, things run the risk of breaking down.  We have all been there.  A ticket is opened, and for a myriad of reasons, is left open.  The Touch It Once rule is simple: If you can close out the request now, DO IT!  By leaving it open, regardless of the reason, it runs the risk of slipping through the cracks.  What’s worse, is when a client ends up working with multiple agents.  If one did not close the case, but could have, it will create a ripple effect, which is a perfect segue to my next point.

#2 If it isn’t in the Ticket, it Didn’t Happen

When working an escalation, this is a KILLER.  There is nothing worse than trying to piece together the history of a ticket, and only being armed with a portion of the story.  If the agent who did not notate something is sick/out of the office/on break/at lunch?  All bets are off.  You have to have accurate and complete details in order to be effective at resolving a client’s issue.  Most of the time, this is not due to negligence, it is due to agents spread too thin or high volume through the various contact streams.  Another driver is when one agent touches a ticket started by another.  Even in our tightly knit team, the chances of knowing exactly what your neighbor did without notations are slim.  When an agent has no clue what has been done, things will go wrong or will be missed.  It doesn’t take many of these situations before the dreaded, “I’d like to speak to a supervisor” is uttered.  However, it’s perfectly avoidable.  Remember, if it isn’t in the ticket…it didn’t happen.  There is no worse feeling than the client knowing more about a situation than you do!  When this happens, and it will, you must stress the importance of noting EVERYTHING with your team.

#3 Let Me Know When Things Go Wrong

The last piece of advice might be the most logical of them all for your agents.  Let me know when things go wrong.  It does not matter how experienced or inexperienced your individual team members are, working in a contact center is challenging. Products and services are ever-changing.  On top of that, staffing levels are tight and demand is high.  Things can and will go wrong.  Your agents have to trust you, and know when to come to you.  If they do not, you simply cannot help them with the right answer or resources to be successful.  It is human nature not to want to tell someone when you need help.  That’s why you must stress to them to “Let me know when things go wrong.”  In turn, your job is to be supportive, even if they have made mistakes along the way.  That is the biggest key to building continued trust long-term, and in turn, making sure they bring their issues to you in real time.

There you have it:

  1. Touch it once
  2. If it isn’t in the ticket, it didn’t happen
  3. Let me know when things go wrong

If you can get your team on-board with those three things, I promise you will dramatically reduce the number of escalations that come your way, freeing you up to continue your evolution as a dynamic, innovative leader in your business!

Jesse Ray is an experienced contact center manager, with a background in delivery of customer service, technical support, and order processing to internal and external clients.  With experience managing domestic and global teams, Jesse utilizes an Inside-Out coaching methodology along with a focus on logically sound process design to ensure long-lasting customer satisfaction.  Jesse strives to bring the voice of the customer to every interaction his teams handle.

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