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Even for the most customer-friendly organisations, call escalations are an inevitable part of doing business. When a frontline agent is unable to resolve a complex issue or an irate customer demands to speak with a supervisor, the situation has the potential to go sideways quickly.

However, TSA Group Channel Manager Daniel Herold says savvy companies view escalated calls not as inconveniences to be minimised but as opportunities to deliver exceptional service and strengthen customer loyalty. By understanding the root causes behind escalations and implementing effective strategies, companies can empower contact centre agents to successfully de-escalate heated situations while enhancing their brand reputation.  

Mr Herold says a crucial aspect of successful de-escalation is to understand the source of the customer’s frustration. 

“It varies across different industries, and while each escalated call is unique, at the core of everything, we have found there are three key reasons for any escalation,” Mr Herold says.

“They generally stem from a few common sources: a poor customer experience, inaccurate expectations, or not delivering on commitments.” 

Mastering de-escalation

Once an escalation trigger has been pulled, it’s up to the organisation to skillfully apply de-escalation techniques to rebuild rapport and trust. Mr Herold says shifting a customer’s mindset from irrational and irate to rational requires a multi-pronged approach, which often starts with empathetic and authentic listening.

“One of the key things that we do to help support shifting their mindset is to hear the customer out,” Mr Herold says.

“It’s important that we give our customers the opportunity to express why they’re frustrated and give them that time without interjecting so we can act on it to its full potential. From there, once we’ve actually assessed that we’ve heard the customer, it’s important that where necessary and where applicable, that we take accountability for the frustration the customer is facing. That’s where we really see our customers start to move towards more of a rational state, but above all else, it’s important to take action. That’s how we tangibly resolve escalations and move forward without getting to a grievance or getting to a complaint – it’s about putting something forward to help resolve what they’re raising.”

Dealing with difficulties

When escalations do occur, a well-staffed support system with call monitoring, real-time coaching, and decisive leadership needs to be readily available, Mr Herold says. 

“Frontline leaders are very much driving their team members’ capabilities around how to handle escalations,” Mr Herold says.

“But once that has been handled, it’s important that we also have a psychologically safe environment so we can actually decompress with them after the fact. We can talk them through it and talk through how they’re feeling because handling escalations consistently can really weigh on a person mentally. It’s important that a leader takes that time with their people to not only have the capability to handle escalations but to also have emotional wellbeing after an intense call as well.”

The power of proactivity

While Mr Herold says it is crucial to empower contact centre agents to handle escalations, a better strategy is to avoid them before they occur by being proactive. By providing a wide range of communication channels to make customer experiences easier and more efficient, Mr Herold says many escalations can be avoided.

“Ultimately, we want to resolve escalations on call and in the moment as quickly as we can because we want to keep that customer as an advocate for the brand versus a detractor,” he says.

“But at TSA and with the industry leaders that we work with, we really focus on how we can use technology to be proactive in communicating with customers such as via live chat. If customers have an easy way to contact us and we send out proactive communications, we can actually avoid getting to that point in the first place.”

With brand loyalty and reputations constantly being reshaped by customer experiences, escalated calls represent pivotal make-or-break moments.

By regarding escalations not as nuisances but as opportunities, organisations can turn potentially explosive situations into chances to deliver above-and-beyond service that keeps customers coming back.




TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX Consultancy and Contact Centre Services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.

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