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Supervisor Escalations in Call Centers

“May I please speak to your supervisor,” is one request that customer care representatives dread receiving from disgruntled customers who may not be happy with the level of care afforded to them. Escalation calls are impossible to avoid, given the nature of customer care work. However, it’s important to ensure that call escalations don’t get out of hand and that any escalated calls are promptly handled with the highest level of professionalism. Other than active solutions to customer escalations, we will be discussing proactive solutions to call escalations using AI solutions. Let’s get started:

What is an Escalation Call or Supervisor Escalation? 

An escalated call or supervisor escalation is simply a situation where the customer requests to speak to a person with more authority. It may be a call center supervisor, L2 agent, or the call center manager. 

There are different types of escalation calls that a call center may encounter. A hierarchical escalation call involves directing the issue up the chain of command. It may have many underlying causes, including: 

  • Inadequate agent training; 

  • Limited agent resources.; 

  • Query complexity; 

  • Internal issues with products or services; 

  • Conflicts within the interaction;

  • Frustrated callers who may be impatient and hard to console; 

  • Lack of authorization and access to grant the customer’s request.

  • Operational inefficiencies; 

  • Unplanned outages or incidents. 

Functional call escalation is the second major type of escalation. It's typically triggered when the agent handling the call lacks the required skills or expertise to resolve the issue. For instance, the agent may need to route the call to the IT department. Even within IT departments, functional escalations may still occur to people with specific knowledge about certain products, call center escalation processes, or devices. 

Importance of Reducing Supervisor Escalation in Call Center 

Estimates suggest that over 80% of supervisor escalations can be avoided on the first call. It means that most escalations are not necessary. So, the ideal situation is to have zero supervisor escalation calls or a very low number.

What’s so bad about customer escalation calls? When supervisors and managers have to spend their time speaking with a customer about an issue that could have been resolved on the initial call, they have to divert their attention from high-level tasks such as coaching and training, performance analysis, or call center improvement. 

Supervisor escalations affect the First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate and other critical customer care performance metrics such as the Average Handle Time (AVT) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). 

It’s typically said that a disgruntled customer is more likely to leave a negative review about the company than a happy customer. If a company becomes associated with negative customer support, it may cause it to lose business. 

According to The Microsoft 2019 State of Global survey, over 90% of Americans use customer service quality as a measure of whether to do business with the company. Salesforce Research also concluded that 89% of customers are more likely to make a second purchase following a positive customer service experience. And we already know that customers who request escalations are unhappy customers. 

How Can Companies Handle Supervisor Escalations? 

Owing to the immediate nature of escalations, call centers should have solid systems, procedures, and human expertise to ensure successful outcomes. 

Initial training should be focused on equipping agents with the necessary skills to de-escalate angry customers. They must be willing to show empathy and listen without offering objections. For instance, rather than being defensive, they may say, “I’m sorry to hear that you are having trouble with our products and services. Which particular challenge are you experiencing, and how can I help? You can also implement a number of proactive approaches, including: 

Using AI Call Center Solutions 

How can you handle escalated calls with AI technologies? You can use conversational AI apps or virtual agents to handle routine calls. The AI solutions may actually perform better at repetitive Tier 0 and Tier 1 requests that may frustrate agents, for instance, balance inquiries, transfers, etc. The AI can reduce wait times and work 24/7 to offer a seamless support experience and reduce caller frustrations. Also, by handling routine and simple calls, the call center will have enough human resources to supervise escalations. Human agents can use their creative skills and acquire broader knowledge to better address complex calls. 

Intelligent virtual agents may help reduce functional escalations through automated inquiry routing. They can be programmed to ask a series of questions that allow them to gauge the nature of the inquiry. It's even possible for them to assess the caller’s intent from their tone of voice or the words they use. 

They can also tell when the customer has begun experiencing frustrations in the call and redirect the call to human agents. AI call center solutions can further help with call analysis to identify inefficiencies or roadblocks that trigger supervisor escalations. 

Streamline existing efficiencies 

Call center managers and supervisors should watch out for any inefficiencies that trigger escalated calls. For instance, if the call center has a very long wait time, customers may be frustrated and impatient the moment they connect to a live agent. 

Customer service representatives also regularly state that their systems are slow. It may be worth it to invest in automated call center management software. At times, it may be necessary to delegate more authority or permissions to agents to curb unnecessary functional escalated calls. Operational inefficiencies may also result from the call procedures and the inability to understand what customers want. 

It’s also necessary to set up an escalation or backup team, specially trained to handle escalated calls. Call centers may need to implement call center escalation procedures or an escalation matrix that tells agents who to contact or which departments to reach with particular escalated calls. 

Use a dynamic Internal Knowledge Base 

The contact center’s internal knowledge base (IKB) is one of the most important resources at the disposal of call center agents. While a company may have an IKB, you may find that agents keep escalating calls to superiors instead of using it to find the answer to a customer problem. Probably, it takes too long to uncover the answer, or it failed them before because it contained outdated information. 

AI dynamic IKBs may prove more useful than ordinary KBs. For instance, if the system has BNLP capabilities, it can listen in on customer calls and dynamically serve helpful resources from the IKB to the agent for quick reference. 

If you’re looking to implement an AI virtual agent for your call center, your developers can look into the possibility of developing one on 

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