Customer Escalations and You

Many customer service managers (especially in small to mid-size businesses) spend quite a bit of time handling something I always refer to as “escalations”. Escalations are usually from angry/vocal/important customers who are having a problem and are going “up the chain”. The escalations might come down from the CEO or the President, across from PR or the Internet, or up from floor supervisors and regular agents. Where exactly escalations originate from depends a lot on the particular company and how its customer service organization is setup.

The question is: is it worth a customer service manager’s time to handle at least some of these escalations personally? There are a couple of different views on this.

Staying in touch with the customers. This is the perspective I’ve always held. Employees, and especially managers, who are too far removed from the actual issues and the actual customers are going to have a harder time coming up with effective policies and good ideas.

Focusing on management. Other people think that dealing with individual customer escalations is largely a waste of time and that managers should be focusing on management issues. Policy creation, personnel management, interviewing, etc. This is a valid point as well. Depending on the type of company, it can be pretty time consuming to deal with a large number of escalations and it can definitely distract from dealing with day-to-day issues that managers normally have to deal with.

Focusing on strategy. Other customer service managers (typically those in larger companies) spend most of their day working on big initiatives and customer service strategy. This works when there are other customer service-orientated managers to deal with management issues, but not so much in smaller companies where there is effectively only one person in charge of customer service.

What do you think is the right balance? Or the most important things to spend time on?

One Response to “Customer Escalations and You”

  1. Andy Sinsel said:

    Nov 23, 09 at 12:04 pm

    I find it vital to the health of the customer care organization for managers, senior manager, directors and above to handle escalations periodically. There is no faster way for organizational leaders to quickly grasp the level of frustration being experienced by a customer than to speak to them directly. This also serves to provide much-needed perspective to the representatives handling customer contacts and the tools and information they have to work with. Finally, it provides a terrific opportunity to show the representatives on the floor that their job is important and that their leaders understand what they do.

    I’m proud to say that at my company, when a customer wants to speak to the next level, they are always afforded that opportunity, up to and including the CEO!