As a learning and development organization we are often asked to provide curricula support to staff that function in some customer service capacity to their service users. Often the basis of concern is how to de-escalate angry and unhappy individuals. One of our starting points in this process is to ask the question, …. Are we doing anything to contribute to the escalation process?

Call Directing – over recent years many organizations spanning all sectors have moved toward telephone systems designed to connect callers with their intended contact (human or recording) without the need for an operator. This process has created a complete new dimension to concentric circles of hell where the caller can end up with no option offering that meets their needs and failure to select an option results in their call being terminated. While many systems have the default option of pressing 0 to speak to a customer service representative, this is by no means a universal rule. I have been so wound up and frustrated by the time I have finally made it through to the person answering the phone that they may get the brunt of my annoyance, both barrels.

Now while I have to take responsibility for managing my anger, the process the service provider is putting me though is clearly a contributor to the escalation process. If the caller is already in a heightened state of anxiety i.e., calling into hospital, calling into school (following receipt of kids disciplinary email) etc.. then the escalation ascent may already be shortened.

Two or three times a week I use my local fast food drive through to order a crispy chicken southwest salad, with ranch dressing and a large lite lemonade with no ice. The restaurant have thoughtfully provided a display screen against which I can check my order, which I always do. However between here and the pick up window something more often than not goes wrong. I appreciate that individuals working in a fast food environment are doing boring and repetitive work and I have no interest is making their day any worse. But on the days I alert them to the error made and they decide to argue that I did not ask for …….. (fill the gap – ranch, no ice, crispy chicken etc….) then the escalation process is triggered.

In the Mandt System approach we continuously challenge ourselves to begin by examining the part we are playing in the relationship dynamic and asking what opportunity there might exist for us to neutralize escalation in advance. Often the proactive steps we take to do this have the effect of the customer not only forgiving us for mistakes made but telling others about their positive experience.

Now how good an example is that for word of mouth referral…… recognized not just for what you do well but recognized also for how you do when things don’t go so well.

Mandt Director of Communications