De-escalation

What is the customer service de-escalation process?

The de-escalation process in customer service is a strategy aimed at easing the customer’s negative emotions in order to prevent escalation of conflict and help resolve complaints promptly.

Customer service agents have to deal with cases of irritable aggression every day. Irritable aggression is a situation in which a customer is aggressive due to frustration they have experienced using your product or service. Because these cases are unavoidable, an ideal recruitment process usually includes training on verbal de-escalation.

The verbal de-escalation training equips agents with the skill to deal with different magnitudes of customer complaints. The training addresses tone of voice, how to structure your sentences, among others.

3 stages of de-escalation

Using a medical approach, there are three stages of de-escalation: dialysis, mental skin graft, and raising oxytocin while lowering cortisol levels.

  • Dialysis refers to the stage of a crisis situation where the customer begins to vent their frustration as they speak with you. At this stage, allow them to talk without interrupting. During this stage, actively listen to them and validate their feelings.
  • The mental skin graft is the point where you have succeeded in subtly disarming the customer. At this point, you can interfere in their thinking to calm their minds by reassuring them some more.
  • The final stage, which compares oxytocin and cortisol levels in the customer, is when the customer begins to feel heard and connected to the customer service agent. At this point, the customer should be calm.
Woman actively listening to man - illustration

An example of de-escalation

A typical example of a scenario where de-escalation is important is when an angry customer calls customer service to report a crisis situation. The agent starts the de-escalation process by actively listening to the customer vent for some seconds.

They acknowledge the customer’s feelings and maybe say something like, “I understand that you would feel this way”. This show of empathy and validation immediately arrests the situation and calms the customer considerably.

To clarify what the problem is, the agent may also ask a few questions. At this point, the customer can cooperate with the agent to come up with a resolution for the issue.

Why is de-escalation so difficult?

De-escalation is difficult because it requires customer service agents to use processes that are against natural human reflexes to manage customer conflicts.

It’s challenging to stay calm and professional when you encounter a rude customer. This is why a customer service job requires imbibing de-escalation techniques by training and constant practice.

decreased satisfaction

At the end of everything, an agent’s response to a dissatisfied customer determines whether they stay with the brand or stay frustrated and go to the competition.

Do de-escalation techniques work?

Often, when customer agents handle angry customers using de-escalation techniques, they can calm them, resolve their concerns, and prevent intense conflicts.

De-escalation tactics like showing empathy, active listening, maintaining a collected facade, among others go a long way to streamline the resolution process and achieve customer satisfaction.

Although it’s rare, some customers won’t back down easily. In some cases, it might take more than one attempt at de-escalation to calm down the customer. If a technique doesn’t work at first, it’s important to stay calm and repeat the process until the technique works.

What are the effective de-escalation techniques for customer service representatives?

Companies need to train their customer service representatives on de-escalation techniques to help them handle irate customers effectively. Most companies include this training in their onboarding process.

What are the effective de-escalation techniques for customer service representatives? - App - Uploads - 2019 - 11 - Ticket.jpg

More importantly, customer service agents should be encouraged to put these acquired skills to work every day. This is the only way they can take it in and apply it when necessary.

Here are some effective de-escalation techniques you can use:

Maintain your composure

No matter how upset a customer is, the customer service agent should maintain a composed facade throughout the conversation. It puts you in the best position to handle their concerns professionally and get them to trust your ability to solve their concerns.

You can easily portray your composure with your tone of voice. If you’re meeting the customer physically, your facial expression should also show that you’re composed and confident in your ability to resolve their complaints. When spoken to in a calm voice, an angry customer is more likely to calm down and become more reasonable.

Listen actively

Instead of interrupting the customer with patronizing words or any words at all, listen to them without interrupting. By actively listening to them, you’ll be giving them a channel to vent their frustration. You’ll also be giving them support by making them feel heard.

Active listening also helps you figure out what the customer is concerned about and the best approach to resolving it.

Show empathy

As you actively listen to the customer, show empathy by acknowledging their concerns and asking questions to clarify the problem. Assure them that you’ll resolve their issues.

Woman showing empathy over phone - illustration

An empathetic attitude will help the customer feel understood and cooperate with you better.

Follow up with a resolution

No matter how upset a customer is when they contact customer service, they are ultimately looking for solutions. As soon as you can, offer a resolution for the customer’s complaint. This will immediately de-escalate the situation.

There are plenty of ways to resolve a situation. Whether it’s solving a specific issue with a satisfactory solution, getting rid of a problem, or even giving customer discounts as an apology, each resolution needs to be chosen for a specific situation.

How can help desk software help to de-escalate the situation?

In de-escalating a situation, it is also important that the current agent recognizes when a customer’s issue requires the intervention of a senior agent with more skills and authority. Some problems may also require technical knowledge and must be directed to the technical team.

In such cases, an escalation becomes necessary to quickly resolve the customer’s concern. Here are a few ways a help desk software can make it easier to manage escalations:

Escalation management through ticketing

Help desk software comes with ticketing features that help your customer service team organize and manage customer requests. It does this by collecting requests from all communication channels and converting them into tickets.

LiveAgent help desk ticketing

The system then assigns the tickets to the appropriate person or team according to the priorities set in your SLAs without losing any vital information.

The ticketing system also allows you to save important information about your customers. Thus, it serves as a source of CRM insights with which you can improve customer retention and satisfaction.

Escalation management through the call center

When a customer calls the call center, their first contact may not be able to resolve their complaint. In such cases, the customer’s call has to be transferred to another agent or team for proper resolution.

LivAgent's call center features

Customer help desk software helps you manage such call transfers, especially if your call center agents work remotely.

Escalation management through live chat

Sometimes a customer logs a complaint via live chat and isn’t satisfied with the resolution they get from the channel. In such cases, they get the option to speak with the next available human agent. When they choose this option, they are automatically routed to an agent with the appropriate expertise to handle their complaints.

LiveAgent proactive chat invitations - mockup

Escalation management through social media

It’s now common for people to expect customer support from a brand’s social media pages. However, it is quite tasking for businesses to manage these requests across multiple social media platforms. A customer help desk converts each request into tickets and provides a base where all social media requests can be accessed and attended to by the right agent.

LiveAgent social media customer service

Escalation management through the customer portal

A customer portal is a self-service tool containing forum posts, past feedback, and articles. It also provides a means for customers to interact with each other. As soon as they run into an obstacle, they can consult the resources to solve their problem or ask other customers in the forum for help.

Customer portal software - LiveAgent

Furthermore, if a customer support agent browses the forum and sees an elaborate issue there, they can create a ticket and get it promptly solved. Customers are able to track the progress of their tickets in real-time.

The customer portal also shows the customer’s history with the customer service, which the agents can access.

How can employee collaboration help in the de-escalation process?

Great employee collaboration helps ease the de-escalation process. This is why it is important to own customer help desk software, especially if your agents work remotely.

With this tool, customer service representatives can easily communicate with each other. Communication fosters a collaborative relationship which automatically leads to an increase in the quality of support they provide.

Sometimes it takes more than one agent to resolve a complex issue. But an upset customer will likely get more upset if you keep transferring them from one agent to another in a bid to resolve their issue.

With employee collaboration, however, agents can collectively resolve an issue to promptly de-escalate a situation. This, in turn, leads to a positive experience for the customer.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the customer service de-escalation process?

The de-escalation process in customer service is a strategy aimed at easing a customer’s emotions to prevent escalation of a conflict and help them resolve their complaints promptly.

What are the 3 stages of de-escalation?

Using a medical approach, there are three stages of de-escalation: Dialysis, Mental skin graft, and raising oxytocin and lowering cortisol levels.

Why is de-escalation so difficult?

De-escalation is difficult because it requires customer service agents to use processes that are against natural human reflexes to manage customer conflicts.

Do de-escalation techniques work?

Often, when customer agents handle angry customers using de-escalation techniques, they can calm them, resolve their concerns, and prevent intense conflicts.

What are the effective de-escalation techniques for customer service representatives?

Customer service representatives should be trained to deal with upset customers using effective de-escalation techniques like maintaining composure, listening actively, being empathetic, and following up with a resolution.

How can help desk software help to de-escalate the situation?

Help desk software such as LiveAgent can help de-escalate a situation through features that support a ticketing system, call center, live chat, social media support, and a customer portal.

How can employee collaboration help in the de-escalation process?

Great employee collaboration makes it easier to solve complex customer issues promptly without transferring the customer from one agent to another. This simplifies the de-escalation and improves the customer experience.

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