Escalation Management: How to Keep Customers Happy

The boom in social media as a customer care channel is unprecedented.

In terms of time and transparency, social media is a prime place for consumers to look for answers and solutions.

However, many brands still have issues with social customer service.

In particular, the volume of news from social media is often overwhelming. Serious problems fall through the cracks, resulting in disgruntled customers, negative press, and lost business.

Listen: you can’t afford to treat customer care as secondary. You need to address urgent issues quickly and thoughtfully without overwhelming your customer service agents.

This is where your escalation management strategy comes in.

What is escalation management anyway?

Escalation management prioritizes customer concerns, classifies issues according to severity, and ensures that they are addressed by the right people (in the appropriate order).

Food for thought: Businesses have seen a staggering 66% increase in service requests from digital channels over the past three years. Couple this with the fact that requests for social services are just as legitimate for modern customers as phone calls or face-to-face conversations.

This not only speaks to the importance of breaking down your requests into levels, but also of delegating responses to the right people.

Escalation management goes hand in hand with greater customer loyalty. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll need to maintain a timely response time for social media while empowering your best-equipped staff to process their respective tickets. The end result is happier customers and a positive sentiment through social networks.

Dealing with escalation management via social media

Below we’ve outlined the steps to put together a customer service escalation process related to social media.

1. Prioritize your customers’ most pressing problems

The first is the first: you need to distinguish between tasks that deserve your immediate attention and problems that can wait.

There are some cases where a saved answer won’t cut them. If you don’t react quickly, it can cost your customers.

For example, there is a huge difference between deleting a troll comment and de-escalating a social media breakdown from your biggest client. The following are some examples of priority escalation management issues.

Major product and service issues

Understandably, the most important problems associated with escalation management relate to your customers’ finances. Some examples could be:

  • Unexpected fees or charges (e.g. double billing)
  • Business interruptions or failures
  • Undelivered or unusable products or services (damaged products, broken links)

These types of problems can go from a single customer problem to a full call if not answered.

And again, speed counts. Keep in mind that two-thirds of people expect a response from brands on social media the same day. Especially when it comes to massive customer discomfort, you can’t let go of those bad feelings. These are situations where you need to take and suggest the next steps as soon as possible.

Inflammatory comments and indications

We understand: Navigating the call-out culture is difficult.

Sometimes it is difficult to decipher legitimate clues from minor complaints or trolls.

However, when you get a barrage of negative mentions from industry players, influencers, and / or verified accounts, claims control can’t wait. Whether it’s a clarification or an apology, brands need to strike a balance between timely and thoughtful responses to keep the situation from getting worse.

This is another situation where the customer service representative who gives the answer really matters. Leave sensitive situations like this to the people who understand your brand voice and values.

Ways to close eager customers

Not every situation related to escalation management is necessarily negative.

For example, let’s say someone buys products on social media and asks about a feature or demo. The longer you wait to set up a demo or potential meeting outside of social media, the more likely they are to look elsewhere or possibly jump to a competitor.

Take that away? For good and bad situations, you need to highlight proactive service that is in the hands of the right people.

This is an ongoing process in which you need to learn the strengths of your social media specialists or account managers as well as continuously improve your response times. Tools like Sprout Social encourage you to do both by keeping track of your employees’ customer interactions.

2. Determine your level of service (and the employees responsible for it).

Simply put, you need to create a social media policy that prioritizes your service tasks at different levels. For example:

  • Tier 1 support deals with frequently asked questions, many of which can be answered by a stored answer or knowledge base.
  • Tier 2 support deals with individual issues that require a personalized response but are not necessarily urgent.
  • Tier 3 support addresses the high priority issues discussed above (e.g. billing issues, outages, etc.).

And for each level of customer escalation you can assign different employees (think: junior or senior employees).

How this type of policy works in practice varies from company to company. In any case, the concept is simple enough: problems are classified according to severity and only dealt with by the right personnel.

For organizational reasons, consider linking your escalation management strategy to permissions and permissions. This not only organizes your employees’ tasks and creates a sense of accountability, but also ensures that the right tasks go to the right people.

Below is an example of escalation management with Sprout, which serves as an all-in-one place for reps to flag issues by level, go back and forth through comments, and respond to customers without leaving the platform.

Screenshot of the Sprout Social Smart Inbox with message tagging for customer support escalation.  A message is marked for tier 2 support.

3. Create a process for evaluating and responding to customers

Now that you’ve figured out what your primary problems are and who should be addressing them, what about the actual process of responding?

Escalation management is largely situational. Organizations cannot treat all customers equally, nor should they rely on consistent answers to complex problems.

That said, you should definitely streamline the process of responding to customers. The following is a step-by-step example of a customer escalation management process in action:

Step 1. The social marketing team reviews all incoming messages. Anything that is deemed worthy of escalation is sent to support as a priority card.

Step 2. Members of the social team read their full conversation history with a user, as well as:

  • The last seven days of the user with tweets
  • Your bio
  • Relevant mentions and responses

The goal here is to gain an understanding of who you might be interacting with and if they have ulterior motives (think: trolling, indirectly mentioning your brand or your employees, etc.).

Screenshot of a Twitter troll example that has no pictures, no followers and only follows a few accounts.

Step 3. Use tagging to identify more serious incidents that may need another team to review. This can be any type of aggressive or reportable content, messages about specific employees, or issues with company behavior.

From here, messages and comments linked to internal tags can be forwarded to senior team members. Depending on the situation, a social manager can put the concern back with a suggestion or take the reins himself.

Screenshot example of a Sprout support issue with internal comments and conversation history.

Step 4. Over time, make sure you develop response templates as well as internal markings for common problems. This can help reduce your response time and help newer employees respond without using it entirely as a template.

Screenshot example of the Reply function saved by Sprout Social by Message Tag.

4. Train your staff to address problems before they escalate

Perhaps the best line of defense against escalating issues is to make sure your employees are prepared for it.

Here are some key points to focus on when managing escalation:

Practice empathy

Modern social customer care is based on empathy and listening to people, not copying and pasting a potted answer. Always put yourself in the shoes of your customers and make sure to reassure them.

Respect the chain of command

In short, employees should acknowledge what problems are in their wheelhouse and what are not. The clearer the roles and responsibilities of your employees, the easier it is for them to submit and solve problems.

Be ready to work with other representatives

An open, collaborative culture is key to solving problems in a timely manner and ensuring that your employees are on good terms with one another.

This is where tools like Sprout come in, which allow employees to go back and forth on a single platform and solve problems without having to step on each other’s toes.

The collision detection in Sprout prevents overlaps during escalation management.

Do you have an escalation management plan?

Sure, you shouldn’t assume the worst what-if scenarios for your service reps.

Even so, you need to be prepared.

Having an escalation management plan in place makes life easier for your employees and helps you maintain more positive customer relationships at the same time. This requires a deliberate customer escalation process, and you cannot afford to just “inspire” it.

With this in mind, read our guide to social media crisis management.

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