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Call escalation

Call escalation is a process implemented to solve a customer’s complaint or issue outside an agent’s scope of authority and requires a supervisor or a manager's intervention.
Glossary >A - F

What is a call escalation?

Call escalation, sometimes referred to as escalation call or supervisor escalation, is when a customer requests a senior representative to intervene and resolve their issue. 

Escalations can create a state of urgency requiring both human and procedural resources to be in place to deal with it. It means predetermining and identifying backup staff, using escalation tools and automating redundant workflows.

Call escalations directly affect critical metrics of a contact center such as First Call Resolution (FCR), Average Handle Time (AHT), negative customer sentiment, etc. It is a challenge that needs to be proactively tackled by identifying process gaps, training agents adequately, and updating information resources regularly.

How to proactively tackle call escalations?

Proactively tackling call escalations requires a comprehensive and holistic focus on de-escalation techniques for customer service agents. In this section, we will explain these de-escalation techniques with examples of how agents can handle a misbehaving frustrated customer.

1. Set up an escalations department

Many contact centers have dedicated escalations departments solely responsible for escalations management

Escalation managers are professionals well-versed in customer service skills with the ability to efficiently resolve complex issues. As their core competency lies in problem management, their ability to deal with difficult situations is comparatively better. 

Another advantage of a dedicated escalations department is it helps to avoid call escalations to higher management levels that are more focused on strategic and planning tasks.

2. Build an Escalation Matrix

To handle call escalations effectively, a number of call center escalation procedures need to be put in place.

A common method is the Escalation Matrix, that answers the question: Whom do you call for emergency de-escalation?

What is an Escalation Matrix?

An escalation matrix consists of two pieces of information:

  1. the problem that triggers an escalation
  2. the person to be notified

Based on the issue— technical problems, product failure, delivery issues, etc.— different members at the management level are notified. 

The objective is to connect the customer with the right representative, based on the team members’ competence and level of authorization. Defining an escalation path streamlines the process, removes conflict on the best contact to resolve issue-specific call escalation, and saves valuable time for the contact center.

Today, with readily available escalation procedure templates, it is easy to design an Escalation Matrix. These may be adopted by a contact center based on needs, organizational setup, and the industry it caters to.

How to de-escalate an angry customer?

de-escalate angry customers agent call escalation

While customers often understand the agent is not at fault, as brand representatives, agents are at the receiving end of customer frustrations. 

  • Coach agents: Often, customers want to voice their concerns and frustrations. Hence, it is important to routinely coach and sensitize the agents to not take the misbehavior personally but view it as an expression of discontent towards the product or service. It is important for the agent to remain calm and instead professionally continue the conversation. Often, this has a calming effect on the customer as well, and increases the likelihood of a more productive, resolution-focused conversation. 
  • Active listening: Active listening goes a long way in de-escalating an angry customer. Angry customers want to voice their frustrations, and uninterrupted listening is a simple, respectful and easiest way to acknowledge their issues.
  • Show empathy: Showing empathy encourages the customer to calmly explain their issues. The customer must be reassured that their concerns are understood and will be resolved.
  • Use positive vocabulary: Agents should avoid expressing negative sentiments like “I don’t know”, “I cannot”, or “I don’t understand”. This could sound offensive to the customer and further exacerbate the situation. Instead, using constructive and optimistic script like “I will try to gather more information on this and get back to you” can be helpful. Agents must avoid saying “No”, especially to a frustrated caller.
  • Keep the customer informed: Another way to divert the customer’s attention from the issue and refocus it towards a solution-oriented approach is to inform the customer about realistic next steps to resolve their issues. This removes uncertainties about the problem-resolution process and effectively defuses the situation. Continuously updating them about the status of the resolution process in real-time is an effective ploy of managing an angry customer.

How to handle a call escalation when a customer threatens?

During extreme situations, the customer may resort to the use of threats of a lawsuit, take to social media or switch to a competitor.

Threats fundamentally change the dynamic of a conversation and can demotivate the agent to further handle the customer’s query. However, these situations arise from highly dissatisfied, and angry customers.     

Rather than focusing on the threats, the agent must look for solutions. 

In situations where the customer threatens to take up the matter with the higher management, it is best to transition the call to the manager or supervisor, and allow them to voice their grievances.

How to reduce call escalations?

To reduce escalations as a contact center, it is important to focus on factors behind call escalations. 

This will require an in-depth analysis on 100% of conversations analyzing, studying persistent issues with the products or services, and finding redundant gaps in the  escalation process. 

how to reduce call escalations in call center

Strategic-level decisions are needed to reduce call escalations by researching the problem areas and understanding patterns. Factors as simple as access to updated information in the internal knowledge base or a poorly coached agent could be the bottleneck. 

1. Using Contact Center AI

Calls can be analyzed using Contact Center AI, a technology that uses advanced Natural Language Processing and Speech Recognition technology to analyze 100% of the calls and enable agents by automating quality assurance, coaching analytics and providing performance insights.

2. Updating Internal Knowledge Base

Continuous updates need to be made to the Internal Knowledge Base (IKB) to give quick and easy access to agents to relevant information related to processes, products or services. This reduces the need for escalations. Training and development of the agents must be aligned with the updated information in the IKB

3. Identify redundant workflows

Analysing call escalations, finding loopholes, identifying areas of inefficiencies and redundancies is important to reduce call escalations and reinvent the process. 

With the right technology, QA’s can deep dive into individual agent performance and accurately find the root cause of escalations. Agents can then be coached accordingly, making the process more efficient, customer-friendly, and cost effective to save a tonne of time.


Call escalation is clearly a formidable challenge for every contact center. Successful handling of it requires a holistic approach involving agents on the frontline and higher management.

Agent training and coaching, a continuously updated knowledge base, and well-planned procedures are important pillars to proactively handle the issue at the tactical level. In the long run, well-executed Quality Analysis and the use of AI are the most promising tools to find the loopholes and reduce call escalations.

All in all, keeping escalations under check is of utmost importance for every contact center to enhance efficiency, salvage precious resources and boost customer satisfaction.