how to deescalate a supervisor call

How to Deescalate a Supervisor Call: The Best Technique Ever

“All supervisors are engaged in a call/ in a meeting.” This is every call center agent’s go-to excuse when deescalating a supervisor call. But if you’ve worked in the call center long enough, you know that this script had lost its charm a long time ago. Here’s why:

  • It’s so overused that even the slowest customer knows better than to believe it.
  • Some customers, who are retired or don’t have jobs to go to, could just respond, “I’ll wait. I have all the time in the world.” Then you can then bid farewell to your AHT.

When dealing with a hysterical customer who’s adamant to get a supervisor, following scripts can only do so much. Lucky you, we’ve put together a guide on how to deescalate a supervisor call which will make you a more efficient problem solver.

1. Understand the customer’s why.

Don’t come up with an excuse (aka: My supervisor is in a meeting). Instead, face the problem head-on and ask why. When you’re more focused on avoiding the issue than solving it, it puts you on the defensive, and the customer go on the offensive. This should never be the case.

Whether you’re in sales or customer service, you—the agent— should be the one leading the conversation, not the other way around. No matter what happens, ask for the customer’s why.

Scenario 1:

Agent: Thank you for calling ABC. How may I help you today?

Customer: Transfer me to a supervisor.

Agent: Sure, I can do that. For me to document the transfer, can you tell me all about your concern? I can probably answer it for you. (said with dazzling confidence)

Notice that the agent didn’t give her a sorry-can’t do-that excuse. Instead, she said the opposite, Sure I can do that.

It might have sounded like a yes, but what she was actually doing was: she was tricking the customer into coughing up the reason of the sup call and providing her more info about the call.

By saying, in a confident tone, that she could help the customer, the agent got her thinking (unconsciously) that the right person who can help her was already talking to her. And any wish to talk to a supervisor would be slowly forgotten.

In short, the agent said “yes”, but actually meant “no”.

2. Empathize

Empathizing with a friend is straightforward. But empathizing with your customers? It’s a little bit tricky.

Customer: (Sigh) You sure about that? Because I’ve called you guys THREE f***ing times. I first called Jay who promised to refund me for the damaged dress. A week passed and still no refund, I called again and got Pamela. Guess what, she told me, the refund wasn’t processed. She asked me to wait another week and still, no f***king refund! UNTIL NOW! What the hell is going on?

Agent: I’m really sorry to hear that. I can see why you’re upset.

Customer: Sorry won’t help! Give me my refund!!!

Agent: I’ll definitely look into this for you. There must be an explanation why this happened. We usually issue refunds as early as 3 days. (puts on a show of feeling really, really confused.) I can’t quite figure out why it’s taking so long for you. But I can definitely check your account right now. Would you happen to have the order number so I can take a quick look?

Empathize but…

Now, normally, if you’re empathizing with an upset bestfriend who just got cheated on by her boyfriend, you, as a friend, naturally respond by feeling upset as well. You could even curse the bastard as much as you like.

Unfortunately, empathizing with customers, is a little bit tricky, because of this strict company policy: Thou shall not badmouth your colleague in the peripheral hearing of your customer. 

Jay and Pamela, the agent’s colleague, may be lazy, but company policy dictates that this fact MUST remain in the four corners of the office.

Therefore, even for empathy purposes, the agent should NEVER say, “They didn’t process your refund? What the heck are they receiving their paychecks for?”

Instead, try this technique.

Company policy forbids the agent to mirror the customer’s frustration. But it doesn’t forbid her to mirror the customer’s confusion. You see, the customer was not only upset; she was also confused.

By expressing that she, too, was confused, the agent was basically mirroring the customer’s second strongest feeling about the situation. And remember, mirroring is very effective when empathizing with customers. It makes them feel heard and understood.

Remember though, to not overdo it.

Note that agent didn’t just go on talking about how confused she was. In fact, she quickly added, “But I can definitely check your account right now.”, then asked for the order number. That was important. It prompted the customer to focus more on the solution than on her frustration.

Remember: Expecting an irate customer to be logical without addressing her emotions first is a losing battle.

Back to the call:

Customer: I know! It’s ridiculous! No customer should have to call three times to request a refund for an item that was sent damaged in the first place! It’s too much!

Notice that the customer vented out her frustration the second time after the agent’s first empathy statement. And for the second time, the agent was consistent with her technique: empathy statement + a little nudge for the customer to provide the order number.

Agent: I couldn’t agree more. Two weeks for a refund is way too long. This really shouldn’t have happened. And I know sorry wouldn’t cut it. But I have to help you on this. If you give me the order number I should be able to pull out your account, see what exactly happened, then process the refund ASAP. We won’t end this call unless I get a confirmation number confirming your refund.

Repeat this technique as needed until your customer softens up a little bit, enough to have a logical conversation.

Think of it like a barter system: You’ll release the customer from her anger and frustration; in return she’ll cough up the needed info so you can end the shift with a decent AHT. 🙂

3. Resolve the issue.

Once you’ve gotten the customer to forget about the supervisor, don’t waste that opportunity. Resolve the issue with great speed and efficiency. Here and now, in this stage of the call, the customer is your responsibility. So solve the damn problem and deal with your lazy colleagues later.

4. Walk the extra mile.

In this stage of the call, your goal is to convince the customer that the same issue would never happen again. How do you do that?

Well, if the company’s standard refund process requires you to just verbally confirm the refund, then walk the extra mile and volunteer to send an email detailing the refund info, or give your extension number in case the customer has questions—anything that’ll make her feel heard and valued.

Who knows, she might take the time to type a long CSAT kudos detailing your drive for exceptional customer service.

Heck, she might, again, even do business with the company who sent her a damaged item and made her call three times for its refund. All because of one agent from that company who handled her with great care and empathy.

Scenario 2:

But what happens if you’ve given the customer all the info she needs, has offered the best resolution possible, stated the final answer, but she still demands for a supervisor because she thinks can get a better offer?

Agent: Thank you for calling ABC. How may I help you today?

Customer: I want to talk to a supervisor.

Agent: Sure let me look for the supervisor. What seems to be the problem? I can probably help you out with your concern.

Customer: Oh yeah? Well, it’s a long story actually. I was overcharged $13 for my bill last month. I called, and someone called Tamara told me it was because I exceeded the limit of data I was supposed to use. I’m telling you, I don’t know nothing about that shit. All I know is, I use your service, I pay $39.99 monthly. No more, no less. Nobody in the installation team told me anything about extra charges. It’s misleading. So I need to talk to your supervisor ’cause I don’t wanna pay that extra $13 you’re asking me to pay.

Now here’s the policy:

The company policy here states that overcharge is overcharge. No exception, whatever the reason is—even if the customer threatens to cancel. If customers protest, tell them it was written in the Terms and Agreements.

Let’s jump into the part where the agent has pulled up the account…

Agent: Hi Debra, so you want to talk to a supervisor because you want the $13 cancelled and just the regular rate $39.99 to remain, am I right?

Customer: You got it. Hell, I ain’t paying for a price I didn’t agree to pay!

Agent: The company does not refund overcharge, Debra.

This is tough because in this call, the only thing that agent should say is “no”. No compromise or alternative resolution, just “no”.  In most cases, agents usually have the choice to issue an exception or compromise. This one doesn’t.

Note:

The agent didn’t say I’m sorry or anything that would water the down the answer no. When delivering a bad news that nobody, even the supervisor, can do something about, your only choice is to sound firm and confident on delivering it. It’s crucial that your tone of voice should not betray any weaknesses. Weaknesses that the customer could exploit.

Customer: Ha! And why is that?

Agent: You’d find it written in the Terms and Agreement that was sent out to you during the installation. You’re subscribed to a 50GB plan and you’ve exceeded to 70GB—

Customer: Yes, yes, yes, I already know that. Well, transfer me someone who can do something about this then, your supervisor. That’s what I was asking you before.

Agent: If I transfer you to a supervisor now, you’re only gonna get the same answer.

The idea is to hammer to the customer’s head that talking to a supervisor would bear the same result, the same answer, and would end up with her time wasted.

Customer: I’m not hanging up the phone until you transfer me. Your company is a rip-off!

Agent: Debra, there are things that only a supervisor can grant. But there are also things that even a supervisor cannot grant. Your request is one of them. I’m sorry.

Note:

Saying sorry isn’t completely discouraged but you need to use it carefully. Your sorry should not sound like you’re begging or pacifying. You must say it with a note of finality. Like a judge’s hammer sentencing a prisoner to death.

If you succeed in that, then the customer isn’t likely going to push it and she’ll know what it means. You get a healthy AHT.

But if that weren’t the case, or if the customer is too stubborn, or if she feels like venting out her emotion to someone who holds a higher position than an agent, then scenario 3 is the way to go:

Scenario 3: Inhale, exhale, and let your supervisor know you’ve done everything you could.

Some calls are just meant be supervisor calls, the moment the first digit is dialed. So if you’ve tried the techniques in scenarios 1 and 2 but the customer is still screaming for a supervisor, breath a sigh of relief and let your supervisor handle some hell from time to time. And this includes this one:

Agent: Thank you for calling ABC. How may I help you today?

Customer: I want to talk to a supervisor.

Agent: Sure let me look for the supervisor. What seems to be the problem? I can probably help you out with your concern.

Customer: NO! I want to talk to a supervisor!

Agent: Can you give me any information that I can include in the transfer?

Customer: No. Transfer me to S-U-P-E-R-V-I-S-O-R! Supervisor. ASAP.

Pat yourself in the back and know that you’ve handled the issue with phenomenal expertise.

In short, if the situation is beyond your control and only a supervisor could rectify the issue, go ahead, tell your team leader you’ve done everything you could then ask for permission to transfer.

Sometimes, all your TL might need to complete his day is a sup call.

And don’t forget that inhale and exhale, won’t you?

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