You have a problem between a customer and an employee. All of the service specialists are tied up with other customers. How do you handle this?

Question from Ernest C.

Please feel free to put your answer too.

Abraham Venismach

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Chip Bell - November 27, 2017

The first reaction is to let the CEO (or someone in the C-suite) take this call. The sentiment is that everyone in an organization is an ambassador and should be able to speak to a customer on behalf of the company. Customers don’t expect every employee to know everything; but everyone should be able to help support customers in getting their needs met or problems solved. If the customer’s issue is with a particular employee, it is important that employee be given a chance to respond.

Andy Schulkind - November 27, 2017

I would speak directly with the customer as the senior leader of the organization and resolve the service issue. As for the conflict between the customer and the employee, I would ask the customer for some feedback about the interaction once their service issue was resolved.

If the call was recorded, go back and replay the interaction with the employee. Use it as a “coaching moment” with the employee. Work through scenarios about how the call could have been managed more effectively.

Marilyn Suttle - November 27, 2017

If the situation happens once it will happen again. So, put together an escalation plan or decision tree. It can be used as a compass in the heat of the moment to recognize when it’s appropriate to send the call up the chain and when to use other potential ways of resolving the situation.

Mohamed Latib - November 27, 2017

You have no choice but to respond immediately to the customer and resolve the matter, assuming that you have the skills it takes to manage irate customers and employees. I would also be in a discovery mode to gather data that would inform actions to take with the employee, and in general, with the customer focus culture of the organization.

John DiJulius - November 27, 2017

Have anyone other than the employee deal with the customer. If that needs to be calling them later when someone is available to handle it correctly. Make sure you retrain the employee to ensure future customer challenges do not escalate.

Errol Allen - November 27, 2017

I would have to talk to the customer myself. I may not have whatever knowledge is required to resolve the issue, but it is necessary to become involved in the situation so as to make sure the customer feels that someone cares. I would ask the customer to allow me 15 to 30 minutes to investigate the situation and then call them back. It is necessary hear the employee’s side of the issue , then jointly develop a solution to the issue.

Jeanne Bliss - November 27, 2017

One of the things that we did when I led CX at a couple of companies was to create executive “buddies” for the phone reps for them to access in these situations. Kind of like “phone a friend” – these execs were on call and made themselves accessible when reps were in need. This did a few things: a) got the execs closer to the action, and created empathy for the reps and heightened customer understanding, b) showed employees that their work was an important priority and that THEY were too

Marco Houthuijzen - November 28, 2017

In addition to John’s reply: let the employee defuse the situation by apologising for the miscommunication and that the customer will be called back by a senior (peer). Ask the customer when an appropriate moment for the call back. Let the peer listen to the call log before he/she calls back; the customer is not always right. Apply Marilyn’s suggestion.

Nick Bush - November 28, 2017

I agree with pretty much everything that’s been said: the senior CX/service lead should intervene to resolve. What I also think is important is that bad customer experiences like this are used to understand the root cause. For example this incident could be a result of a systemic problem that most customer service reps manage to contain and might require a change to processes or management systems, or it could be a genuine outlier resulting from a flaw in the recruitment process.

Shep Hyken - November 28, 2017

I’m understanding this question to be that an employee needs to talk to a CSR to help his/her customer, but nobody is available. Simple… be transparent. Explain the situation. Let the customer know about the process. Inform him/her that they will be contacted at a certain time with the answer or resolution to the problem. Follow through on the promise. Have the appropriate person on the phone when you call. The customer must feel they have a “friend on the inside.”

Pat Porras - November 28, 2017

Good am all: My input is that this is one of the “WHY’s” organizations need to have Sales & Service Standards that all Team are trained on and they have Standards to be guided by for their actions. Thanks

Paolo Fabrizio - November 28, 2017

I assume there’s a conversation going on that has come to a dead end. Since the employee needs to involve a supervisor who’s not available at the moment, he/she’d better:
1. Explain the customer that he/she would love to fix this issue, however in this case only a supervisor (SPV) can do that
2. As the SPV is busy, make arrangements with the customer to schedule a call the following hours of the same day
3. Then report the SPV, making sure that he /she will call the customer back on schedule.

Natalie Calvert - November 29, 2017

AWESOME! This is the CX leaders ‘shine moment’ to either:

A. Lead and take over the conversation
B. Empower someone else to take over the conversation
C. Coach in real time
D. Ask the Customer Advisor to set up leaders call back

Quickly decide who, what and how based on the real world of what’s currently going on, impact on this and other customers.
After review with CA and then sort out policy, training etc


Gangadhar Krishna - December 1, 2017

When there is an issue between the customer and an employee.
Start with a genuine apology.
Then take ownership and try to sort it.
If you cannot, then update the customer on the manager’s availability. If he can wait ‘promise’ him of a call back from the manager. But if he cannot wait, escalate to senior management to have it sorted immediately.
It is important to ACT then REACT.
Finally listen to the employee version. Coach, counsel or re-train as the situation warrants.


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