De-Escalation 101: Focus on Anxiety

I have seen customer service departments struggle so many times with complaining customers, it’s almost heartbreaking.  At the same time, I have seen so many situations de-escalate despite relatively long resolution times.

How can an escalating situation ever end up in satisfied customers, despite a long resolution cycle you ask?

Escalation = Anxiety

It all starts with an understanding of anxiety and frustration of customers: the reason something escalates is usually linked to a customer not believing you understand the urgency, or the importance of a situation for them.  Escalating  helps focus resources and recruit support from senior management, especially when resources are across different functions and reporting lines within an organization.

The key is therefore to keep the customer’s anxiety levels about your capabilities to a bare minimum, while helping them understand in their own terms what it is you are doing for them to salvage the situation.

“Push” Notifications Became Popular for a Reason

The second and most important key is to keep communication flowing, think of “push” notifications on your smart phone: they reduce the anxiety of having to remember, or having to follow up on things (a meeting reminder, a friend’s comment to your post, a flight being delayed, etc).  In the case of push notifications, the anxiety is mostly linked to your own ability to remind yourself of a task, rather than a supplier’s capabilities to do their work right.

No News is Still News

Do not wait too long for an update to actually update your customer.  Sometimes, investigations to a problem take time, keep your customer engaged nevertheless.  Let them know you are still owning their problem, even if it takes time.  Do not wait for them to request an update: it would already be too late, and you would only be reinforcing their belief that without their intervention and consistent follow-through, you would not be doing your job.

Maya Angelou was right: “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.


Picture via Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Gnu General Public License.

Published by Gaby Abi Aad

Gaby Abi Aad has extensive experience in IT and digital marketing, two fields he is very passionate about, in addition to humanities, philosophy and history. Gaby currently works at an IT company, his opinions are his own.

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