Stop the Domino Effect: Expert Insights on Curbing Escalations in Your Call Center

de-escalation de-escalation training

Customer Service Is Hard Work!

With empathy and a smile, customer support teams must give bad news, deal with angry people, and de-escalate intense interactions. Your team - and you- deserve support, and it's my pleasure to serve YOU!

I've designed customer service training for some of the world's top brands, including Coca-Cola, Walmart, McDonald's, Michelin Tires, Frito-Lay, Salesforce, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm the creator of De-escalation Academy and Customer Service Master Class. 

My goal? Make YOUR life easier. Get your CSAT scores upaverage handle time downde-escalate, and get customers to accept employees' words as final. 


My helps starts now!

Let's begin our journey towards mastering customer service de-escalation and creating a better experience for both customers and call center agents alike. In this article, I will discuss the importance of de-escalation in call centers, common triggers for customer escalations, proven strategies for customer service de-escalation, and how to train and coach employees in these techniques. I've included short training videos to make training your team easy!


The Importance of De-escalation in Call Centers


Call centers serve as the primary touchpoint between a business and its customers. In many cases, customers reach out to call centers when they experience problems or have concerns that they want to be addressed. As a result, call center agents often encounter customers who are already frustrated or upset. These situations can quickly escalate, leading to negative customer experiences and potential damage to the business's reputation.


Effective customer service de-escalation can prevent these escalations from occurring, leading to a more positive outcome for both parties. By successfully de-escalating a situation, call center agents can resolve the customer's issue more efficiently, maintain customer satisfaction, and protect the brand image. Moreover, mastering de-escalation techniques can reduce stress on agents and improve overall staff morale.


Providing exceptional customer service is paramount for success in the competitive business landscape. As such, mastering customer service de-escalation should be a top priority for any call center.


Common Triggers for Customer Escalations


To effectively de-escalate a situation, it is essential to understand the common triggers for customer escalations. In my experience, the following are some of the most prevalent:


1) Failure to link the communication chain: When we don't acknowledge the customer's pain point through validation, we push the customer to the emotional right brain. From the right brain, customers are more emotional and more challenging. Learn about moving customers out of the emotional right brain in this video. 

2) Unresolved issues: When a customer's problem remains unaddressed, their frustration may increase, leading to escalation.

3) Long wait times: Extended hold times can exacerbate a customer's frustration, causing them to become more agitated and hostile.

4) Hearing bad news: It's when customers don't hear or get what they want that they're most likely to escalate. So, we have to get confident and assertive with giving bad news. Here's a short video course on my 4 Keys to Giving Bad News.

 5) Unmet expectations: When a customer's expectations are not met, they may become increasingly upset, resulting in escalation.

6) Perceived disrespect: If customers feel disrespected or dismissed, their anger may intensify, leading to escalation.

7) The customer doesn't trust the employee or sees them as a threat: Learn about this trigger in the following video.

Understanding these triggers is the first step in preventing customer escalations and implementing effective de-escalation strategies.


Proven De-escalation Strategies for Customer Service


In my de-escalation training, I have identified several proven strategies for de-escalating with customers. These techniques can be applied across various industries and situations, helping call center agents prevent escalations and provide exceptional customer service.


Building Rapport and Empathy with Customers


One of the most effective ways to de-escalate a situation is to build rapport and empathy with the customer. This involves:

  • Actively listening to the customer's concerns.
  • Acknowledging their emotions.
  • Expressing genuine understanding of their situation.

I break down the importance of acknowledging customer concerns in this video.


Customers are likelier to remain calm and cooperative when they feel heard and understood. You build rapport by using empathetic statements, such as "I understand how frustrating this must be for you" or "I can see how this situation would be upsetting."


By demonstrating empathy and building rapport, call center agents can more effectively address the customer's concerns, prevent escalations, and maintain customer satisfaction.

 Download my Empathy Statements!


Effective Communication Techniques for De-escalating Situations


Effective communication plays a critical role in de-escalating customer service situations. In my experience, the following techniques have proven successful in preventing escalations:


  • Active listening: Paying close attention to the customer's words and tone can help agents better understand their concerns and respond accordingly.
  • Maintaining a calm and professional tone: Speaking calmly and professionally can help diffuse tension and keep the conversation focused on resolving the issue at hand.
  • Using positive language: Focusing on what can be done to resolve the situation, rather than what cannot, can help prevent frustration and maintain a positive atmosphere. Check out my article, Positive Positioning Can Help You De-escalate Intense Interactions with Customers.
  • Clarifying and summarizing: Repeating back the customer's concerns and summarizing the situation can help ensure both parties are on the same page and working towards a resolution.


By employing these communication techniques, call center agents can more effectively de-escalate situations and provide exceptional customer service.


De-escalation Training for Contact Center Staff


To implement effective customer service de-escalation strategies, it is crucial to provide comprehensive training for contact center staff. In my experience, de-escalation training should include the following components:


  • Building confidence: Customer Service Professionals have the knowledge and resources to support customers, but they often don't have the confidence to give bad news in a way that customers accept as final. Focus on training exercises that build confidence. 

In my De-escalation Training, your employees go from feeling overwhelmed and powerless when they have to give customers bad news, to feeling confident, firm, and in control as they bring down the temperature in interactions and guide customers to the next steps. Learn more!

  • Understanding triggers: Educating agents on the common triggers for customer escalations can help them better anticipate and prevent these situations from occurring.
  • Role-playing exercises: Engaging in simulated customer interactions can provide valuable hands-on experience in de-escalating situations and allow agents to practice the strategies discussed in training.
  • Developing emotional intelligence: Teaching agents to recognize and manage their own emotions, as well as those of their customers, can enhance their ability to de-escalate situations effectively.
  • Ongoing support and coaching: Providing ongoing support and coaching for agents can help reinforce de-escalation strategies and ensure their continued success in preventing customer escalations.


By investing in comprehensive de-escalation training for contact center staff, businesses can better equip their agents to handle challenging customer situations and provide exceptional service.


Coaching Employees to De-escalate


As a customer service and de-escalation expert, I have found that coaching employees on de-escalation techniques can greatly enhance their ability to prevent customer escalations. This coaching process should involve regular feedback, guidance, and encouragement, helping agents continually improve and refine their de-escalation skills.


In my experience, effective coaching can include the following:


  • Regular one-on-one meetings: These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss specific customer interactions, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies for success. For help with coaching, check out my Coaching School.
  • Call monitoring and feedback: Listening to recorded calls can help identify strengths and weaknesses in an agent's de-escalation techniques, allowing for targeted coaching and feedback.
  • Peer reviews: Encouraging agents to review and learn from their colleagues' calls can foster a collaborative learning environment and contribute to overall skill development.


By providing ongoing coaching and support, call center supervisors can help their agents master customer service de-escalation and maintain a positive customer experience.


Case Studies: Successful De-escalation in Action


Throughout my consulting work, I have witnessed numerous instances of successful customer service de-escalation. The following case studies exemplify the power of effective de-escalation techniques in preventing escalations and maintaining customer satisfaction:


  • Case Study 1: A call center agent encountered a customer who was irate due to an unexpected charge on their account. By employing active listening and empathetic statements, the agent could calm the customer and work with them to resolve the issue, ultimately retaining their business.
  • Case Study 2: An agent faced a customer who was frustrated with a product's performance. By maintaining a calm and professional tone, the agent was able to de-escalate the situation and help the customer troubleshoot the issue, leading to a successful resolution.
  • Case Study 3: A customer called in with a complex issue that required multiple departments to resolve. By effectively communicating and clarifying the situation, the agent prevented escalation and ensured a satisfactory outcome for the customer.


These case studies demonstrate the power of effective customer service de-escalation techniques in preventing escalations and maintaining a positive customer experience.


Conclusion and Next Steps for Mastering De-escalation


Mastering customer service de-escalation is a vital skill for any call center professional. By understanding common triggers for escalations, implementing proven de-escalation strategies, and investing in comprehensive training and coaching, businesses can equip their agents with the tools they need to prevent escalations and provide exceptional customer service.


In my experience, mastering de-escalation techniques not only benefits the customer but also contributes to a more positive and rewarding work environment for call center agents. By continually refining and improving these skills, call center professionals can contribute to their company's success and maintain a competitive edge in the customer service industry.


So, take the next steps in mastering customer service de-escalation by investing in training, coaching, and ongoing support for your call center staff. The benefits of these efforts will be evident in improved customer satisfaction, reduced escalations, and a more positive work environment for your team.



If you find that you need more help with de-escalation, consider my online De-escalation training. In this course, I’ll show you how to choose words that create calm with an upset customer. I’ll walk you through how to reframe conversations so customers don’t get worked up while venting. And I’ll teach you the absolute best way to handle a customer who yells or uses profanity.

Check Out Our Most Popular Training - De-escalation Academy!

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