Escalation. Be Proactive Not Reactive by gdf57j


									       TRAINING                               •    BIZ
       by Cheryl Crumb

Be Proactive Not Reactive
      “Escalate” is one of those words that can    understanding of the customer needs, the            prevent these escalations?”
sound bad…weak… like the grown-up                  problems or opportunities producing those                 When employees see that a solution is
version of (tongue out) “Nnnnyyyyynnnn-            needs, and the current and future personal          outside of their scope, they should proactively
yyynnn, I’m going to tell on you!”                 and corporate impact of those needs.                initiate the escalation process, not wait for the
Unfortunately, it’s gotten that reputation         Without that shared background, companies           customer to initiate it. The person who
because most companies escalate reactively         will intractably stand fast on policies.            initiates the escalation is the “leader”
and defensively.                                         The most vital tool of escalation is          regardless of his formal title or authority. His
      In the retail setting here’s an example of   communication: listening, questioning, and          team are those managers or executives who
a situation that can give “escalation” a bad       keeping everyone apprised of the current            have resources or decision-making power. He
rap: A customer walks into the store, asks for     status of roles, responsibilities and timeframes.   does not let go of the leadership reins just
something that the employee insists is not         A modern escalation system is housed in a           because his team members have bigger titles.
possible, squawks because the employee is          culture of ownership rather than obedience.         He remains the conduit to the customer
not helping him, and then demands to esca-         As opposed to the “hot potato toss” where all       which preserves the front-line relationship
late the situation to the supervisor. Employee     vestiges of personal responsibility disappear       with the customer. Here’s an example: A
hangs head in shame, gives the superior’s          once the spud leaves their hands, everyone          customer walks into the store and makes a
name and contact information, and then             who touches the process retains responsibility      request that falls outside of the decision-
dejectedly walks away, feeling powerless and       and accountability for the outcome.                 making parameters of the immediately
empty. The customer labels the organization              For escalation to be powerful, both           available staff. Joe, the associate, recognizing
as incompetent, and even if he eventually          managers and employees need to understand           this, and aware of whose authority is needed,
gets what he needed from the manager, he’s         what is required of them. Using the                 immediately says to the customer, “Mr.
left with the feeling of dissatisfaction.          metaphor of a game of ball toss, the thrower        Smith, now that I have the background
      Escalation can and should be utilized by     and the catcher must have the skills and            information, I can see that this is extremely
companies as a positive, collaborative and         desire to play. If the thrower doesn’t throw, it    important to you, and I am going to contact
proactive customer-focused strategy. It            stops before it starts. If the thrower throws       the people in the organization who can make
should be like a beautifully choreographed         the ball, but the catcher just looks at it as it    this decision. I will return to you in 10 minutes
ballet. When the conductor raises his baton        plops on the ground, the game stops again.          with a status update.” Joe then directly
and the instruments sound, everyone knows          The same thing is true with ownership and           contacts Mr. X and Ms. Y in a conference call.
exactly what they have to do. Escalation           escalation. The thrower (management) has            He explains the situation, answers their
management allows for a coherent response          to be willing to toss the responsibility and        questions, and specifies the answers or
to the question, “what can we do to resolve        authority to the employee; the catcher (staff       resources needed from each of them. Rather
this situation?”.                                  member) has to be willing to accept the             than obediently saying “yes sir” and “yes
      What are the components of a                 responsibility and accountability associated        m’am”, he asks questions so that he
strategic customer-focused escalation?             with the toss. And they have to practice            understands the reasoning behind their
• a clearly defined process                        because sometimes the distances are longer,         decisions. If anyone were eavesdropping,
• an understanding of the customer’s               the weather is windy or the sky is dark. Both       they would assume that three equals were
  situation                                        players need to choose to play. That choice is      talking. The three team members decide
• proactivity in making requests or offering       what ownership is.                                  what alternatives they can offer Mr. Smith.
  alternatives                                           Here’s what a GM of a global company          Mr. X and Ms. Y agree that they will continue
• an acceptance by the employee to                 had to say about management’s role in               to support Joe. They then set a time to assess
  champion the customer’s request                  escalation: “When you give people                   whether this should continue to be a subject
• an assignment of authority to the employee       responsibility and hold them accountable,           of valid escalation or whether the decision
• a culture of ownership and empowerment           you must give them authority or they have no        should routinely be made at a lower level.
• a mindset of courage rather than fear            control over their destiny. Escalation is good      Like the game of ball toss, all parties in
• open communication within the company            and bad, good if there is a process, bad if         escalation are taking a willing and active role.
  and with customers                               there are too many. As leaders we have to                 So, when you’re thinking about creating
• an agreement by management to back the           take escalation seriously. If ten things get        an escalation policy and procedure,
  employee’s message                               escalated to me, then something is wrong            remember it’s more than providing your staff
• a goal of speedy resolution                      with me. I need to look at why they can’t do        with a list of executive phone numbers.
      Central to successful escalation is an       it themselves. What must I put in place to

      12 • C.E.BIZ   •   May 2006                                                                              FOR BETTER INFORMED MERCHANTS

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