When a conversation with a customer is not progressing toward a solution, it can be frustrating for everyone involved. Deliberately swapping out the customer service professional for another colleague can break the pattern and create momentum toward a successful resolution.
Switch out the primary customer service person working on a customer issue with another one in order to get the conversation back on track.
When to use it:
As a general rule, keeping one customer service person as the primary contact right through a given support interaction is a good thing. That continuity helps build confidence and reduces the time to resolution. However, there are times when a new voice is a better option.
Here are some signs to look for:
Your customer has lost confidence in your team — If your customer is expressing doubts that they can be helped or that they are being heard.
Repeated misunderstandings — Whether you have misunderstood your customer, they have misunderstood you, or both. If it hasn’t been cleared up after a couple of responses, it might be time to switch it up.
Progress has stalled — If the last few interactions have not moved you both closer to a resolution and frustration is building on both sides.
It’s getting personal — If the customer is starting to personally attack (or just doubt) the customer service professional trying to help them.
You’re out of ideas — If you just can’t think of another way to explain the required information.
Specialist skills could help — Is there someone with particular knowledge, language, or past experience on your team who might connect with this customer more easily?
The customer is asking for it — This is a tricky one: If they are asking as a power play to “speak to a manager” or because of sexist or racist assumptions, that is not the moment to comply. But if the customer is genuinely feeling unheard or misunderstood, a change of voice can help.
How to execute it:
When you’re ready to bring in a new voice to a conversation, try to reduce friction and set your colleague up for success.
Consider a handover If your customers typically only speak to one person for a given conversation, you might have your initial customer service rep tell the customer that a colleague will be taking over. You could even be explicit that it is “to help get this resolved for you,” especially if things have been heated. *If your customers are used to people jumping in and out throughout a conversation, you can skip this step.
Leave good internal notes The initial staff member should leave clear internal notes explaining the situation from their perspective, any advice on what to try next, and tips on the customer’s preferences.
Build confidence The incoming customer service professional should start by introducing themselves and letting the customer know that they have read through the past conversation and are ready to help. Make it clear the customer does not have to start from scratch.
Acknowledge the frustration If the customer is upset, acknowledge their frustration to help them feel heard and more likely to cooperate.
Restate the situation and the goal Use the first response to restate the customer’s issue, identify what they are trying to achieve, and make it clear you understand them. Then reassure them that a solution can be found (if that is true).
Lay out the plan Let the customer know what will happen next and how you expect the problem to be resolved. This is particularly important when you need the customer to take some action themselves.
Use AI to help transition conversations between team members
Some customer support platforms now offer artificial intelligence (AI) features that can help make the process of switching conversation ownership a bit smoother for your team.
For instance, with only one click, Help Scout’s AI summarize feature can condense an entire email thread down to just a few succinct bullet points.
Including a summary as part of your handoff process provides:
Clarity. Long email threads are often hard to follow. Having an exchange broken down into a few sentences can help catch someone up more quickly.
Context. When the support team needs folks from other departments to weigh in on an issue, a summary can offer context so those colleagues can provide the best answer possible.
Time. Complex cases can require research, including the review of a customer’s conversation history. Summaries make it possible to look over multiple email threads in less time than it normally takes to read just one.
Taking over a tough support interaction is never fun, but having the tools and information necessary to hit the ground running can make a big difference.
Make it safe to use
Deploying this tactic effectively requires staff feeling safe admitting that a conversation is not going well. Making a realistic assessment and asking for help must be celebrated as a customer-centric decision, and not become a mark of failure.
Review your metrics and team attitudes to ensure that everyone will feel safe to make the call when necessary.
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