Set the scene: a customer calls your after-hours phone line at 11 p.m. on a Sunday. She is upset because she has an emergency and needs an on-call technician to come by immediately.
Does her definition of an emergency match your definition? She's a loyal customer who has used your maintenance services for years. Does that make a difference as to whether or not you escalate her emergency? How many on-call technicians do you have? Who decides what qualifies as an emergency once business hours are over? How do you make sure you deploy your team members in the right scenarios and avoid burn-out?
These are questions that encompass an after-hours escalation strategy. Mastering escalation management is essential to keeping customers (new and old) happy and managing your customer service representative (CSR) and on-call team's workload.
Don't have a clearly defined after-hours escalation strategy? No problem. We'll go over what exactly after-hours escalation entails, why contractors can benefit from an escalation strategy, and how you can efficiently escalate jobs that come in outside of regular business hours. The solution to your escalation problems is closer than you may think.
What is after-hours escalation?
After-hours escalation occurs after you've parked your service vans for the night, locked your doors, and turned out the lights. Even though the average business day ends at 5 p.m., we all know home service problems can happen at any hour of the day. And sometimes, those problems are emergencies.
After-hours escalation is pushing an emergency to the right person at the right time. An emergency that requires after-hours escalation could include:
A weather-induced event.
A power outage.
A broken AC unit during a heatwave.
With years of experience in the trades, we're sure you already know all of this. But how do you categorize the magnitude of the emergency? That's where an escalation strategy comes in.
Why do contractors need an after-hours escalation strategy?
You can leave emergency qualification metrics up to the person who's in charge that night, but that will probably differ from your dispatcher who works the next night, creating an inconsistent measure of success.
It also adds to:
Unclear expectations for your on-call staff.
Lower employee morale.
Lower employee and customer retention.
When an employee pushes a non-emergency problem in the middle of the night for issues viewed as 'not important enough,' they can receive negative feedback. Management might say they need to have more ownership, solve the problem in pushing the customer to a later appointment date themselves, and better use on-call technicians' time.
If they push the customer call too late, it can create an inconsistent or poor customer experience, leading to a potential loss in revenue and increased customer churn. 48% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after a poor experience.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, 86% of customers with great customer experiences will likely buy from you again, boosting customer retention by turning one-time emergent clients into long-term brand champions.
Now that we've covered the 'why,' let's cover the 'how.'
When and how should contractors escalate jobs that come in after hours?
Your strategy should be personalized and customized to your business model. Depending on your service location, size, resources, and time of year, your tactics may differ from your competitors down the road.
We understand the range of issues you receive after hours and the factors that go into deciding how to escalate. For example, you know that someone not having heat in their home during a chilly night in October is lower on the emergency scale than if someone doesn't have heat in their house and it's -20°F.
If you have a membership program and a loyal customer who often uses your preventative maintenance calls in an emergency, you may be more inclined to escalate their problem than if it was someone you've never done business with before.
Categorizing your escalation situations into tangible measures can help you strategically handle them.
Some examples of escalation categories are:
Protection of life and property
All calls escalated to on-call technicians, no matter what
In the first category, the ultimate metric for choosing to escalate a call to your technicians is the protection of life and property. Only truly urgent matters are escalated. All other calls can be delegated as non-emergency bookings for the following business day or hand-offs (pricing quotes, operating hour questions) that your admin team can resolve via phone or email.
In the second category, you choose to take care of all emergencies that pay heed to protect life and property and after-hours issues that may be non-emergent to your qualifications but come from a loyal customer. This category helps you protect all of your customers, old and new, and helps build brand loyalty with your membership base without burning out your technicians.
In the third category, you choose to escalate all calls to your on-call technician. All incoming calls are routed to your on-call technician, regardless of membership status or customer emergency.
How do you know which category to follow? It's completely dependent on your wants and needs. Let's say it's shoulder season, and you're trying to acquire more business (no matter the circumstances, revenue is revenue). You may choose to follow Category 3 metrics (all calls escalated).
Fast forward a few months, and it's peak season:
Demand is up.
You were only able to hire and train two new technicians.
One of your CSR agents is out on a well-deserved vacation.
Pivot your plan to Category 1 (emergencies only) or Category 2 (loyal customers). Or, combine the two categories to cover emergencies and loyal customers.
Having an escalation strategy doesn't mean it needs to remain static. Your strategy can move with you and your business needs.
Let's say, for example:
Your staffing is extra low this year.
You're dealing with supply chain issues.
Instead of your CSR being on vacation, your best CSR just retired.
Do you have to throw your escalation strategy out the window and cease all after-hour calls, leaving you with a full inbox and voicemail on Monday mornings and disgruntled customers? Pair an escalation strategy with a live answering service. Even better, with a live answering service that understands the trades.
Why is it important to have a service that understands the trades and understands your brand?
With most third-party call centers, a service manager often sends a list (or even just a photo of a calendar) of which technicians are on-call. This way of doing things can create a lot of human error. Many services provide one-off messaging to inform your on-call agents but don't provide any custom escalation workflow, detailed notes on the issue at hand, or offer any brand-building because they aren't familiar with the industry.
Having trusted phone support with trained industry experts (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and more) can help you deliver a consistent customer experience. You can count on the same level of service you would expect from your highest performing customer service agents, helping you build brand trust and loyalty.
An after-hours phone service that can integrate into your Field Service Management (FSM) system can also streamline your business. Many call centers and answering services require a login to your FSM system. For some FSM systems, the FSM provider makes their clients pay extra to have multiple logins, often a requirement for a third party call center to gain access.
A service that connects via the backend through your API can reduce human error and protect your data privacy.
Instead of relying on a call center that manages countless CRMs with different configurations, an infinite number of business units, and operates in different timezones, choose the Schedule Engine Live Expert Voice integrated service with a custom escalation workflow package.
Schedule Engine's Live Expert Voice and Escalation Workflow
Schedule Engine's Live Expert Voice solution builds your brand and customer relationships with timely support delivered with empathy and expertise. Live Expert Voice can drastically increase the number of bookings you can make after hours, with no need to sort through messages or follow up with anyone the following day. This allows you to focus on the future rather than constantly playing catch up, putting out fires from the day before.
To make it easy for you and your staff, we integrate right into your booking flow. We have a robust automated messaging system that allows our agents to trigger escalations according to your rules and schedule to get the job to the right team member.
Unlike other providers, Schedule Engine's agents expertly understand the trades and deliver an experience that is aligned with how you want your brand represented. We also offer a configurable escalation workflow to push any emergency to the right person at the right moment.
You have three escalation strategy options:
Guardian Level: protection of life and property
Family Level: loyal customers escalated
Market Converter Level: all calls escalated
Our escalation path is automated, accurate, and adjustable to your business needs. We created our escalation strategy specifically for home services: built for contractors, by contractors. We understand your challenges intimately and can help you build the right strategy for you, your CSRs, technicians, and customers. No matter which escalation strategy you choose, Schedule Engine's Live Expert Voice can help support them all.
Thanks to our powerful capacity calculating software and our FSM integration partnerships, we can book jobs for your team, either for middle-of-the-night emergencies or standard business-hour calls, without needing you to give a third-party agent direct access to your system.
We integrate with your FSM to streamline your business.
Our software limits human error.
We protect your data privacy.
Does your on-call schedule change daily? No problem. In our system, your on-call schedule is fully in your hands. You don't even have to notify us when you have a last-minute change. You just update the on-call schedule in your Schedule Engine dashboard, and it will automatically update for our Live Voice agents. Our system reduces average human error by showing us exactly who's on your schedule that day.
Schedule a demo today to learn how Schedule Engine can help craft an escalation strategy that is perfect for your company.