Customer satisfaction is an important factor in sustaining a positive brand reputation and loyalty. As an organization, your customer support teams must provide excellent service to customers and resolve issues quickly.

Frustrated customers frequently become brand ambassadors, and not in a good way; they are eager to discourage others from doing business with your company. 

Providing your support team with the tools and software to automatically escalate tickets also helps to effectively resolve customer issues quickly. This includes communicating with dissatisfied customers and ensuring their issues are resolved by the first responder.

However, as much as you’d like to have all requests resolved on the first contact, some issues take time to resolve. An escalation management system provides customer service representatives with clear procedures to follow when dealing with difficult issues.

Read: What is Customer Experience Optimization and How To Do It Properly

What Is Escalation Management?

A request is escalated when the first-responding agent transfers the customer’s ticket to senior staff because they don’t have the skills or experience to resolve the issue. Escalation management is the process of reassigning customer requests based on their severity to skilled and experienced reps.

Customers who have had positive experiences with customer service are more likely to recommend products to their network than those who have not had any problems. So, it is critical to have a good escalation management process to ensure that customers’ issues are resolved effectively.

Also, escalation should not be common; most customers prefer to have their issues addressed by the first agent rather than being assigned to multiple agents and waiting a long time for the issue to be resolved.

Types of Escalations

There are three main systems for escalation: hierarchical, functional, and automatic escalation.

Hierarchical Escalation

It’s when a customer’s request needs to be transferred to a higher-ranking employee, such as the team lead or manager, for resolution. One major reason for this is that the first responder may be a new hire or junior staff member who doesn’t have the required experience to resolve the issue.

Customer service representatives also use hierarchical escalation when there is no documentation for addressing such issues. Hierarchical escalation allows senior staff to take over the ticket resolution, and make suggestions on what to do without violating company policy.

Functional Escalation

Functional escalation is a situation in which a customer service representative escalates a customer request to another person because they are unable to resolve the problem, so they transfer the customer request to another team.

For example, after downloading the latest app update, a customer notices that their dashboard has a different name and submits a ticket. 

Of course, the customer service representative doesn’t the expertise to determine what’s wrong, so the ticket is transferred to the engineering team to determine what’s causing the problem. The request is then resolved as a problem with customer data update while launching the new app version.

Automatic Escalation

Most companies use this method to gain customer trust by assuring them that their problems will be resolved within a reasonable time frame. For example, all customer requests must be resolved within 24 hours of ticket issuance or they will be escalated automatically.

If the customer request is not resolved within that time frame, it will be automatically escalated for prioritization, and agents will be required to find a solution. This helps companies to maintain their brand image, increasing the likelihood of customers remaining loyal to the brand and recommending the company to their network.

Escalation Management Process

An escalation management process helps you manage customer requests effectively by creating routing channels and guidelines customer reps should follow when a ticket is raised by customers.

Here are steps for an effective escalation management process:

  • Start the Escalation Process

When an issue needs to be escalated, the first step is to create an escalation ticket and tag it with the issue that needs to be resolved. For example, if a customer’s account balance is incorrect and it turns out to be a finance issue, the customer service representative will escalate it to the finance team, and tag it as an “account balance error.”

When escalating, make sure the person you’re transferring to has all the information they need about the customer and what needs to be resolved.

  • Communicate

It is important to keep the customer informed of the escalation process; let the customer know what happened and that the problem is being actively resolved. Also, notify managers and stakeholders about escalation so that preventive measures can be implemented to ensure it does not become the norm.

Next, develop an action plan based on the guidelines for such issues. If an effective solution does not exist, one should be provided while involving stakeholders to ensure the process adheres to the company’s policies.

  • Resolve the Problem

If the existing action plan is inadequate to resolve the issue, or if you discovered a better way to resolve the issue, update the action plan with the new information. Also, if the problem is still not resolved with the new action plan, enlist the help of more experts.

The next step is to put the plan into action after the new parties with you have developed a flawless plan to solve the problem. After that, the team assigned to the issue can be dissolved, and the de-escalation process can begin.

  • Close the Ticket

After resolving the issue, the next step is to inform the customer of the root cause of the issue, close the ticket, and mark it as resolved. In most cases, if the solution is ineffective for the customer, they can reopen the ticket.

Don’t just close the case; make sure you find out the root cause of the problem from the technical team so they can fix it and prevent its recurrence.


Best Practices for Effective Escalation Management

  • Create SLAs for Your Team

The first step in ensuring that escalation is taken seriously by agents and that customer requests do not fall through the cracks is to establish a service level agreement (SLA). SLA is a service level agreement that states the service you’ll be providing to customers and sets expectations for what customers should expect from your service.

SLA, in the context of customer service, refers to the level of service that customers should expect from agents. 

For example, customers must receive a response from the support team within four hours of submitting a request. Even if the support team is unable to resolve the issue within 4 hours, they should inform the customer that their request is being processed and will be resolved soon to calm them down.

Having an SLA helps you maintain your brand reputation by setting high standards for your agents, which not only builds trust with current customers but also improves your NPS Score (the likelihood for them to recommend you to family and friends).

SLA helps you in determining which queries require escalation and which can be resolved immediately. This enables you to prioritize issues based on their impact on the company’s reputation and customer experience.

For example, downtime will be escalated much faster than an inquiry about an upcoming product launch.

  • Build Simple Escalation Systems and Processes

Creating a simple system for escalations helps agents understand what to do when there is a query. You can use an automated escalation system that intelligently routes tickets through a series of channels until they are resolved.

For example, if a customer’s request is very simple, the customer representative who receives the query can automatically resolve it for the customer. But if it isn’t, the ticket is escalated to the appropriate team or senior employee with the expertise and experience to resolve it.

  • Equip your staff to handle escalations

Most businesses use helpdesk software to automate the escalation process. The software creates channels through which the request passes until it is resolved, allowing your team to effectively handle customer issues.

which categorizes the severity of their issues and transfers them to a customer representative. The customer service representative then resolves the issue or transfers it to another rep or department for resolution. The customer is kept informed throughout the process and is aware that their issue is being actively addressed.

This process prevents customer requests from slipping through the cracks and ensures that all tickets are resolved within the time frame specified. If they aren’t, the customer service software alerts the assigned rep that there is an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed right away.

If your company provides phone support, you should consider providing noise-canceling headsets to your customer service agents. This ensures that both customers and representatives can communicate effectively and without interruption.

  • Teach customer-facing reps how to manage escalations

Most customers are not in a good mood when they encounter issues, so you must equip your agents with the soft skills to have difficult conversations with customers, resolve their issues, and maintain a good brand reputation.

The following are the soft skills your customer service agents should have:

1. Empathy

Customer service representatives must be sensitive to their customers’ frustrations. It lets customers know that you understand their frustrations and helps to de-escalate the situation.

Most customers find it easy to communicate their frustrations to agents who they believe understand their problems.

2. Active Listening

When customer service representatives actively listen, they analyze and process what the customer is saying and which helps them identify the problem and its solution.

3. Clarity

Customers will trust the resolution process when they know how and who is handling their request. Explicitly explaining to customers how their problem will be resolved reduces tension and makes customers feel involved in the process.

Using measures like personality tests, and conflict resolution ethics, during the recruitment process can help you identify candidates with exceptional conflict resolution skills. You can also provide customer service training to agents to help them hone their conflict resolution and de-escalation skills.

  • Learn from escalations and improve future customer service interactions.

Escalations are almost unavoidable, but they can be minimized. It’s great to have an effective escalation management process, but it’s even better if you don’t need to use it.

You can reduce escalations by documenting previous escalations and how you resolved them. This gives service agents the information they need to resolve similar issues.

The escalation management process can also help you identify other department flaws that may have contributed to the problem. You can use this information to identify the underlying cause of the problem and fix it.

For example, if the reason for the escalation was an error by the engineering team, the escalation management process helps you identify the issue. It will also guide the engineering team on how to fix the problem and prevent similar tickets from being raised by other customers.


Proper escalation management not only helps you resolve customer issues quickly.  It also creates a positive impression of your brand and increases customer satisfaction.

Creating an effective escalation management system allows you to set expectations for how service agents should handle issues. This keeps your customers happy and makes it easier for the support team to resolve tickets.

  • Moradeke Owa
  • on 9 min read


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