What is escalation in customer service?

In customer service, escalation happens when a customer support representative sends a customer’s contact details to a more senior, experienced, or skilled agent.

Brands will typically have workflows in place for managing escalation, with clear indications as to when an issue should be transitioned to the next layer of customer support.

Escalation usually takes place in one of these two ways:

  • Functional escalation: The customer service representative doesn’t have the specific skills or knowledge required to fulfill the customer’s request, requiring a transfer to a subject matter specialist.
  • Hierarchical escalation: The call or ticket has to be passed on to a more senior representative because the customer has requested to speak to someone more senior, or because the customer representative lacks the authority to execute on a certain request.

For today’s customer service teams, which are often structured with specific service level agreements (SLAs) for how long it should take to resolve a query, there can also be automated escalation. For instance, if a team has an SLA that states they need to be able to resolve a query within six hours, a ticket can be automatically escalated if it hasn’t been resolved within six hours.

What is escalation management in customer service?

Escalation management is the process of setting standard procedures and workflows for escalating and rerouting support tickets. This function is set up to ensure customer issues are resolved by the right individuals with the right skill sets, in the shortest amount of time possible. As such, it is closely tied to customer satisfaction goals.

Why is escalation management important in customer service?

As with any function in a business, customer service teams need processes and workflows to ensure all customer requests are addressed and resolved. Getting this right helps build trust and improves customer satisfaction, which is facilitated by an escalation process that puts customers in touch with the right individuals at the right time.

Plus, while every customer interaction should be a positive experience, that’s not always the case. Ensuring that customers can be transferred to more senior individuals when they don’t feel heard – even when it’s through no fault of the customer representative – can go a long way toward improving the customer experience.

Having an escalation process in place can also support teams in reducing their resolution time. With established workflows and decision paths, representatives can quickly determine who is best equipped to resolve a customer request. This does two things: it reduces friction for the customer, while also improving the customer support team’s ability to handle more requests within a given time period.

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