Customer Escalation Management: Our Complete Guide


March 7, 2019

Written by

Merlene Leano

Every now and then, customers make phone calls or send messages to let businesses know about any big or small issue they encountered while using their product or service. The mere surge of queries and messages sent raises the question: Are you prepared to answer the call or will you cave and allow your customers to drop the call unsatisfied?

This is where client escalation management comes in. Effectively managing escalations boosts the satisfaction of existing customers and encourages more leads to become regular supporters of your brand.

The marketing strategy of most companies these days is customer-focused. Customer satisfaction through exceptional service is prioritized. As a result, expanding companies have invested time and money into solutions that provide excellent experiences for customers around the globe.

A growing market size also means more concerns being sent from every corner and mode of communication available. One of the tested-and-proven ways of handling increasing volumes of end-user queries is through enforcing escalation. Escalation in customer service helps you manage their concerns and direct them to the right people in your company who can handle their dilemmas with a solid and suitable solution.

How important is an escalation in customer support?

Ideally, the escalation meaning in a call center is that the less escalation made, the more efficient a support system is. However, it would still be very beneficial to prepare an elaborate and systematic process that helps a business’ help desk handle even the most crucial and sensitive customer concerns. Escalation is an effective method of returning the trust and support of dissatisfied or disappointed customers.

Additionally, it bridges the gap between the business and the customers. While customer assurance and confidence are restored, it also gives them a renewed impression of the business. A positive impression of the business encourages people to  recommend products or services to their friends and family. Most importantly, it will make them feel valued. Thus, they stay perpetually.

Escalation Customer Service: The Stairway to Satisfaction

What does it mean to escalate a problem?

Escalation is akin to a ‘stairway’. It is structured to help agents who do not have sufficient background or expertise about a specific problem raised by the customer. The agents are at the bottom-most or lower levels of the stairway. The escalation is represented through the act of raising calls, queries or concerns to a supervisor, manager, a fellow agent, or to someone from the appropriate department involved in the issue at hand.

Managing escalations in customer service helps diminish the possibility of providing incorrect and insufficient solutions to customers or leaving the problem unresolved which may frustrate customers, or worse, leave them agitated.

Typically, the issues presented during a call are classified into 3-4 levels called tiers to address customer queries based on the difficulty and nature of the problem. The higher the level of the tier, the more specific and complex the concern being addressed.

Escalation also has two main types. The first one is functional escalation, or the endorsement of the problem based on the skills and capacities required to provide a specific solution. The second is called hierarchical escalation, which involves notifying fellow support agents and supervisors of probable breaches of Service Level Agreement (SLA). Usually, hierarchical escalation also paves the way to help determine which department is needed to help resolve the problem.

An SLA is a written contract or deal for hierarchical escalation signed by the two parties involved (in other words, the service provider and the client/s). It documents the type and level of services that the provider or business will deliver during the duration of the agreement.

Depending on the level of service and metrics that a client requested, the key components of SLA may vary. They normally include a general overview, service description, service delivery, a specification of the parties involved, compensation, exceptions, security, termination procedure, and signatures to seal the agreement.

Now that we know the gist and framework of escalation in customer support, let’s look at why the escalation process is important to call centers today. To do this, it is necessary to learn about the requirements that define what is the escalation process.

Customer Escalation Management: The What and Hows

different tier level of escalation

Before you start escalating the problems of your global clientele, you need to check these three requirements first:

  • In-depth knowledge of the product: Supervisors or managers are expected to have extensive experience to give customers accurate information and the capability to provide the best possible solution. Having sufficient expertise with a strong conviction is important because customers expect immediate action and a sense of finality on the part of the agents helping them solve their problems or queries.
  • Patience: Speaking to the customers with a soothing voice, especially during an escalation helps pacify their anger or impatience. Customers do not always have the luxury of time to stay on the phone for hours waiting for a solution.
  • Empathy: Genuinely understanding what customers are going through often leads supervisors to act professionally and quickly identifying the real needs and wants of customers.

Some might say that escalation should be used sparingly, as customers can get frustrated and exasperated being passed on to different people just to acquire a feasible answer to their concern. In truth, escalation management also helps minimize instances of long call queues especially during peak hours.

The following are the key aspects that enable a reliable escalation management system:

1. Get employees, supervisors (or managers) to cooperate

Escalation management is a team effort. It is a strategy that needs training and everyone’s hands on deck especially during urgent cases. With this in mind, employees and managers have to cooperate with each other and understand that when a customer calls, they must be tactful and assess the problem thoroughly. If the agent fails to provide a concrete or clear answer to the query, they may pass it to a more experienced agent or to a manager depending on which department is needed to resolve the concern.

2. Provide efficient customer support training

Managers and personnel have to be on the same page when dealing with any kind of customer issue. They have to go through relevant training needed to hone their skills in handling varying severities of concerns. This would also mean that your company needs to invest in workshops and trainers to educate your team on how to handle each call tier, deliver a seamless call flow, and resolve the dilemma in a concise and quick manner. Escalation then becomes your best ally for customer’s concerns since your team is trained and ready to take even the toughest complaints.

3. Keep a complete record of each escalated issue or account

Real-time monitoring and recording of every instance in your customer support escalation will provide references for determining how efficiently customer concerns were handled. Previous call logs can be analyzed to review whether standard escalation procedures were followed or not. At present, there are innovations in escalation management such as live monitoring and voice analytics tailored to boost the efficiency of customer assistance.

In assessing the quality of escalations, Customer Escalation Specialists listen to calls and determine whether the following standards were met:

  • Was the call escalated to the appropriate department?
  • How well was the problem assessed?
  • Was the customer satisfied with how their queries were answered?

In the event that the criteria is not fulfilled, the specialist would have to inform the individual on how the call could have been dealt with better through constructive feedback. This is the summary of the escalation process for customer service.

If you want your customer service reps to deliver smooth escalations, make it their goal to tick off all three requirements each time an escalation is needed. Learn how to equip your company better with the best kind of escalation method that allows you to meet customer expectations and earn a satisfied feedback from them once the conversation ends.

Providing a better and more competent escalation procedure for customer service

escalation manager providing better and more competent escalation

Customer satisfaction is becoming a vital and determining factor for brand success as a result of the growing convenience and versatility of technology and social media. Taking the essential steps towards making escalation management systems more competent and efficient is also worth the company’s time and effort.

Setting up escalations to fit the 2020 market means applying the simple steps below:

  • Create and establish an escalation model that will be understood, recognized and adhered to by the customer support department and all other departments involved. The escalation model should enumerate the contact points and procedures for each tier.

Sample escalation model from Lomen

  • Always take note of the collected data or information for every query. This will be helpful when reviewing and analyzing the circumstances and issues raised by the customer.
  • Aside from citing all the gathered information relevant to the problem, see to it that the escalation remains focused on the issue. Provide the necessary background and facts while sharing possible steps that can be taken to help resolve the matter.
  • Keep complete documentation of the entire escalation management process for future references.
  • Give customers the conviction that a suitable solution or conclusion will be given once the matter is transferred to a higher tier. However, before transferring the call, inform the next tier about the complete details and severity of the case. In this manner, once the call is passed on to the next appropriate personnel, asking repetitive questions or information from the customer is avoided.

To escalate, or not to escalate?

The meaning of customer escalation is relative for every company that employs it. In 2018, calls have had a 30-50% conversion rate. Imagine how much that has skyrocketed in this era of technology.

There are customer concerns that are very specific and therefore need the intervention or assistance of other departments and service-related experts in the company.

But, if it happens that the support agents at the 1st tier of the escalation seem to experience challenges handling and resolving customer concerns, then this is the perfect time to provide further training and assessment to enhance the skills of the agents.

Are you looking for ways on how to deliver better customer service escalations? Are you interested to know more about how it impacts your business as a whole? Get in touch with us to learn how we can tailor-make an innovative solution for your escalation and customer support service needs.

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