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Top 5 Ways to Prevent Customer Support Escalations

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Top 5 Ways to Prevent Customer Support Escalations

Mar. 25, 2021

Posted by Aakrit Prasad

Defining Escalations

There are two types of escalations: functional and hierarchical. 

Functional escalation: when an agent cannot resolve a ticket due to complexity or cannot meet a response deadline, they forward it to second or third-level support staff. These tickets generally do not engage management.

We’ve all been there; you call the cable company about an issue with your internet. Hopefully, after an hour of waiting, you’re routed to the correct department: technical support. The agent asks for your account information and then qualifies your problem to make sure he or she can handle it. Unfortunately, they cannot, so you’re scheduled to see a technician the following week.

Hierarchical escalation: when the complexity of a ticket requires some managerial oversight. Typically, these tickets are related to a more significant issue that requires the attention of management, engineering, or the billing team. The issue may be sensitive requiring senior management approval.

A hierarchical escalation may be necessary at technology companies when an update causes something in the customer-facing product to break. Depending on the value of the account and/or the importance of the feature, it may be necessary to loop in different teams and management. For example, consider a bug that only impacts a feature that’s used by a marquee customer that’s up for renewal soon.

The value of the account and or the importance of a feature may require input from different teams or management.

An under-discussed metric in customer support operations is the cost of prevention. Every ticket and escalation prevented impacts the spending of customer support departments. More tickets require more agents who in turn need training, benefits, and recruiting efforts. 

According to Help Desk Institute, In 2019, “the average cost of resolving a ticket at level 1 was about $22, while the average cost of a desktop support ticket was almost $70 (illustrated in the figure below). To continue with our prior example, 1,615 level 1 tickets prevented per month will save an estimated $35,530 per month in direct support costs (1,615 tickets prevented x $22 per ticket) or $426,360 per year!”

The Cost of Support

As the need for support increases and the number of tickets organizations must respond to increases, it’s more important than ever to discuss ways to prevent escalations. 

Ways to prevent Escalations

1. Default to ownership instead of escalation

Front-line customer support agents may struggle with escalations when they’re faced with similar tickets that have the same priority level. It can be tempting for support teams to put off or handoff complex tickets instead of facing them head-on. Organizations should have internal processes to make sure agents are owning tickets from start to finish without cherry-picking based on complexity.

2. Communicate clearly and consistently

Have you ever emailed an organization and been frustrated with their lack of transparency? You start by speaking to an entry-level agent, they pass you off to someone else in the company, and you’re asked to rehash all the details of your issue with every transition. The experience is frustrating for everyone involved. The issue isn’t getting any closer to a solution, more people are being unnecessarily looped in, and the customer is losing faith in the organization’s ability to solve the problem.

All of the pain can be easily avoided by keeping the customer in the loop with every step. By telling the customer what’s being done to resolve their ticket and providing an estimated resolution time, they will not ask for the ticket to be escalated to senior support staff, management, or another part of the organization. The key is to get ahead of the issue and keep the customer informed throughout the entire life of the ticket.

3. Invest in and use a knowledge base

Updated knowledge bases are crucial to escalation prevention. Then a customer is able to help themselves to a solution, they won’t need to engage with an organization’s support team. Secondarily, updated knowledge bases include documented processes that front-line agents can use to determine the issues that require escalation. 

Documented fixes from second and third-level support agents move downstream and make it possible for first-level agents to resolve issues when they come up more than once. Sharing knowledge downstream empowers first-level agents to solve problems without needing to escalate. 

4. Distribute sensitive tasks/customers to specific teams

Most companies know who their highest value customers are. With automation, companies can now assign specific agents or teams to tickets coming from those customers. Another, way to prevent escalations or reduce churn may be to prioritize customers who are nearing their renewal.

5. Pay attention to trends

In any given month, a mid-size to large organization will see anywhere from 1000 to 5000 tickets. Each with varying levels of complexity. Many of these tickets will share similarities and some of them will actually require escalations.

By paying attention to trends support executives can identify repeating escalations and ways to prevent them in the future. For example, it may become obvious that a broken analytics dashboard is related to a recent product update. 

How AptEdge can help prevent escalations

As you can see, front-line agents are inundated with tickets and most do not have a toolkit to respond and prioritize effectively. Without a workflow, triaging tickets and finding trends is almost impossible.

At AptEdge, we recognize this and are building the tools that agents need to improve response times, decrease workload, and prevent escalations. 

Instead of manually tracking related tickets, agents can link them to an Edge where tickets are automatically grouped inside Zendesk or Service Cloud with machine learning.

An Edge is a combination of related tickets, support documentation, and troubleshooting playbooks available to all agents in the organization. With Edges, support agents don’t have to solve the same issue more than once.

What is an edge?

By providing agents with existing support documentation and troubleshooting playbooks in each Edge they can respond faster and improve collaboration with each other. 

Tickets that are identified as challenges are escalated and shared with managers in one click. Furthermore, connect Edges (related tickets) to bugs and send them to engineering in Jira for fast case & bug resolutions.