By Jade Emmons
The customer is always right, except for those occasional moments where they need a helping hand – and sometimes their query isn’t a simple ask. That’s where ticket escalation comes in, linking customers and their questions to experts within your brand who can help.
When a ticket is escalated, it means that your ground-level employees have encountered a problem that they cannot solve. This means that, from the moment the ticket is escalated, your customer is waiting for a solution. It can quickly snowball unless handled appropriately and by the right team.
Why effective ticket escalation matters
This situation becomes all the more complex when your brand grows. As the business scales, so to will your escalated tickets. This is why building a process for ticket escalation is essential, even when your brand and customer support team is at an early stage.
Plus, unresolved tickets can quickly pile up. With tougher issues sidelines for easier ones, unless there’s a process in place that assigns employees to problems and ranks issues by urgency. As unresolved tickets grow, the number of dissatisfied customers will increase and retention rates will fall. Response and resolution times will shoot up. The quality of your customer support will drop, with your brand ultimately losing money and its reputation.
But if you get it right, your customers will be more likely to return, spend more and tell their friends. 70% of consumers spend more money with companies that offer great customer service and brands that fulfill these expectations outperform their competition’s growth by 85%.
Potential escalation scenarios
When a ticket is escalated, it often involves expert input from different teams and seniority levels. Ideally, an escalated ticket will be directed to the right person based on their business area and skills. However, sometimes it can be passed from team-to-team or up the ranks until it is resolved.
For a retail brand, a customer may contact the support team because they have received a faulty product, they cannot check-out on the eCommerce site, or because the helpline is down. Each scenario requires a different approach and team involved. Conversely, each also has a different priority level based on their operational impact, but this is discussed in more detail later on.
How to handle ticket escalation
There are several ways to improve your ticket escalation and build a process that can scale with your brand.
1. Automate manual tasks and workflows
Automation offers a powerful way to improve the speed and quality of your customer support. Tickets can be escalated to chatbots that can then guide them through common workflows. When a customer wishes to return an item, for example, they can be walked through the returns process without the need for a human agent to be involved. Allowing a support team to focus on high priority, complex tickets.
2. Set your priorities
Every ticket must have a priority level based on its impact on customers and operations. An issue that impacts multiple customers will have a higher priority than one that affects a single user. To help your employees prioritize their tickets, they can answer the following:
- What’s the issue?
- How many customers are affected?
- What services are affected?
- How fast do we need to resolve this?
- Where is the issue or customer located?
- Why is the issue occurring?
Prioritizing your tickets allow your team to keep an eye on the high-priority tickets that must be resolved ASAP.
3. Use Service Level Agreements
As previously mentioned, employees will tend to focus on easier tickets and overlook trickier ones unless there’s a process to guide them. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) provide this by defining rules for closing tickets based on resolution time targets. It can be used to escalate tickets and their priority levels if an SLA target is at risk. 77% of support desks have SLAs in place to improve their customer support quality and time to resolution.
If you use automation as part of your customer service process, be sure to consider that when developing SLAs for your agents so that they make the most effective use of automation tools.
4. Keep your customers updated
Ticket escalation takes time. Your customer is waiting as soon as their ticket is escalated, so keeping them up-to-date with its progress will make their experience much better. If a ticket encounters a roadblock, for instance, if your developers haven’t had time to look at it, then it’s worth updating your customer. This helps to keep them engaged and happy, as opposed to dissatisfied and impatient.
It can also provide further opportunities for your customers to provide new information that can help resolve a ticket.
5. Provide consistent support across channels
If your customer support uses different channels, like social media and email, then it should follow consistent escalation pathways across all communications. This creates a more seamless customer experience, no matter where a customer first makes contact with your brand. It also makes it easier for a customer to access support on their preferred channel – removing the barriers to solving an issue.
It also pays to define escalation points where a customer will have to change channels. If a customer first engages on (public) social media, for example, and then needs to switch to direct messaging to relay their address, order number and contact details. Also, invest in a system that consolidates all relevant information from different channels into a single dashboard. That way, customers don’t have to repeat themselves when switching channels.
6. Assign to the right people
Ensure that each ticket is assigned to a person with the experience and skills to resolve it quickly. Helpshift’s AI-powered classification engine can help you automatically label customer issues to streamline this process. This triages each ticket to specific employees and queues based on language, user type, customer status and other criteria that are relevant to your brand.
To speed things up further, make sure that assigned agents have all the information they need about a customer and ticket. Helpshift offers a single unified dashboard where agents can manage their cares, ticket data and interaction history from all incoming channels – which is essential when dealing with omnichannel customer support.
It also enables teams and groups to be set-up around specific business areas and expertise. This can help you manage agents at scale as your brand grows, to keep efficiency and the quality of support high.
7. Review your tickets and performance
Regularly reviewing your escalated tickets can highlight customers who may need a different product or employees who require further training. If a customer’s tickets are regularly escalated then it might signal that they’re using a product incorrectly or it doesn’t meet their needs. Alternative products can then be suggested.
If an employee is regularly escalating tickets then they may need a review of the escalation points and how to set priorities. Alternatively, if neither circumstance applies then there could be significant issues with your product that needs to be fed back to your product team.
Your ticket to happier customers
The way that you handle ticket escalation can make-or-break your customer support. When done effectively, your customers will have their most complex issues resolved by your expert team. Your agents won’t have to deal with a backlog of tickets, they’ll understand what tickets to focus on first and how this impacts their SLAs. Plus, with regular oversight, your business operations and product can continuously improve. Helping your brand stand-out for exceptional customer service.