Help desk escalation process 9 tips for your business

Help Desk Escalation Process: 9 Tips for Your Business

Having a help desk escalation procedure in place streamlines your operations and ensures your team is equipped to handle the more complex customer support requests. Customers are assured that your business is able to competently resolve their problems and they feel more satisfied with your brand as a result. 

catherine heath

Last updated: July 29, 2022

6 mins read

In an ideal world, all customer tickets would be resolved in the first interaction. In reality, this is not always possible and that’s why we have a help desk escalation process in place to help manage those customers who need more assistance. 

When customers contact your business, they expect the company to have the knowledge and expertise in place that will enable them to solve their problems. Agents should be capable and competent, instinctively diagnosing the problem that the customer is suffering with and offering a viable solution. 

But sometimes customer tickets require expertise that goes beyond the capabilities of your frontline support staff. Occasionally, a ticket is too technical for your service reps and requires the intervention of an agent with more technical experience or even an engineer.

It’s critical to have a clear ticket escalation process in place that will tell you when a customer ticket needs to be escalated. Your team should be working smoothly behind the scenes to get every ticket resolved as quickly as possible. 

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What is a help desk escalation process?

Help desks are flooded with all manner of customer tickets with known and unexpected issues. The majority of these tickets can be resolved by your frontline support team, but occasionally one crops up that requires an agent with more seniority or experience. 

A help desk escalation process is when a customer’s issue is passed on to a senior customer service manager or engineer. 

A ticket escalation process really helps when your team is growing beyond a certain size. The more customers you have, the more chance there will be that tickets cannot be resolved on first contact. 

Having a clear process in place means your support agents know what is expected of them and they can act quickly if a ticket requires escalation. If you choose the right help desk software, it’s a simple matter to set up automations that can route the ticket to the right person, as you can do in Keeping. 

Ticket escalation works on the premise of a tiered support structure, with each tier handling different customer tickets depending on severity and complexity. The most basic tier is usually self-service, where customers help themselves using a knowledge base. 

Bigger organizations are likely to have several tiers and a whole battalion of agents, while smaller companies may have one or two agents and a manager. 

A tiered support structure normally looks something like this: 

  • Tier 0: A self-service knowledge base and chatbots
  • Tier 1: Agents who possess basic knowledge of the product who solve the majority of customer issues. When they can’t solve a problem, they escalate the ticket up to the next tier. 
  • Tier 2 (and above): These agents have more in-depth knowledge, expertise, and technical experience to be able to solve complex queries. 
  • Developers/engineers: When issues aren’t able to be resolved by tier 1 and tier 2 agents, your engineers may step in to handle the problem.   

The importance of having a help desk escalation procedure

A lack of help desk escalation process can be the Achilles’ heel of even the best service desk. If an agent can’t resolve a customer ticket on the first try, it can descend into chaos as your lower tier agents try to locate the best person to escalate it to. All of this disorganization increases customer wait times and negatively impacts your quality of customer service. 

Without a clear ticket escalation process in place, customer tickets are at risk of falling through the cracks. 

A help desk escalation process helps your support team to collaborate more effectively on complex tickets. When teams work together with clear processes in place, this accelerates time to resolution and results in higher customer satisfaction. 

No matter how tricky your customer ticket might be, you should assign someone to solve it in an efficient and timely manner. Agents should be clear which tickets are a priority and be able to resolve tickets in line with help desk SLAs

When customers start complaining because your help desk escalation takes too long, this adversely affects your business’s reputation for customer service. Customer retention rates plummet as customers start considering your competitors. Ticket escalations help meet rising customer expectations for your business. 

9 tips for handling ticket escalation

1. Decide which tickets need escalating

The majority of your tickets will be solvable by your frontline employees. Unless you are having serious problems, only a small fraction of your tickets will require extra attention. Ensure that your service reps have an understanding of which tickets should be escalated by providing them with clear guidelines on the process. 

Establishing guidelines in place means that service reps won’t be passing over tickets that are difficult but still solvable. If they have the guidelines to easily refer to, this speeds up the process of ticket escalation. 

2. Document your help desk escalation process

Maintaining consistency and meeting appropriate standards can only happen if you take the time to document your help desk escalation process. Documentation provides service reps with clear expectations of exactly what should happen when a ticket needs to be escalated. It also makes explicit the expectations that customers have of your company when they reach out for support. 

Documenting your process means offering the same service, every time. Your documentation should include information like: 

  • How long it should take to resolve a customer ticket
  • Who a ticket should be escalated to
  • Who is responsible if the ticket hasn’t been resolved
  • How often the customer should be updated during the escalation process

3. Define your priorities

Customer tickets that need to be escalated have differing levels of priorities. An issue that affects a whole group of users is a higher priority than an issue that only affects a single customer. Agents should understand and be able to define the level of priority that a ticket should be marked with. 

They should be able to answer questions such as: 

  • What is the problem? 
  • How many customers are impacted? 
  • What is causing the problem? 
  • Where in the service is the problem occurring? 

When your team is able to accurately prioritize tickets, this means they can attend to the most critical tickets first. High priority tickets should be escalated and tackled immediately. 

4. Abide by Service Level Agreements

Help desk ticket escalation is closely related to your Service Level Agreements. SLAs prevent service reps from skipping over the more demanding tickets in favor of those which are easier to resolve. SLAs define the service expectations of your company and the time to resolution for each customer ticket. 

If an SLA is at risk of being breached, the ticket can be escalated to a manager who will be able to attend to it immediately. 

5. Build an internal knowledge base

Every time a ticket is escalated, this is extra time that you’re expecting customers to wait before their issue can get resolved. In order to reduce the number of tickets that require escalation, your senior support reps could document the solution in an internal knowledge base that can be accessed by your tier one support reps. 

When agents have previous solutions available to them, they can solve the problem themselves without requiring the intervention of a senior support rep. 

6. Offer the same level of support over different channels

No matter what channel your customers use to contact you, the ticket escalation process should be the same. Whether it’s phone call, email, live chat or social media, you should offer an unbroken customer experience that’s able to handle any customer ticket no matter where it comes in. 

If a customer can access support on their chosen channel, this lowers the hurdle to contacting your team. If a customer must switch from a public channel like social media to a private channel like direct messaging in order to share their order details, define this in your escalation process. 

7. Automate your help desk escalation

When you’re using help desk software like Keeping, is a simple process to automate your ticket escalation. You can set up rules in the software using straightforward if/then logic to automatically assign tickets and prioritize important customers. This cuts down on the amount of manual work that your reps have to engage in when escalating customer tickets. 

For example, if a customer email comes in with the word “billing” in the subject line, you can automatically route this email to your billing team. 

8. Keep customers in the loop

The worst part of having their ticket escalated for a customer is not knowing when their issue will be resolved. It can sometimes feel like their ticket has fallen into a black hole as a consequence of your service rep “passing the buck”. That’s why it pays to keep the customer informed during the ticket escalation process. 

The agent who originally handled the ticket should keep the customer updated as to the progress of the ticket and assure them that it is being looked into. 

9. Keep track of issue resolution

At the same time as keeping customers updated, the original service rep should track the progress of the ticket through to completion. This is to ensure that the ticket is resolved within the timeframe laid out in your Service Level Agreement. 

Even though the ticket is now being handled by a senior representative, the responsibility for resolving the ticket lies with the original agent. If the ticket is delayed, they should follow up with their colleague and find out what is causing it. 

Wrapping up

Customer service teams should be prepared at all times to handle any manner of customer enquiries. Every so often, a problem is going to pop up that can’t be handled by your ground-level service reps, and requires a more senior team member to look into it. 

Having a help desk escalation procedure in place streamlines your operations and ensures your team is equipped to handle the more complex customer support requests. Customers are assured that your business is able to competently resolve their problems and they feel more satisfied with your brand as a result. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at

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