Managing Modes of Escalation


I recently was experiencing some issues with my local ISP which required me to contact their customer service line for support. The choices which I was given to interact with them were to either call their 1800 number, or they had a messaging app on their home page. I decided to hedge my bets and call the 1800 number as well as leveraging the messaging tool.

Once in the tool I was prompted to provide the reason for my issue and there was an icon indicating that I was awaiting a response. Meanwhile, after dealing with an almost painful amount of “press 1” for this and “press 2” for that, the computerized voice on the line indicated that it was going to be approximately several hours to wait for the next available representative. Fortunately the messaging tool provided a much quicker response (within minutes).
After indicating my issues and having them rectified I asked the Customer Service rep, why there was such a gap in the two forms of support. They indicated that while the vast majority of people still like to use the phone, there was an ever increasing demand on the use of the messaging tool. The CSR went on to say that this method was far easier for them since they could cut and paste links to info, how-to’s and even upselling much easier. They also indicated on average the same calls were handled in a fraction of the time since they did not have to explain as much.


This interaction started me thinking about what areas for improvement could be had in my own service desk experiences. Depending on your setup (phone, email etc) you may need to start thinking of terms of the customer experience while what you are doing may make sense now it might not always be that way. The saying goes “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been”. To best determine what gaps in resolution times exist we need to determine areas to target


What metrics really matter?

We can track all sorts of data on what the Service desk is doing but the heavy hitters are going to be:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Costs per contact
  • Productivity of staff
  • First call resolution


Identifying where we are enables us to determine where our customers want us to be. Let’s assume for a moment that we currently handle our requests and escalations from the user base with emails and in critical incident situations through phone call escalations. Performing an analysis of the requests we may determine that a good percentage of the requests revolve around questions, and would be training issues. A further investigation reveals that when added up, it equals a FTE each week. If we had a solid knowledge management policy we could better utilize this staff member to handle other escalations. This minor improvement could reduce the turnaround of escalations even further.


The other consideration we may need to make is the turnaround on the emails that we receive to handle the requests. It’s natural for people to find the quickest way to do things. If they determine that the path of least resistance is a phone call then that is what they will do. This may impact the service delivery for phone escalations until rules are put in place to account for that. These rules may in turn cause it’s their own level of dissatisfaction, so finding out how our customers want to connect with us is important.


In addition to what our customers want we may need to take a closer look inward to see how we collaborate as an IT team. Some things to look at would be:


  • Are there areas where we can improve in our own interactions to streamline service?
  • What tools do we use every day that we could leverage?
  • Are Blogs, Wiki’s, YouTube, even online communities like Twitter and Facebook something to consider?


As you implement these steps make sure that you continually review what you have done and what did or didn’t work. It’s important to remember that you can learn something from the mistakes that are made along the way.




1 thought on “Managing Modes of Escalation”

  1. Good discussion of the considerations.
    I'm all for improving the channels.
    The problem arises when some pundits and vendors think that changing the channel means that everything is changed. It isn't.

    We must still have a ticket so that we don't lose anybody. That really pisses customers off.
    The tickets ought to be in one central system else chaos reigns.
    We must still capture a record of action (a) for an audit trail if these is a complaint (b) so we can learn.
    We must capture that learning in such a way that (a) it is ahared and (b) it is accessible to everyone including users themselves.
    We must still have plan, policy, process, procedures, roles for how to deal with the tickets else there is no repeatability (inconsistent service to customers REALLY pisses them off), no transfer of knowledge and culture to new employees, and nothing to improve.
    We must still have statistics so we can know if we are improving or not.

    i.e. nothing changes when you improve or change the channel. It's just a channel. All the hard work remains the same.

Comments are closed.