One of the top remote work benefits is that, especially if employees work across multiple time zones, on-call, 24/7 live customer support is possible.

This level of availability is essential, as 90% of consumers expect an immediate response to a customer service inquiry.

However, when a remote representative fails to solve the problem, it’s necessary to vertically escalate the issue to the right departments and team members.

Taking the proactive approach of designing a call center escalation matrix speeds up resolution times and ensures representatives understand the specifics of the resolution process.

 

What is an Escalation Matrix?  

An escalation process is a standardized roadmap regarding the order of departments and employees to contact when a service ticket is issued.

It also defines the timing of escalating the issue to a higher level.

A remote matrix is made up of a series of incrementally increasing levels of contact based on the specific problem at hand. Instead of relying on an auto-attendant phone system, live one-on-one communication with the most relevant team member or help desk is the goal of any matrix.

The longer the issue remains unsolved, the higher up in the company ranks the project escalation climbs. Employees wait for a predetermined amount of time before escalating the issue to the next tier.

 

The Different Types of Escalation

escalation types

Technology like predictive behavioral routing connects clients to the representative who is the most likely to be able to solve their problem.

But when the remote representative fails to provide the required assistance, there are four main types of escalation methods to take.

 

Hierarchical Escalation

The most common type of escalation is hierarchical.

This means the support ticket is escalated to the team or individual according to their seniority and overall experience in handling similar problems. For example, a supervisor might escalate the issue to an account manager, who would then escalate the unsolved problem to head of sales.

 

Functional Escalation

Functional escalation means a ticket will be sent to the team or individual who has the exact skillset needed to solve the critical issues, even if they aren’t hierarchically next in line.

For example, the accounts and billing department would be the best team to handle customer questions regarding an upcoming payment.

 

Priority Escalation

Here, the issue is escalated according to its priority, and is sent to team leaders and higher levels faster due to its importance.

For example, an Information Technology issue resulting in frequent phone echoing will have a higher level of priority than looking into a supply delivery that’s a day late. Identify high priority issues and connect with the proper support team.

 

Automatic Escalation

In this scenario, businesses use call center software to automatically route project problems to the next level once a certain amount of time without a resolution has passed.

 

When to Escalate a Problem

When an employee or manager has made several attempts to de-escalate the problem on their own but is unable to come to a first call resolution, it’s time to initiate the ticket escalation process.

Ensure that there is sufficient documentation of the problem, as well as of the attempts to resolve it. Gather relevant emails, dates, and times of phone calls, missed deadlines, HR reports, or even customer complaints.

Some of the most common reasons for escalation and incident management are:

  • Unsatisfied customers
  • SLA violations
  • Lack of employee expertise or training to properly assist a customer
  • Direct requests to speak to a supervisor or manager
  • A sudden increase in call volume during peak hours
  • To avoid placing a customer on hold for an extended period
  • Task dependencies stalling the project
  • Lack of PMO’s authority to provide a solution
  • Continued delay would result in missed deadlines, lost sales, or loss of customer
  • Projects are close to going over-budget
  • A lack of response within the required time period

Above all, instruct employees to use call center agent skills to keep the customer, supplier, or other party involved in the escalation updated about the process and progress.

Customers especially want to know why a call is being transferred, who they’ll be speaking to next, and how long they may need to wait to receive a response.

 

How to Create a Call Center Escalation Matrix

The below step-by-step process for creating a remote escalation matrix template uses a customer service incident management template as an example.

 

Step Onetiered support

First, define the types of problems to include in the escalation plan, so that you’ll be able to clearly define the complaint of a given category and ensure proper service delivery.

These include:

  • Customer Service requests
  • Breaches of Service Level Agreements
  • IT project issues
  • Logistics and Operational

You may wish to create sub-categories within these problem types, as we do in the below call center escalation matrix template of this step.

Customer Service Escalation Matrix
Complaint about product quality or past customer service
Product/Service question
Order status
Billing/Payment
Account management and access
Follow-up call
IT request
Training Request

 

Step Two

escalation matrix template

Next, outline the points of contact, organize them hierarchically, and define their roles. Depending on the size of the company, you may select individual or team-based points of contact.

The below table adds onto the above customer service matrix, illustrating how to organize escalation tiers and manage contact points.

Escalation Level Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7
Point of Contact Call Center Representative Call Center Support Manager Account Manager Sales Manager Director of Sales and Operations Stakeholder Senior Management
Complaint about product quality or past customer service
Product/Service question
Order status
Billing/Payment
Account management and access
Follow-up call
IT request
Training Request

 

Step Three

prioritization escalationNext, set up a timeline for how much time must pass without a resolution before you escalate to the next level.

In most cases, the amount of time for each escalation window will not be consistent from level to level, but will increase hierarchically.

Below, we’ve added the timeline to the example template.

Escalation Level Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7
Point of Contact  Representative Support Manager Account Manager Sales Manager Director of Sales and Operations Stakeholder Senior Management
Timeline 15-30 minutes 30 minutes-1 hour 1 hour-2 hours 2 hours-5 hours 1-2 business days 1-3 business days Resolution
Complaint about product quality or past customer service
Product/Service question
Order status
Billing/Payment
Account management and access
Follow-up call
IT request
Training Request

 

Step Four

escalation flowchart

Finally, you’ll need to outline the processes and steps that the leader of each level will need to take before moving onto the next level. You may also wish to state what action or lack of action specifically “triggers” the move to the next tier.

These can be as general or as detailed as you’d like, and can also be broken down further into multiple steps per level if needed. If so, you may wish to move from a spreadsheet to a flowchart.

Below, we’ve provided examples of responses and triggers from the above table to help you provide the best customer service.

Escalation Level Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7
Point of Contact Call Center Representative Call Center Support Manager Account Manager Sales Manager Director of Sales and Operations Stakeholder Senior Management
Timeline 15-30 minutes 30 minutes-1 hour 1 hour-2 hours 2 hours-5 hours 1-2 business days 1-3 business days Resolution
Problem:

Complaint about product quality or past customer service

Response:

Customer states their problem

 

Triggers:

Representative unable to solve problem

 

Representative asks to speak to manager

Response: 

Attempted solution

 

Collect contact details

 

Follow-up after internal review

 

Triggers: 

Unsuccessful solution

 

Requires a specific department or skill

Response: 

Review account details

 

Communicate new information

 

Outline resolution plan

 

Attempt solution

 

Create incident report

 

Triggers: 

Account closure threatened

 

Potential switch to competitor

 

Bad review

 

Issue remains unsolved

Response:

Further investigate issue

 

Offers financial incentive

 

Documentation of conversation and problems

 

Triggers:

Issue unsolved

 

Customer’s privacy/data threatened

 

 Customer lodges formal complaint

 

Customer asks to speak to Director

Response: 

Apologize

 

Ask for feedback

 

Triggers:

Customer demands refund/cancellation

 

No possible resolution

 

Customer wants to keep account

Response:

Review prior attempts

 

Offer refund or cancellation

 

Speak to representatives

 

Plan to improve process

 

Triggers: 

Senior management approval needed process 

Response: 

Review incident report

 

Sign off on plans

 

Redefine objectives

 

Hire experts to evaluate new process

 

Other Ways To Improve Customer Experiences

In addition to developing a detailed remote worker escalation plan, implementing new training for agents and sales representatives can vastly improve customer service.

Our post on the power of emotional intelligence in customer service proves how self-management and social awareness can deliver results when re-training team members.

Additionally, investing in the right project management and call center software can help to prevent confusion about employee responsibilities and project objectives. Our comparison tables answer FAQ about these tools and explain how their features improve internal decision-making.