According to Gartner, when customers are able to find resolutions at the end of high-effort experiences, 96% are more likely to be disloyal to brands, and 81% are likely to share negative word-of-mouth. This is why it’s crucial for you to have a ticket escalation process.

Read this guide to understand:

What is ticket escalation?

Ticket escalation is the process by which a customer issue (support ticket) is passed on to a senior customer service manager or supervisor for a quick and effective resolution. Ticket escalation happens when support agents are unable to resolve a customer query effectively in a timely manner.

For instance, if your frontline reps were unable to solve a customer issue or are unable to solve it as per the expectations of the customer, they can escalate the ticket to the agent’s superior or team lead. Unfortunately, there are times when supervisors also fail to provide a solution. The support ticket will then get escalated to the technical team, who will try to fix the systemic issues that may have caused this inconvenience to your customers. This hierarchy of escalation is what provides customers with recourse when confronted with customer support that falls below their expectations. 

What is the ticket escalation process?

The ticket escalation process is a formalized procedure followed by a support team to move an unresolved support ticket to a senior team member.

The ticket escalation matrix depends on different factors, such as the size of the organization and the type of customer query. A maximum of 4 levels of escalations are created, depending on the priority of a ticket. When a ticket breaches the response time or resolution time SLA, it is shared with the next-in-line supervisor for their input on the query. The moment there’s an escalation, a communication is sent to the customer and support team members to apprise them of the ticket status.

Escalation management

A ticket escalation matrix includes the following stages:

1. Self-service

The first step to escalation involves customers interacting with a chatbot or your knowledge base to find a troubleshooting guide.

2. Help desk software

Your support team will leverage help desk software to document notes and tag the escalated support ticket to the right team member or senior support staff.

3. High-priority tickets

Suppose the front-line agent is unable to solve a ticket that has a higher priority. In that case, they will add their notes and pass them on to the next tier of agents, or their lead, or manager, who has access to more resources and troubleshooting guides.

4. Technical expertise

There are instances when customer support agents have tried to troubleshoot a customer issue in vain. In this case, it needs to be passed on to the product experts because it needs a technical solution.

Additional resource: The guide to escalation management in customer service

Why do you need an effective ticket escalation process?

As per the Forrester Opportunity Snapshot, 47% of US online adults say they will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question. In addition to this missed opportunity, here are a few more reasons why you need a support ticket escalation process.

  • Approximately 80% of customers expect quicker responses from companies. While 64% of customers want a reply within an hour of posting on Twitter, 85% expect a company to respond within six hours. When you have a ticket escalation process, you ensure that every customer query gets resolved as per SLA.
  • Long response time leads to unhappy and frustrated customers who don’t think twice before switching to a competitor because of poor service experience. You can follow up with experts working on the ticket and update the ticket status using a fool-proof ticket escalation process with the help of a help desk software.
  • About 80% of customers want brands to be more honest and transparent. A ticket escalation system helps your support staff keep customers informed about the ticket status so they know when to expect a response and are assured that you’re working on resolving their issue.

Not only does a ticket escalation process help your customer service teams enhance the end-user experience, but it also improves customer satisfaction. Here’s a small tip on when you should escalate support tickets.

When should you escalate a ticket?

Here are a few instances when ticket escalation should happen.

  1. The issue is complex and requires technical expertise
  2. Time taken to resolve the issue is more than mentioned in the SLA
  3. The issue is of high priority and falls out of the scope of frontline agents

Now that you understand the importance and the need for ticket escalation, here are some ways to improve your escalation process.

7 ways to improve your ticket escalation process

These seven strategies will streamline your standard escalation process and help you operate at peak efficiency, no matter how much your ticket volume grows.

1. Clearly define your SLAs

Customer expectations are the heart of your service level agreement(SLA). Your SLA is the rulebook that should have standards for every communication channel you operate on and your default company policy. Your SLA underlines the standards your customers can expect of you and sets benchmarks for your agents. You can put your SLA into your customer service ticketing system to automate repetitive tasks.

Implementing help desk SLAs

You should include a time frame to resolve your escalations based on the nature of the customer issue. It can be tricky to state a time frame for escalation tickets because they involve more unique scenarios and less readily-available solutions. However, it’s still a good practice to have a ballpark guideline of when escalated tickets will be solved.

2. Automate repetitive tasks

Assigning tickets to agents manually may be doable for a small startup but as your business grows, so does the number of support tickets. That’s when automation comes to your rescue. Letting resolved tickets stack up in the background may seem harmless, but it could impede your reporting by inflating the number of open tickets if they’re not closed, even after they’ve been addressed.

You can set up scenario automation rules as part of your ticket escalation process. This will help you manage dozens of tickets and keep every team updated about the status of the query. Avoid the stress and automate your escalation workflow at the earliest.

Automations - 24/7 support

3. Replicate to escalate

The problem with creating guidelines for ticket escalation is that they’re all dependent on how people interpret them. Fortunately, there’s at least one reliable method for determining when you need to escalate a ticket. Instruct your agents to replicate the events that led to an escalation in a test environment. If they can replicate the issue, the support ticket indicates a product-wide problem, which must be shared with the tech development team for a resolution.

If the issue can’t be replicated, the problem might be isolated to a single user and can instead be escalated to higher customer service teams or agents. This also helps create the priority level for the ticket. An issue that impacts multiple groups is always a higher priority than one that impacts a single user.

4. Create heuristics to assign priority

Special circumstances may require you to prioritize certain support tickets. In addition to your SLA, create a standardized protocol and checklist for agents to determine the priority level of a ticket. This will allow you to keep an eye on the tickets that need to be fixed and those that have a little more time (though, of course, as a best practice, all tickets should be treated with urgency).

Involve agents in creating the heuristics. If you’re a department head, you probably have a bird’s-eye view of your operations. You might know the performance indicators, but reports don’t usually indicate the finer details and metrics that your agents have access to. So, build heuristics with feedback from the end users, and stay open to potential changes if required. Unlike your SLA, your heuristics don’t need to be set in stone — only the service they deliver is immutable.

5. Keep the customer updated

Ticket escalations will almost always mean escalated frustrations for the customer. You don’t need to bombard them with updates. But if you know there is a roadblock, it is crucial to keep customers updated about the process and progress of their query. After all, slow or poor communication is the second most likely reason your customers, particularly your new customers, leave your business.

Additionally, keep in touch with the customer during the escalation process, even if you have nothing new to add. This may allow them to provide more information during the updates.

Note: A follow-up with your customer might not just alleviate their frustration but expedite your problem-saving.

6. Create an omnichannel escalation process

If you have omnichannel customer support, your escalation process should be no different. For instance, if a ticket originates from social media, it should follow the same escalation path as an email-borne ticket. This creates seamless customer experiences no matter where the customer initiates contact with your brand. Great omnichannel experiences drive great brand gains.

To further streamline workflows, define the point during interactions when they need to change channels. Set rules for when a live chat needs to be escalated to email or when social media needs to move to direct message. If the information needs to be moved beyond what’s safe for the customer to share on that channel. In that case, they need to be escalated to a more secure, safer avenue to continue receiving service.

7. Evaluate escalation history regularly

If a customer’s tickets are regularly escalated, their account may need to undergo a review to see if they have the best solution for what they’re trying to accomplish with your product. You can view the ticket history of customers to identify ticket trends.

If an agent is regularly escalating tickets, then they may not be following your heuristics and guidelines. In that case, they may require training to assign priority and follow your escalation process. 

Alternatively, if it’s neither of these circumstances, you may have significant issues at the foundation of your product. Use that information to make changes to your product and improve its overall function. A high volume of escalated tickets may indicate that your next release should also be escalated or that the last one created unanticipated problems for many users. So , review your escalations often to eliminate problems sooner than later.


Ticket escalation may seem like a sticky situation for the stakeholders involved. Still, once the escalation process has been optimized, it helps you navigate critical challenges like customer churn. Here are a few rules to follow:

  • Start by setting your SLA and automating redundant tasks
  • Help your agents determine priority levels by having them replicate the problem
  • Prioritize and escalate problems that impact multiple users over ones that impact one.
  • Keep your customer updated. The more you communicate with them, the more you show they’re valued.
  • Lastly, make your escalation process as omnichannel as your customer service and regularly inspect your escalation history. Repeated escalations could signal a major issue with an agent or, worse, your product.

Which other hacks do you use to improve your ticket escalation process? Let us know in the comments below.

Updated on January 10, 2023.


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