Effective Escalations for Support Centers


by Randy Celaya
February 26, 2016

I recently spent two days delivering a public HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA) course in Irvine, California, to a group of students who were very engaging and eager to learn.

When talking about the best practices for escalations, I learned a number of students had never used a procedure for managing them in their support centers. Other students mentioned that their support centers did not follow consistent procedures for managing escalations. The topic quickly turned into a very lively and informative conversation about the pros and cons of managing escalations.

A variety of students shared how they currently manage escalations and the challenges they face due to the lack of procedures. We discussed why, in some environments, escalations are not managed correctly or not at all. "We don't have enough time" was a common reaction at first from some attendees. But by the end of the conversation, all students agreed it needed to be done. We then looked at some best practices for managing escalations, focusing our discussion of industry best practices on the two types of escalations.

  • Functional Escalations. Transferring an incident or service request laterally to a specialist with the appropriate skills to handle the incident.
  • Hierarchical Escalations. Transferring an incident or service request vertically to either management or a higher authority.

Most of the students had only heard the term escalation and were now sharing their agreement on why we should use two types. One attendee suggested that, depending on the culture of your company, the type can be very important. In some environments, functional escalations take a very high priority. We discussed how important it is to be consistent in the ways incidents and service requests are handled. The discussion turned to when and how we should escalate. The HDI-SCA class covers the best ways to do this.

They learned when to escalate:

  • You have exhausted your skills and available resourceslist item
  • The impact to the business is high and critical
  • The customer is abusive or the customers demand it
  • The SLA dictates the escalation

And how to escalate: 

  • Conference call
  • Automated messaging or email
  • Transfer
  • Dispatch 

The conversation on the importance of managing escalations continued. When asked to identify the benefits of managing escalations, the students answered that we can provide better customer service, which increases customer satisfaction, and increase productivity, improving the image of support. We can also hold people accountable throughout the process.


Randy Celaya is the president of The Coaching Bridge, where he teaches advanced communication, coaching, and facilitation skills. Randy is a certified executive coach and instructor and is certified to teach all courses HDI offers, specializing in knowledge management and leadership skills. He has 20 years of support center industry experience and has worked with support centers around the world to develop, coach, and train professionals in customer support, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, team building, and problem-solving skills. Randy is also a seasoned event speaker who has delivered keynotes at help desk and call center events around the world. In 2007, Randy was asked to join the National Facilitator Database (NFDB), reserved for speakers who are among the best in the industry! Connect with Randy on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @RandyCelaya, and like his Facebook page


Tag(s): best practice, escalation, service level management, support center, technical support, supportworld

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