How to use an Escalation Matrix in your Remote Call Center
Dealing with customer queries takes up most of a call center agent’s time. And sometimes, the agent gets stuck and needs to ask for help. This might not be a problem when everyone is located on-premises, but with remote work, it gets a bit tricker. In such situations, it’s useful to have an escalation matrix in place.
What is an escalation matrix and how can you make one work for your remote call center? Read on to find out!
What Is an Escalation Matrix?
Whenever a customer’s request feels “out of agents’ reach”, they should use something called an “Incident escalation procedure”. It may sound scary but it simply means handing off a task to another employee who is either more experienced in a given area or higher in rank.
An escalation matrix is written information about who your agents should contact if a particular incident occurs. You can quickly create such instructions in a spreadsheet, as you only need to include two variables:
- the type of incident that triggered the escalation
- the name and role of the person who is responsible for handling the incident
Below is an example of an escalation matrix in table format:
|Role||Should be notified about|
|Head of customer support||Customer complaints|
|Head of IT||Network disruptions|
|Head of sales||Billing problems|
|Logistics manager||Delivery delays|
In large companies, an escalation matrix is usually more detailed. Besides information about who to contact, you should also decide on the order in which agents should contact them.
The longer it takes to solve a case, the higher up in the matrix it should go.
What Are the Benefits of an Escalation Matrix?
The longer it takes to resolve a particular situation, the greater the risk of your customers getting annoyed about the issue. If your agents have a written escalation matrix to refer to, they will immediately know how to move forward and can solve the problem faster.
There are several other benefits you can also gain:
- Agents will know straight away what information they should add to an escalation request before passing the matter on to someone else, thus helping that person to fully understand the situation.
- You can ensure that all incidents are assigned to the most qualified person and solved within the SLA.
- A great way to train your new agents (especially those working remotely) on how to respond to difficult situations.
- Agents can feel more at ease talking to customers and focus on taking care of their requests when the guidelines are clear.
- Easier to alert other employees about high-priority issues and make sure they’re handled as quickly as possible.
2 Types of Escalation
You don’t want to overwhelm your call center team leaders and managers with dozens of extra tasks. But redirecting calls to random employees is not an option either, as by doing so you risk frustrating callers to the point of them asking to “talk to the manager”.
There are two ways to decide on the correct order:
#1 Hierarchical Escalation
With hierarchical escalation, you transfer incidents to employees with more experience or authority to make certain decisions. The matrix is divided into tiers, and each level is handled by a higher-ranked staff member.
This is what it looks like in practice:
Upon failing to answer a caller’s complaint about a technical issue, a support agent can ask their team leader to help them address the problem. If they can’t resolve it, then the team leader can pass the incident on to the department manager and so on until the case is closed.
#2 Functional Escalation
Functional escalation works slightly differently. Instead of sending a support ticket to a higher-ranked employee each time, agents first reach out to anyonewho has the necessary expertise or skills to deal with the given task. That employee doesn’t have to be hierarchically next in line, since what matters is that they have the required knowledge on the given topic to help the customer. They could simply be more familiar with a particular service than the agent who answered the call.
An agent is currently talking with a caller about a billing problem they have. The agent, unable to solve the issue on their own, escalates the call to the finance department, which is best equipped to assist the customer.
When To Escalate a Problem?
Escalation can be necessary because an agent has just started the job and doesn’t have enough experience to handle certain questions or topics. Other times, an agent needs to obtain authorization from higher-ups before they can continue a conversation.
While you can reduce the number of escalation incidents in your call center by training your agents on how to tackle difficult situations, you can’t eliminate them completely. Agents will need to use an escalation procedure at some point, so it’s in their (and their customers’) best interests to know exactly when and who they should ask for help.
Most importantly, an agent should always escalate a problem if they feel they can’t resolve a customer’s issue themselves. Having callers listen to several unhelpful suggestions or vague responses usually only results in the customer getting irritated and demanding to speak to the manager. At this point, there’s usually little else to do but heed to that request and have them help resolve the situation.
How To Create a Call Center Escalation Matrix
First, you need to think about how you want to manage the escalations at different levels and who should be responsible for them.
Let’s plan the entire structure in steps:
- Think about what types of incidents to include in your escalation matrix. Look at what types of problems your team deals with most often, e.g. customer complaints, technical questions, or billing issues.
- Note down how urgent each case is. This way, your agents will know straight away which tickets they should treat as high priority.
- State who is responsible for handling those specific tickets. It would also be useful to include what skills or specialist knowledge that employee has. For example, what foreign languages they know.
- Outline the steps your agents need to take when following the escalation process.
That’s the basic information you should add to the escalation matrix.
You can also add any other guidelines or notes that you think might be useful for your agents.
- What data or documents should be included in escalation requests.
- How much time should pass before escalating an incident to the next level.
- What actions or lack thereof should trigger moving a problem up to the next escalation tier.
The look of the matrix is up to your preferences. For some companies, a simple hierarchical chart works best. Others use a more detailed escalation matrix in the form of a table. As long as it contains all of the essential information and is easy to understand for your agents, your escalation matrix will do its job.
To make things simpler for yourself, you could also use one of the many escalation matrix templates available online. Here are a few examples:
Empower Your Remote Teams With An Escalation Matrix
Remote work does come with many benefits. By hiring agents from different countries or continents, you can now provide customer support in your call center virtually 24/7.
One problem, though, is that agents might not know who to ask if they receive a question from a customer that they can’t answer. With an escalation matrix in place, agents no longer need to worry about this.
One glance at the instructions and they will know what to do to offer the best customer support they can. And better customer service means happier clients, which means happier agents and managers too.
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