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How to Escalate Tickets Effectively and Efficiently

In most organizations, people use knowledge bases to document questions and answers as well as issues and resolutions. But a knowledge base can also be used to document escalation procedures. For these knowledge articles, use the Escalation knowledge article type.

The Structure of an Escalation Knowledge Article

Escalation articles are used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the escalation process. They document the escalation requirements and set expectations. The structure for an escalation article may include:

  • Issue
    • Description of the incident
    • Symptoms
  • Environment
    • Applies to tags - such as products
    • Service
  • Cause
  • Resolution
    • Customer procedure
    • Level one procedure
    • Level two procedure
  • Metadata

Metadata refers to the various attributes and properties that provide knowledge about the knowledge article. These are properties such as: create date, author, last modified date, knowledge state, intended audience, views, and uses.

The only required fields are the Service and the Level one procedure fields.  Issue fields are left blank imply that the escalation procedure is for all unresolved issues related to the specific service. Every service in the service catalog should have an Escalation article. If the service desk is unable to resolve an issue related to a service, then escalating at ticket is warranted. Having an Escalation article that documents the proper escalation procedure saves time and minimizes tickets being routed to the incorrect support partner.

The use of the Issue, Applies-to tags, and Cause fields implies there is a unique escalation procedure for the related incidents. For example: Use escalation article A for service X. Use escalation article B for service X when the product is Y. And use escalation article C for service X when this specific issue occurs.

The Resolution / Procedure Fields

The actual resolution is not known in an escalation article. It may be known to the support partner and not known to the support organization. This is because either the support partner is a third-party or the support partner is not participating in the knowledge management process. This is more common when the operating level agreements and/or underpinning contracts do not require the support partner to provide a detailed resolution. However, these agreements may include the requirements for proper escalation of tickets. In these cases, the agreements can provide the source of content for creating Escalation articles. In other words, the escalation article is the standard operating procedure that support an operating level agreement. It documents the requirements and expectations for escalating a ticket.

The Customer Procedure field is not normally used unless the escalation procedure relates to a known issue that requires level two escalation. In this case the Customer Procedure field will include the guidance to contact the service desk. It will include the information that is requested from the customer and the information to share with customer to set their expectations.

The Level One Procedure will include the guidance to perform the proper triage of the issue, collect the proper information, set customer expectations properly, and the guidance to escalate or assign the ticket appropriately. The Level Two Procedure will be blank, contain guidance for escalating the ticket to level 3 such as a third-party provider, and/or contain the required tasks and expectations of level two. In this way, the Escalation articles serves as a document of understanding which defines what is expected of the customer, of level one staff, and of level two staff.

Organizations that develop diagnostic knowledge articles can benefit from escalation articles. The diagnostic article defines a process or check list for triaging an incident based on a single or set of symptoms. The questions asked help to identify the unique issue and then guide the user to the appropriate issue knowledge article. But what happens when the user answers all the questions and discovers the issue they have is not addressed by the diagnostic? That’s when the diagnostic should lead them to the appropriate escalation article to get further assistance in diagnosing the issue.

Escalation Articles versus Issue Articles

The Escalation article can serve as starting point for potentially multiple issues due to various causes. The escalation article will never be updated with a single resolution. Instead a new Issue article type is created that captures a detailed description of the issue, the relevant environment, the cause if known, and the resolution that was created for the specific issue. The new Issue knowledge article is then linked to the ticket to close the ticket. The Escalation knowledge article may be linked to the ticket as a reference link indicating that it was used in the investigation process. It may also be updated to include a section titled Related Articles to include the new Issue knowledge article. This can help the support agent find the new Issue article.

When the ticket is resolved and the resolution is not provided by the support partner, the Escalation article is linked to the ticket. The article documents the process that was used to respond to and close the ticket. This also indicates that knowledge was lost or not captured when this ticket was resolved.

Integrated with Diagnostic Articles

Issue articles can also have escalation procedures in them. The customer resolution field could contain guidance to contact the service desk for issues that a customer cannot resolve without assistance. And the level one resolution field could contain escalation guidance where the resolution requires level two authority, skills, or onsite assistance. The key difference is the resolution to satisfy the issue is documented in the Issue article type and unknown in the Escalation article type.

Continuous Improvement

Another value of tagging an article as an Escalation article type is the ability to analyze tickets that required escalation. The knowledge reuse counter of an Escalation article can be used to identify and justify improvement opportunities. This analysis can identify the need for training, tools, and access so that the service desk can reduce escalations or improve a shift-left strategy. It can be helpful in explaining the first contact resolution rate of the service desk. Understanding escalation requirements can be valuable to know when negotiating a service level agreement, operating level agreements, and underpinning contracts. If this article type is not used, the concept of an Escalation article is still valuable to teach knowledge workers as this can be implemented using the Issue article type.

Having escalation articles never leaves your service desk wondering what to do when they cannot resolve an issue.

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