How to minimize ticket escalations using Artificial Intelligence

Jul 8, 2022

B2B Support Escalations: Definition + How to Minimize Them With AI

Today’s customers aren’t settling for mediocre support—they expect high-quality, fast customer service. And 80% of customers believe that a positive experience includes “knowledgeable help and friendly service.”

By adopting AI-based support technology, B2B customer support teams can take a proactive stance to head off escalations and manage them at scale.

What is ticket escalation?

Ticket escalation is the process of moving a customer issue up the ranks of your support team. It happens when there’s a customer issue that requires additional attention before it can be resolved. Say a customer requests a large discount on a bulk purchase. A ground-level support agent cannot authorize this, so they have to escalate it to someone at the top. 

Many B2B businesses adopt a tiered approach to ticket escalation. A tiered escalation process moves through a predefined hierarchy consisting of 4 tiers: 

  • Tier 0 consists of self-service channels like a knowledge base or helpdesk software so customers can resolve simple issues themselves. 
  • Tier 1 consists of ground-level support agents who follow Standard Operating Procedures like scripts to resolve simple customer issues. 
  • Tier 2 consists of specialized agents who can troubleshoot and solve complex problems.
  • Tier 3 consists of developers or engineers with expert knowledge to create custom solutions for customer complaints. 

The higher the level in the hierarchy, the more complex the problem is.

Why is efficient ticket escalation important? 

Ticket escalation creates positive experiences for your customers—the backbone of a business’s success. 

1. It reduces the time spent on resolving customer issues 

Customers expect their issues to be resolved on time—72.5% of respondents in a Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Survey said that a speedy resolution matters the most when they have an issue to sort out with a company. 

Ticket escalation reduces the time spent on resolving customer issues. Support agents are clear on who to pass a ticket to when they encounter a problem they can’t solve instead of stalling, wasting the customer’s time, and creating a friction-heavy experience.

2. It improves customer retention 

81 percent of participants in a Zendesk Survey say a positive customer service experience increases the chances of them making another purchase. 

Having a ticket escalation system in place reduces the friction between agents and customers, especially if the customers had a negative experience. Reduced friction as a direct result of speedy resolution means that customers have a good experience with your company, so they won’t take their business to a competitor and are more likely to stick around—and keep spending their money with you. 

3. It supports customer acquisition efforts

Customer acquisition is expensive. B2B tech businesses spend an average of $800 to acquire a new customer via paid channels like social media ads and influencer marketing. If you deliver stellar support experiences on the regular, you can offset some of these costs by turning your customers into much-coveted brand ambassadors.

Happy customers will share their experiences with six or more people either on social media or third-party review sites and will actively recommend your product to people in their network. Such is the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

The B2B support ticket escalation process

Most support organizations have a tiered system for ticket escalation, but the B2B process can vary depending on who is requesting the escalation. 

1. Customer-initiated escalation

Customer-initiated escalation is the first tier of B2B ticket escalation. In this type of escalation, a customer expresses their dissatisfaction directly to the business, and the case is escalated. Perhaps the customer is displeased with the support interaction or the product itself and wants a person at a higher level within the company to resolve their complaint. Essentially, this escalation is the B2B equivalent of “I want to speak to your manager.”

Here’s an example: you run support for Company A, a data analytics software company, and Company B—an international financial services group—is one of your most valuable clients. Their contract, which is worth upwards of $300,000 annually, is due for renewal soon.

An IT manager at Company B has been working with your support team to resolve an issue: your software keeps crashing during a routine system update. Your team directs the IT manager to a knowledge-base article, but they still aren’t able to fix the problem. The manager becomes annoyed and sends an angry email to ask for the case to be escalated to a higher-level support representative at Company A.

2. Employee-initiated escalation

Employee-initiated escalation is the second tier of B2B ticket escalation. In an employee-initiated escalation, the frontline support agent recognizes they don’t have the expertise or resources needed to resolve a case on their own. Perhaps they need to pull in product experts or obtain more information from the customer success team. So, they escalate the case to a higher-level support representative or another team.

Let’s take the above scenario. After some initial troubleshooting and screen-sharing, a frontline agent at Company A realizes that they can’t resolve Company B’s software issues without more help. The agent escalates the case to a Level 2 Support Engineer to do a root cause analysis (RCA) to pinpoint the issue and the best approach for resolving it.

3. Executive initiated escalation

The third tier of B2B escalation is the one that CEOs, CROs, VPs, and pretty much everyone dreads. In our industry, it’s sometimes referred to as the “$100,000 escalation,” “executive escalation,” or even the “nuclear escalation.”

This situation happens when the first two types of escalations either fail or don’t get responded to in an effective way. The customer resorts to having their CEO or another high-level executive personally intervene. And the results can be catastrophic.

Let’s circle back to the previous scenario. Imagine that days or even weeks have passed with Customer B’s software update issue going unresolved. Multiple emails have been exchanged between teams at Company A and B, yet the case has languished—lost in the weeds of a support team’s daily firefighting.

It’s 4:30 pm on a Friday, and the CEO of Company A gets an irate call from the CEO of Company B. The CEO of Company B—a high-value customer—is extremely displeased. That original, unresolved escalation? It’s turned into a critical software failure that has completely disrupted Company B’s business and cost them thousands of dollars.

Immediately, Company A’s CEO jumps into crisis mode, pulling in high-level executives from customer success, product, sales, etc. The beleaguered support team—already overstressed and overworked—gets blamed for the crisis. Folks work through the weekend to resolve the issue, with the CEO flying to Company B’s headquarters to do damage control.

But the damage has been done. Customer trust has eroded, and Company B ultimately churns. Company B switches to a competitor, and in the process of doing so, their CEO speaks negatively about Company A. Word spreads. Low morale at Company A leads to agent burnout and turnover, so the organization loses revenue. It’s called “nuclear escalation” for good reason.

How to minimize support ticket escalation with AI

The B2B ticket escalation process is mostly reactive—organizations wait until customer issues arise before figuring out a way to escalate and solve it. A better way to do ticket escalation is to implement AI-signaled extraction, so you can proactively handle customer issues. 

Use customer sentiment analysis 

AI automatically analyzes unstructured customer data—like case notes, emails, voice calls, and chat transcripts—and assigns sentiment and attention scores based on: 

  1. How customers feel about their experience with your brand so far
  2. If a customer issue requires additional attention 
  3. How likely a customer is to escalate a situation 

At a glance, a customer service team member can look at these numbers, quickly understand how a customer is trending, and take action before it becomes an issue that needs to be escalated. For example, if a customer issue has a 90/100 attention score, it means it is urgent and requires immediate attention—even if they haven’t filed a formal complaint. 

Automate customer support workflows 

Implement automatic triggers to route tickets to the specific agent who can resolve the issue rather than passing it manually from one tier to another. For example, you can add automation workflows to your customer relationship management software so that when you escalate a customer issue, it is immediately transferred to the right agent with all of the contextual information. Or implement workflows to automatically update ticket status as needed and track the average ticket resolution time for your organization.

Workflow automation also makes it easier for your organization to identify customer complaint patterns and implement solutions to eliminate these issues completely. For instance, you can add automatic tags to high-priority tickets to discover the most common issues that come up and provide a permanent solution to these issues. Say all high-priority tickets flag an issue with a particular product feature. You can identify and solve the issue so it stops coming up, and your customer service team won’t have to deal with it repeatedly. 

Choose a support experience platform that fits your needs

SupportLogic SX’s domain is B2B customer support for technical products. The platform’s AI and NLP technology is trained with over 60 million B2B customer support interactions. 

Along with being purpose-built for technical B2B support, Support Logic SX is also fine-tuned to your company’s unique goals. And the tool gets more precise over time. Users accept or reject escalation predictions, and the platform’s Machine Learning (ML) technology uses those inputs to quickly adapt and get more precise in its case analysis and escalation predictions. 

Ready to improve ticket support in your organization? Try SupportLogic today.

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