“3 steps for managing IT escalations (and 3 mistakes to avoid)” Learn more about this on this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST IT Service Management Show by Appfire. Join Appfire’s product evangelist, Evn Tomeny, and Emily Peet-Lukes as they discuss how to effectively manage IT escalations. Discover the three essential steps to take and learn about the common mistakes to avoid for successful escalation management. By mastering these techniques, you can ensure customer satisfaction and maintain smooth operations within your organization.

About the guest

Before becoming a Product Evangelist at Appfire, Evn Tomeny spent two decades leading and growing IT Organizations. He led IT Support, Infrastructure, Endpoint Engineering, and Enterprise Collaboration teams. When he’s not helping people learn about the awesome things we’re doing at Appfire, he also teaches youth circus arts.

About the show

The BEST ITSM Show by Appfire brings you expert insights for IT service delivery, so your employees and customers have what they need to succeed. Get the right tech and tips for the right job at hand. Look like you’ve come from the future with all your new ITSM smarts. Every episode is a brisk 10 minutes—less time than it takes to provision a laptop or troubleshoot a tech support issue.

For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

3 steps for managing IT escalations (and 3 mistakes to avoid)

Emily:  Today we have Evn Tomeny joining us to talk about managing IT escalations, three key steps to take and common mistakes to avoid. Hang tight for 10 minutes of expert advice.

Hey, Evn. How are you today?

Evn:  Hey, Emily. I’m so great. Thanks for having me. How are you?

Emily:  I’m great. Thanks for joining us on the show.

Evn:  Absolutely.

Emily:  Today, we’re talking about properly handling IT escalations and some common mistakes that people tend to make in the process. Can you tell us why it’s so important for IT teams to manage escalations in a certain way?

Evn:  Yes. It’s super important because IT escalations are the only time really when you have more than one person responsible for handling end user support. You have that handoff from one person to the next, you have multiple people involved. There’s going to be communication not only with your end users, but also with the other people involved in support. All of that leads to a longer resolution time, so it takes longer to handle an issue when it has to be escalated.

For all of those reasons, it’s super important to make sure that escalations are smooth, efficient, and effective.

Emily:  That makes sense. Yes, absolutely. Can you walk me through some things we should avoid and some things that we should do instead?

Evn:  Absolutely. I love this framework. 

The first thing I’ll say we should avoid is assuming that people will figure it out themselves. You might look at your IT teams and think IT support, IT operations, and IT security, maybe identity and access management, all of these teams work together all of the time, so they’ll be able to figure it out. If you use that approach, you’re going to have as many different approaches to escalations as you do people on your team. We never want that. 

What you should do instead is clearly define and document a process for escalations. I really do mean document. It’s not enough to just sit down and talk with the teams and tell them how it’s done. You have to make sure that it’s written down, that people have read it and agreed to it, and they have a document that they can go back to and view to make sure that they’re still handling it correctly.

I’ll dive right into the second one. This one is honestly my favorite. The second thing that you really have to avoid doing is throwing it over the wall. What I mean by that is avoid simply moving an issue from one team to another. Just because the IT security team needs to ultimately do the work to resolve an issue, that doesn’t mean you should pass it to them and forget about it. 

In fact, I tend to think that the team that receives the initial issue should always be responsible for resolving that issue. While they may have to work with another team to get the work done, they should be responsible for the end user communication, they should be responsible for ultimately saying we completed this issue. 

It also means that you’re able to hire people for your IT support team who are great at customer support, and then you’re able to keep some of those back office IT folks, you know the ones I’m talking about, who are super good at resolving things but don’t always have the best bedside manner. It’s okay, they don’t have to be at the bedside. Your IT support team can keep the issue and then maybe farm the work out to the team that needs to get it done.

Emily:  That makes sense. Keep people in their strengths. Also, I think we definitely have a tendency of thinking that passing something along and off of our plate means that it’s going to be handled, but actually it ends up sometimes being like a game of Telephone where it gets passed off, but then the original intent gets misplaced. Having that central understanding of the team that started with it is going to end with it makes a lot of sense.

Evn:  Yes. Actually, your point about playing this game of Telephone and not being sure where something really lies brings me to the third thing that we need to avoid, which is just to assume that it’s going well. Just because you don’t hear negative feedback about your escalation process doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s working. A lot of times it might mean that customers don’t know issues are being escalated, so they don’t know to complain about the escalation process. 

We really need to have a firm process for analyzing and monitoring escalation trends. You’ve probably heard it before, but if it’s worth doing, it’s worth recording. Take the time to make sure you have a structure. You have SLAs for every issue that comes in. Make sure you have separate SLAs for every issue that gets escalated. Make sure that you’re still tracking the amount of time that it takes. 

Most importantly, track customer feedback. If you have customer satisfaction scores for all of your end user support requests, make sure that you’re splitting them up between the ones that were escalated and the ones that weren’t escalated. Make sure you know if escalations are hurting your customer satisfaction, because if they are, it probably means you need to do something better.

Emily:  That makes so much sense. Again, this idea of set it and forget it just doesn’t see the importance of escalations holistically, it’s just kind of taking something off the plate and moving on. It sounds like especially when dealing with customer satisfaction that having a more holistic approach, seeing it from start to finish, and making sure the proper documentation and reporting is being done is going to be the key to evolving your processes and making them better.

Evn:  Definitely. When you’re defining that process, make sure that you define a single person who is responsible for the end-to-end lifecycle of support. It might be on your support team, it might be a director in IT, but make sure there is someone whose responsibility it is to understand what that lifecycle looks like, because it changes depending on which teams are involved, and sometimes multiple escalation teams get involved, and we need to understand what that lifecycle looks like.

Emily:  Having that ownership and being able to see it in that lifecycle process, absolutely.

Evn:  Exactly. Ownership is key here. Not only over the whole end-to-end process, but the team that receives that issue should continue to maintain ownership over the issue.

Emily:  Yes, absolutely. It sounds like with all of these processes and reporting that there are probably some helpful tools that can be used to manage escalations appropriately, efficiently, and effectively. 

Evn:  For sure, especially if your team uses Jira Service Management. We have a bunch of tools here at Appfire that can be super helpful in this process. I’ll highlight a few of them.

The first is our workflow and automation tool called JMWE, Jira Misc Workflow Extensions. It’s super useful. The way that I personally like to handle these escalations is that I’ll leave the original ticket in the original project and I’ll create a linked issue in the new project, so that they have all of the information we copy and all of the fields that are relevant, but they’re not actually responsible for communicating with the end user. They’re responsible for communicating with me, and then I go back to the end user and continue that communication. So, the end user only has one person that they have to speak to, one person they get to know throughout their whole support journey.

Emily:  That’s great. That one point of contact is so helpful, for sure.

Evn:  Exactly. I also love to highlight Comala Document Management, a Confluence app we have, which is really great for taking this kind of documentation that I was talking about, clearly defined documentation, and making sure that it’s approved by the right parties and then making sure that the right people read it. It’s really important to have everyone on your team confirm that they’ve read the escalation process.

Finally, the last step that I talked about was analyzing trends. I love to highlight Dashboard Hub from Appfire, which is super useful for reporting not only on SLAs, but closure rates and customer satisfaction rates. Anything that you want to track as part of an escalation process or just as part of the regular running of an IT support team, Dashboard Hub can do for you.

Emily:  That’s awesome. Reporting can be so satisfying because it’s great to see metrics, see them grow, see them change. That’s great to have.

Evn:  Absolutely. Especially if you start to do things well over time, reporting can be a really joyful experience. 

Emily:  Absolutely. Where can people learn more about these tools and learn more about processes? 

Evn:  There’s a really helpful resource at There will be all kinds of ITSM resources there. You’ll find our full solution, which includes all three of those apps that I mentioned, plus many more. 

Emily:  Amazing. Thank you so much, Evn. This has been great.

Evn:  I really appreciated the chance to chat.Emily:  Of course. Come back anytime. That’s it for this episode of Appfire Presents: The Best ITSM Show by Appfire. We’ll see you next time.


Last updated: 2023-06-05

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