Techs with headsets on in front of computers at an MSP startup providing customer escalation

MSP Customer Escalation Process

The MSP customer escalation process isn’t necessarily a tool to provide customers with a list of people to complain to or self-escalate. The best use of developing this tool is to train your customer to successfully engage with support.

First, I want to share with you how I’m using the terminology here and how it relates to other business processes. The closely aligned term Service Level Agreement (or SLA) does something very similar to the MSP customer escalation process. You might have one or both of these which will need to have some matching of levels and terms to avoid customer confusion.

The SLA often has a contractual component to it.  The importance of which means it’s something you definitely want to have consistent with as many customers as possible. It is best to have a standard contract set up identifying an SLA for all your services. Of course, it also outlines consequences if the standards aren’t met.

The MSP customer escalation process however is something for a slightly different audience. The customer’s team responsible for contacting your MSP should have this and have an understanding of who to contact for different kinds of issues. We’re trying to set expectations here. When the issue has more severity, you might indicate who will get the issue next for resolution.

Added benefit of setting expectations right away is how an issue will be handled, and what they can do about it. For the customer to know exactly how long we think an issue can go without escalation helps guide them as well.

Why Have a Process?

In my MSP we grew to support many different kinds of services. When we began, our staffing was low, so we had just a couple people to handle just about everything. Over time, we needed to add staff. Finding more of the staff members who could do everything became more difficult, so we specialized a little bit.

Another reason we sought to develop this MSP customer escalation process was as a customer training situation. We had a few clients who felt that any problem in our expertise to fix should be resolved within 30 minutes with little wiggle room. We used the process to identify to the client what kinds of things we did for them and not only how long they should take but when we knew to move it to the next level.

This process tool is for internal use as well. We have an escalation process for the team to follow which describes different scenarios in which they are to escalate an issue, how to do that, and to whom.

We made a management change which moved me out of day-to-day operations. My duties were delegated to a management team which would be a new escalation point before I needed to get involved. This required developing a process to give to the team to follow and get used to. We allowed staff members to address complaints by offering discounts or invoice reductions within certain limits. Guidelines were also provided to establish scenarios in which certain actions could be taken.

Developing Your Process

There may be some templates out there to build this from but let me offer some words of caution. We entrepreneurs are building businesses the way we want them to run. Getting a template which has none of that influence, no matter how closely aligned, might fit poorly. Finding out a process doesn’t work after implementing it is no good either, so make sure to test one you develop or one you get.

I’ve provided two uses for this MSP customer escalation process which have different audiences. However, they have similar goals, so in developing either one, you can use these tips.

Identify the purpose of the process before starting. In fact, starting the document with that explanation of purpose will help set the tone for the reader. Audience really is everything.

Next, you’ll want to write in such a way as to put your team in the best possible light. We’re not escalating because of someone’s failure, we’re escalating to speed resolution. Keep the focus on the problem and the solution, not the people.

Empower your audience by giving them steps to follow. Invite the reader to take matters into their own hands if they have frustration, or simply need to get an update.

For a last piece of advice, I’d suggest that when you finish the process, take it to a sample audience. A trusted client, or key employee and have them give you some feedback. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely job and we’re in our heads so much we can miss something important.

I hope you enjoyed this post about the MSP Customer Escalation Process. As I mentioned, there’s a couple ways to use this. If you would like to chat for a few minutes about this in more detail or see a sample version that my MSP uses, I’d be happy to share.

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