18

I needed a task to be done by the services team in our company, I called them but no response, I've sent an e-mail to them explaining the issue and the urgency and I have CC'ed their manager and their manager’s manager.

Then I received a call from one of them [the services team] telling me that this is inappropriate escalation.

Is it true? Is CC'ing the manager in first e-mail regarding urgent matter considered escalation?

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    Call from who? The manager, the managers manager or one of the team? – Kilisi Nov 19 at 10:11
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    Why did you remove the comment with the 30minutes? – FooTheBar Nov 19 at 10:16
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    It's hard to answer "is this considered escalation" much less "is this appropriate escalation" without knowing the norms that are established for communicating with that service group. Do you know what the normal channels are for a given situation? Do you know what the expectations were for your type of request? I don't really see this as answerable without some more context. Some groups may want the management copied on some types of requests. Others clearly won't want that. Line staff may or may not know or agree with the policies so the person who told you it was wrong might not be right. – dwizum Nov 19 at 15:11
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    This seems like a situational question that is going to be heavily dependent on the culture and established processes in the OP's specific work environment. I've worked on small teams where escalation would be expected because our management structure was flat and our manager was often directly involved in our work. I've also worked in larger teams where this sort of thing would get you a strong reprimand for not using the appropriate ticket system or communication channel. Everyone's issue is urgent to them. Groups that process large numbers of requests usually have filters for a reason. – Tal Nov 19 at 19:48
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    The biggest issue I see is including the recipient's manager's manager, as that is a double-level of escalation. However, whether that is actually appropriate may vary based on specific reasons that we might not know, such as how your organization works and if you have additional reason to contact the person who happens to be the recipient's manager's manager. It is noteworthy that you say that you "received a call from one of them". So is a person who got reported the only person who is complaining about your reporting? If so, this might be a bit of a non-issue for you. – TOOGAM Nov 19 at 22:23
67

Is CCing the manager in first E-mail regarding urgent matter considered escalation?

Absolutely it's considered escalation, since you've gone over and above the normal means of contacting them (phone / email directly to the team) and you're explicitly pulling their manager into the thread with a hope of bringing the issue to their attention quickly.

In your case, putting the manager and the manager's manager in there is a step above that, it's a rather harsh level of escalation.

I received a call from one of them telling me this is inappropriate escalation

Whether it's appropriate escalation is another matter entirely, and depends on the context. Company losing 6 figures a minute type situation and they're ignoring it after half an hour? Definitely (but if that's the case, you should have been hounding them with calls and making your manager aware, not just send an email after half an hour.) I can't get into my PC and I've got a deadline? Almost certainly not.

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    If the company is losing 6 figures a minute and you only call once, don't get through, wait half an hour and then send an email, you're probably doing something very wrong. I can't really think of a scenario where that would be an appropriate escalation. – Dukeling Nov 19 at 21:33
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    @Dukeling If it’s costing your company six figures a minute, they’re probably making 8-9 figures per day, depending on how much of their revenue stream is being affected: if six figures of losses is 1% of your businesses’ income... – nick012000 Nov 20 at 0:43
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    @nick012000 Still, losing 7 figures is grounds for involving legal and/or switching provider. – user3819867 Nov 20 at 8:59
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    @Dukeling If a client is losing 6 figures a minute because of something I did, after 5 minutes both my and my boss' phones would be on fire... half an hour is a really long time. – Demonblack Nov 20 at 17:03
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Is CCing the manager in first E-mail regarding urgent matter considered escalation?

Yes.

To add, unless it is a well-defined scenario, urgent is a relative term. You might consider a glitch in your user account in the company portal to apply leave as urgent, whereas, for the service team, it might be urgent to deploy a security patch / OS Update to the systems in the company network. So, unless the urgency is associated with the overall organizational view, opinions may (and most likely will) differ.

I needed a task to be done from services team in our company, I called them but no response

If calling the service team is part of the process (instead of a service ticket in the portal, or an email - as applicable), then you were denied of a service and you have right to escalate.

I send an Email for them explaining the issue and the urgency and I CCed their manager and the manager’s Manager.

Two things here:

  • You should have CC-ed your manager, too.
  • One level of escalation at a time is the de-facto standard (unless mentioned otherwise in your company process handbook), so you should have limited the CC-recipient to the service team immediate supervisor only, not the next-to-next level manager.

Then I received a call from one of them telling me this is inappropriate escalation

Other than the two points in the immediate previous bullet, ignore that inappropriate part, if they have any objection, let them respond on-record (replying to everyone in the original email). If they bring the topic back again, ask them how to escalate when you were not able to reach the over phone.

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    Agree that the first step is to actually cc your manager. Your manager can apply pressure if necessary and talk to the other manager (again, if it's really important). I would never cc another team's manager without direction to do so from my manager. – pboss3010 Nov 19 at 14:52
  • @pboss3010 Yes. Also, the manager can assist / guide you with a process (which you're not aware of) to get things done, thereby avoiding this email-chaining altogether. – Sourav Ghosh Nov 19 at 15:32
  • "If calling the service team is part of the process ... you have right to escalate" - are you suggesting escalating to management after one failed call, for an issue that may or may not be particularly urgent? – Dukeling Nov 19 at 18:25
  • @Dukeling who said anything about management? The escalation is for next level of support team. – Sourav Ghosh Nov 19 at 18:49
  • @SouravGhosh But you are suggesting escalating to their supervisor after one failed call, right? ["Manager" (and, by extension, "management") and "supervisor" are sometimes used interchangeably and plenty of people don't have both a supervisor and a manager] – Dukeling Nov 19 at 19:09
17

I've worked at a helpdesk some years back so let me give you the perspective from there.

People run into trouble at all times of day, but of course there are peak hours. Also, people have times they prefer to make calls. The helpdesk would be manned from about 7:30 but we'd start to get a lot of calls between 9:00 and 10:00 when people arrive at the office:

  • I can't log into my computer.
  • I got this weird email last night and I need help with it.
  • A colleague mailed me to put in a request for X.

Some problems are more urgent than others. Not so urgent:

  • I'd like to request some information about what kind of blog software is available to departments.
  • I'd like to trade in my company laptop for a newer model.

Others are more urgent:

  • A new student has trouble logging in for the first time. (The web page where they need to enter credentials is confusing. This happens multiple times per day. Usually it's their mother calling.)
  • The printer at our department isn't working.
  • None of the printers in the entire building are working.
  • It's 15:00 on Friday and we just noticed a software licence has expired that 400 people will need for a class on Monday morning.
  • Internet access to our building was accidentally cut off.
  • The university president was forced to move to a different office due to student protests and needs the phone line rerouted.
  • A professor lost a piece of critical research data and needs a backup restored immediately or the project may fail.

All of these have happened to us in the space of a few months. A helpdesk needs to *triage** incoming requests. They usually do this with a simple formula: number of people affected X how blocking it is. A tech problem that mildly inconveniences everyone at the company may outrank one that totally blocks one low-level employee from working. Both of them go to the backburner for something that stops an entire department (like when Accounting can't print during tax reporting season).

A helpdesk in a serious company typically has a Service Level Agreement, stating how fast action must be taken on an issue of a particular urgency. For example:

  • All emails sent to the helpdesk must be at least acknowledged within 4 business hours.
  • All phonecalls must be picked up within 1 minute.
  • Any issue with priority one (nobody can work) must be resolved in 2 hours. (Any hours, not just business hours.)
  • Any issue with lowest priority (one person is mildly inconvenienced) must be solved within 30 business days.

That's quite a scale. In theory it treats all employees equally; in practice VIPs get a priority bump of course.

You'll also notice that phone calls have to be picked up pretty fast, while email handling takes longer. And the helpdesk always tells you to send an email or make a ticket. This allows them to control the timetable so that they can work on the most urgent thing.


General techniques for getting fast service:

  • Have all information that they'll need. Screenshots, ticket numbers, precise wording of error messages.
  • Make it clear how urgent your problem is. If it stops you from doing any work, say so.
  • Make it clear how many people are affected. If 30 people in your department can't go on until the helpdesk does the thing, that makes it a lot more urgent.
  • Start by sending an email with all the information they'll need. Then after a reasonable amount of time (a few minutes for anything that's really on fire, otherwise about 30 minutes) call them to politely inquire.

EDIT: as Peter mentioned, I didn't explain why it's escalation.

The helpdesk prioritizes tasks, to ensure the most urgent ones are handled first. They have a Service Level Agreement with the rest of the company that lays down how this should be done. As a consequence, your request may not be on the top of the pile.

By CCing the manager, you're essentially trying to jump the queue.

It's sometimes appropriate to put extra pressure on the helpdesk, for example if your request seems to be ignored or is taking "too long". Sometimes things fall through the cracks, and sometimes the helpdesk makes a mistake triaging the urgency of your request ("affects only this user" vs. "whole department waiting on this person to get something done").

What's bad is if you start pressuring them unreasonably soon. If the SLA says they must acknowledge an email in 4 business hours, then contacting the manager in half an hour is not okay.

I don't think you're entirely in the wrong here though: you mentioned that you phoned them and they didn't answer. Generally the SLA for picking up the phone is pretty strict, a minute or so at the most. If you don't get anyone on the phone in ten minutes there's either a massive emergency or they did something wrong (monday morning staff meeting and forgot to tell people the helpdesk would be back at 11AM). The smart thing for them to do then is to put on a tape telling callers when the helpdesk will be back.

  • 1
    Great points and nicely explained! One thing I noticed: It does not really adress the concrete question. Is CC'ing the manager in first e-mail regarding urgent matter considered escalation?, that however does not mean you're wrong stating any of these points. – Peter Nov 20 at 7:21
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    Yeah, I suppose I didn't state that very well. I'll make an addition. – ObscureOwl Nov 21 at 8:28
12

Putting even the manager's manager into CC is definitely an aggressive move. If your request was so urgent that you only waited 30minutes(!), what did you expect the managers to do?

You should have called again (assuming you can't simply go there). Most likely, no one heard it ring, so yes, your CCs where inappropriate (and most likely useless).

  • Usually after how many calls the email escalation is justified? – Sourav Ghosh Nov 19 at 11:10
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    Completely depends on the situation. But I think mailing after a single failed call is too early. – FooTheBar Nov 19 at 11:18
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    I agree. That's why, the call should be used as a follow-up, not the primary communication. On-record communication (portal ticket, email, task setup) should be the first communication, and then call / in-person visit should be used as a follow up. – Sourav Ghosh Nov 19 at 11:23
5

If your company does not have the "cc your manager's manager" culture, then yes, that's escalation.
If your company doesn't have the "cc your manager" culture, then yes, that's double escalation.

In some companies, that is normal email procedure. If that is true for your company/department, in which case you should ignore the other person, or politely inform them that cc'ing both is normal procedure for your department.

The thing that I want to stress is that the answer is not an automatic yes, like other answers suggest.

  • 1
    Agreed! Culture is so important. At my current job, I had to learn that it was necessary to always CC my team lead (but she never wanted to be in the "to" line -- anything TO her should mostly go through Skype). It appears that no one deletes anyone from the CC and TO lists, even if they're not relevant any more. I have a manager-of-my-contract who gets some information to send to the contract-"customer", even though she sits right next to me. CC Team Lead on communications to either. – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Nov 20 at 15:22
4

Then I received a call from one of them telling me this is inappropriate escalation.

Given that it's from a team member, not a manager, disregard it. He/she should have complained by replying to the email.

Urgent issues often mean more extreme remedies. This can ruffle feathers but you don't answer to a team member from another team.

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    I think telling OP that his mail was too aggressive on an informal channel (no paper trail) is a rather friendly method. Alternative would be a response with two layers of OP's managers in CC. – FooTheBar Nov 19 at 10:17
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    @FooTheBar sure it can be looked at in that way... but not my point, disregard it is my point. If another emergency arises do what you need to do regardless. OP has made their point that they need to answer their phone, reply made the point they think he overescalated... both learnt something... but neirther gets to order the other – Kilisi Nov 19 at 10:19
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    I agree, this is just the team member being upset that OP made them look bad to their boss. Don't worry about it unless either your manager or theirs considers it inappropriate. – Robin Bennett Nov 19 at 10:24
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    Depending on the real urgency of problem, it could have been OP who looks bad in front of the managers and not the other team. – FooTheBar Nov 19 at 10:32
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    Just because someone is in another team doesn't mean you disregard what they say. If they think you are ignoring their legitimate concerns then their next step (and very justifiably) is going to be to get your manager involved. – DJClayworth Nov 19 at 15:33
4

It's impossible to know whether this was appropriate escalation or not, but in effect what you did was send an email to the second-level manager saying "your first level manager's team are not doing their job, and your first-level manager is doing nothing about it".

That might have beem an appropriate response following a single phone call to a member of the team requesting some action. But unless the situation was life-threatening, or critical to the operations of the entire business, it probably wasn't.

Don't forget that the second-level manager would have no idea of what all this was about, so his/her only possible action in response to the email would be to go to the first level manager and ask "WTF is going on here?" - and that isn't going to resolve your problem any quicker, since the first level manager doesn't know anything about the situation either, except he/she just received an email complaining about something or other.

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