Understanding the different levels of help desk support

help desk supportHelp desk is a critical element of customer engagement and helps fix the problems your customers have related to your product/service. Aggressively helping the customers fix the problems can significantly boost your customer satisfaction and could positively reflect in the future sales. The help desk is typically reached through a toll-free phone number, though many companies are increasingly relying on web-based chat tools and social networks to perform customer support.

Usually organizations starting with customer support do it in a single tier – where a single point of contact handles your queries and solves the issue. However, as your organization matures you will realize that you need to go beyond a single tier model, and have more granular, multi-tiered support.

For instance, if you are selling project management software to businesses, you can get queries ranging from What should I do if I forget the username? to a highly esoteric bug that prevents some clients from fully tracking their time on their iPad. In that case you need lower level guys to handle the simple queries while using your experts for solving the hard bugs. Tiering helps you allocate your support resources better and preserve the precious resources of your experts.

Tier – I/Level 1 support

This is the basic level of customer support. The customer representative is a generalist with a broader understanding of the product, but might not understand the inner workings of the system. He/She in this case would identify the customer, understand the problem and basic tips on solving the problem.

Typical solutions could be found in a FAQ or a knowledge base that could be used in majority of the customer calls. The tier-1 support runs round the clock and is outsourced to 3rd parties in many cases. When the tier-1 is not able to handle the issue, the rep classifies the problem into many types and then it is escalated to appropriate tier-2 contact, and a issue tracking ticket might be issued to the customer.

Tier – II support

Tier-II level support involves technical knowledge and the desk is staffed by more experienced technicians who have strong exposure to troubleshooting. The technician here is more specialized and will first determine if the issue involves his/her domain based on the data collected by the Tier-I specialist. If it is in the domain, then it has to be determined if it is a new issue or an existing issue. Advanced diagnostic tools and data analysis might be done here.

If the issue is an existing one, then the Tier-II specialist finds out if there is a solution or a workaround in the database. The solution is then offered to the customer. However, in some cases there might be no solution and it is an open bug. In that case, the Tier-II desk adds an additional entry to the bug list and depending on the number of instances could ask them developers to fix ASAP.

If it is a new issue, further analysis has to be done to see if it could be worked around. The customer would then be offered the fix. However, if the fix is not easily possible then it is escalated to the Tier-III where it is typically assigned to the developer at the company responsible for the product. The Tier-II desk could be staffed by either the company involved or outsourced to a 3rd party.

Tier – III support

Tier-III is a very specialized job provided by the specialists who are usually involved in the product development. The issue at hand could be quite complex and they will collect as much data as possible from the bottom two tiers.

In my previous job as a developer at Microsoft in the Windows OS team, I used to get the harder bugs in the Operating System passed on from the support personnel around the world and from the crash dumps you report when an application crashes. Some times the fixes would involve deeper analysis of the Operating System and we would be pushing the fix as an Windows update.

Tier -IV support 

This exists only in rare cases when multiple vendors are involved in the product. For instance if you are a big mobile application developer and the issue involved needs to solved at the level of mobile OS provided by a different company, you can escalate a support request to the other organization and ask them to provide a fix.


TOP 3 Help Desk Support Solutions

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Balaji Viswanathan

Balaji Viswanathan

Balaji Viswanathan is the founder of Agni Innovation Labs that helps startups and small businesses with their marketing and management strategy. He has been blogging for the past 8 years on technology, finance and business related topics.

6 Responses

  1. i am very interested in your post. and this info is more useful for the software companies. Thanks for share this valuable post.

  2. Balaji Viswanathan says:

    Thanks Stephen. I’m glad that you found the post useful. Feel free to post any questions regarding this.

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  6. ElizSon says:

    Is there an authoritative industry source for help desk tier defintions? I cannot find a definition of help desk tiers from ITIL after much searching.

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