Technical support is typically divided into multiple tiers that can also often be referred to as levels. Most IT departments have accepted the practice of dividing their support analysts into 3 tiers/levels of support. Tier 1 Support Agents deal with the majority of incoming calls to the help desk and create the trouble ticket that is to be analyzed/resolved. Higher level (more complex) issues will be escalated to a Tier 2 (and possibly Tier 3 if necessary) Support Analyst. Let’s talk about each tier individually and breakdown the functions of each.
Tier 1 Support
This is the 1st line of defense and typically these Tier 1 Support Agents are the technicians responsible for gathering the users’ information, documenting the issue, and creating the trouble ticket for tracking/quality assurance purposes. The more experienced Tier 1 analyst will also handle instances related to basic troubleshooting, password resets, application/internet navigation, and they will go over the basic troubleshooting techniques in order to determine what department/group should be assigned the issue. Tier 1 analysts are generally young in their career/entry-level with typically 1-3 years of experience in IT.
If after the initial troubleshooting done by the Tier 1 Agent the issue cannot be resolved, the ticket will be escalated to a Tier 2 Support Analyst for more detailed diagnostics.
Tier 2 Support
These more experienced Support Analysts will start by reviewing the information and preliminary steps taken by the Tier 1 Support Agent. Tier 2 Support Analysts are more experienced and generally have 4-8 years of IT Support experience, and many will be pursuing advanced certifications to strengthen their abilities. They can quickly assess the situation based on this information provided and move towards resolving the issue. At this level, more in depth troubleshooting occurs. These Analysts will have a more complex understanding of your specific hardware/software, network connectivity, and software related issues. Due to their multiple years of experience troubleshooting/resolving similar technical issues on a daily basis they have experienced a wide variety of technical issues making them more familiar with how to resolve complex problems. The Tier 2 team will utilize multiple types of diagnostic tools in order to take appropriate actions to fix the problem quickly. This may include diagnostic testing, software analysis, software repair, hardware repair/replacement, and utilizing remote control tools to take over your system for the purpose of finding the root cause (and therefore a solution) to the issues a customer is experiencing. If the Tier 2 Analyst has exhausted all their resources and the problem still persists, or if they determine it is an issue that they do not have the necessary level of access to resolve…they will then escalate the problem to a Tier 3 Analyst.
The Tier 3 team is typically made up of more senior engineers that are specialized and often times they serve as the department’s SME (subject matter expert) on a particular area of the corporate IT infrastructure/software product suite. These engineers are often highly certified holding accreditations like the MCSE, CCNA, CCNP, CISSP, and many others giving them a much more in depth understanding of how to manipulate and troubleshoot certain hardware/software issues in order to determine a solution. Tier 3 Engineers are often called on to troubleshoot new/unknown issues with a particular device or application. The average experience level for a Tier 3 Engineer is usually 10+ years allowing them an extensive background working with the hardware/software that is causing the issue.
The life of a trouble ticket can be unpredictable and sometimes even a simple situation like a username/password issue can lead to uncovering complex root issues that caused the problem in the first place. The end result is always to resolve the issue as quickly as possible with as little downtime for the customer. Utilizing the 3 tier support system allows a team to determine the proper course of action through a proven approach. It can be frustrating at times, but rest assured that your issue is important and the IT Support Team is actively troubleshooting/analyzing this event. They are not only working to solve the immediate problem for you fast and efficiently, but to hopefully ensure it doesn’t happen again to you or anyone else within the organization.