Your Guide to IT Support Issues

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In the world of IT, help desk support is more complex than most people think. A person seeking help with their computer or mobile device may think the IT technician assigned to them comes down to luck of the draw, but in reality, there is an entire hierarchy when it comes to tech issues. There’s a four-level (or tier) system when it comes to IT support: if you’re not familiar with it, this rundown should get you up to speed.

Level 0 Support

A.k.a. the “Do It Yourself Phase.” In Level 0 support, a customer tries resolving the issue on their own by seeking out information online, on an app, in manuals, and so forth. This is not to say help desk service isn’t involved at all, as they often assist in the creation of these resources, such as writing tech support articles for knowledge bases, FAQ pages and blogs. Level 0 support also includes automated chat and phone support, in which the user resolves their problems with the help of recorded messages or prewritten answers. In all cases of Level 0 support, the customer has no interaction with an actual human being in IT.

Level 1 Support

The first tier where a customer interacts with a help desk representative. This person-to-person service (done either by phone, in person, or online) deals with simpler problems, such as issues with passwords, installing software and reinstalling drivers. Technicians assigned Level 1 issues often won’t require much IT knowledge, and will often be working from a script or one of the same resources a person would use in Level 0 support. Since IT experts are not generally required for these problems, companies often outsource Tier 1 support. Because the majority of Tier 1 issues are resolved remotely, a help desk technician will often ask a customer for as much information about their system and the issue as possible, including at times asking for screenshots.

Level 2 Support

For problems that require more than very general knowledge, there’s Level 2. Usually, this is handled by people who know the ins and outs of a product, though they may not necessarily have had a hand in creating it. These people can include the official IT help desk service of the company of their product, a group of experts they might outsource to, or an unrelated IT technician or help service, such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad. For Level 2 issues, a technician may either fix the problem themselves or, like in Tier 1, guide the customer toward a solution. Usually, L2 technicians will apply or recommend fixes that are known to work: if they should encounter a problem with no known solution, however, they may report the problem to the product’s developers as a bug.

Level 3 Support

Where Tier 2 has a strong knowledge of already-existing solutions, tech support on Tier 3 creates fixes. People ranked as Level 3 IT support are experts and specialists in the product or issue at hand: oftentimes, they are the people who created or helped develop the product in the first place. Their jobs are to find ways to fix the unsolvable bugs sent to them by L2 support, as well as examine products for any possible issues gone addressed. In some cases, a person at L3 support will even go into the code of a software or operating system to identify what’s wrong or recreate a problem so they can study it and come up with a new fix. In some environments, Level 3 support is considered the highest tier.

Level 4 Support

However, in IT, one more level exists for problems that a company does not resolve problems directly. In these cases, e.g. if an app or software program does not work because of a hardware or operating system issue, the IT help desk would either tell the customer to contact a company that can resolve the issue or redirects them to a business partner that specializes in addressing such problems.

If you’re a customer with a tech problem, don’t worry about getting someone from the wrong tier to resolve your issue, as most IT help desks will direct you toward a person on the appropriate support level. So the next time you’ve got a printer, PC, laptop, tablet or phone on the fritz, don’t worry: you’ve got four levels of tech support waiting to lend a hand.