“Have you tried turning it off and back on again?”

This is probably the one phrase we all associate the most with any IT support department, but it’s also actually a good reminder of the one thing we should always try before we pick up the phone and call the support team. But for those cases when the re-boot doesn’t work, what actually happens to our query once it reaches the IT helpdesk?

The 5 levels of IT Support

In most technology businesses, there are four key levels of IT support with an added level ‘zero’ of user self-help. Let’s take a look at what happens to your support request as it moves through the different support levels and – hopefully – arrives at a successful resolution.

  • Level Zero: Self-help

    One of the best ways to provide quick solutions to minor support requests – while reducing the pressure on IT support teams – is to allow users find and fix their own issues. By offering a self-help portal or a library of user support information such as FAQs, manuals, blog posts, and videos, companies can help users to solve minor problems without having to pick up the phone. This can also cover functional support, such as password resets for example. In its most basic form, level zero could simply be a contact form where you describe your issue or choose from a set of pre-defined problem categories, and submit a support request. Some companies choose to take the self-help portal to the next level by using a virtual support engineer in the form of a ‘chatbot’ on their website. This is an automated chat function built on artificial intelligence, which interprets your question and suggests a solution or recommends a suitable support article.

  • Level One: Basic support delivery

    Level One support caters for the most basic customer usage issues. This is the first port of call for any support issue, where support staff will respond based on the complexity of the problem. They will typically follow a script to determine the problem area and the seriousness of the issue.IT support issues that can be resolved at Level One are typically to do with usage problems. Perhaps you’re not able to find a particular function, you don’t know how to add or remove applications, or you can’t update your user details.First level support will determine whether the issue can be resolved quickly with their help, or if it needs to be escalated to a higher level.

  • Level Two: In-depth technical support

    At Level Two, you will be speaking to an experienced technician who is able to trouble-shoot and resolve issues that can’t be fulfilled by Level One support. These team members will have a deep level of knowledge around the product itself and how people use it.In larger organisations, Level Two engineers will have specialisms that enable them to help users in a particular area. They will be aware of any “known issues” that are currently being worked on, and they will be able to note any new bugs that the development team should look at addressing.If the Level Two support team is not able to provide a solution, they will escalate the issue to Level Three.

  • Level Three: Expert product and service support

    At this level, you will be speaking to the highest technical instance available. These team members are responsible for resolving complex technical issues or creating any new features as required. These team members will often include the creators or chief architects behind the solution. Level Three engineers will use their knowledge of product design and code to duplicate problems and define what their root causes are. Once they have determined the cause, the company will make a decision on whether or not to create a new fix. Any new fixes will then be documented for use at Level One and Level Two.

  • Level Four: External Support

    Occasionally, the IT support team will need to call on help to resolve issues that are not supported by the organisation. This includes contracted support for any areas that the business doesn’t manage internally, such as hardware support, external software, datacentres or website maintenance. The internal support team will forward their requests to Level Four support and monitor the issue to ensure it gets resolved, while communicating progress back to the user.

Support is not an afterthought

As a customer of a technology solution, you should always ask the product or service provider about their support provision even before you start working with them. You should know what to expect in terms of issue resolution speed, guaranteed uptime, and self-help options. If your level of support is covered by a support agreement, make sure you know what you’re paying for and keep the provider accountable for delivering the right support at the right time.