What Is Tech Support? (Definition, Types And Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As many organisations transition to working online, there is a growing demand for human and technical support to ensure the smooth operation of services. Technical support engineers help maintain, manage and repair IT systems. Learning about tech support and how it works can help you decide whether this career aligns with your interests. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is tech support?', explain different types of tech support, discuss how multi-level tech support works, outline the primary responsibilities of tech support employees and list the key skills required to succeed in this role.

What Is Tech Support?

To answer the question 'What is tech support?', it is a service that companies offer to help users solve problems relating to their products or services. Technical support is typically available by phone or online through chat. Currently, many big- and mid-size businesses outsource their technical support operations. Some businesses also offer discussion forums, so their product users can communicate with one another before or after purchase. By using such platforms, businesses can cut their support expenses without sacrificing their access to user feedback.

Employees in tech support manage, maintain and fix IT systems. They perform fault diagnosis and repair, hardware and software installation, network troubleshooting and software configuration.

Types Of Tech Support

Here are the two primary categories of tech support:

Outsourced tech support

With the increasing use of technology in current times, the demand for technical support is growing. To help with finances, many companies establish their tech support units or call centres in low-cost countries. There is also an increase in the number of companies that provide outsourced tech support. These companies are commonly referred to as managed service providers. For many companies, using outsourced tech support allows them to offer technical support and maintain a high level of service availability.

Companies can experience problems with managing call volume throughout the day, which can increase during times of new product launches or maintenance services. They may also want to offer users a quality service at a lower cost to the company. To maintain productivity, businesses that require technical support resources can outsource these needs, so their company employees can concentrate on other tasks. It also allows them to employ specialists whose technical expertise may surpass the company's expectations, giving their employees access to a higher quality of tech support.

Related: What Is Job Outsourcing? Definition, Benefits And Examples

Multi-level tech support

To provide better service to a business or user base, there can be multiple levels of technical support. How many levels a company uses depends on its unique requirements and its capacity to serve its users. To provide the best possible service, a multi-level support system is often more helpful than a single support level. The success of organisational structure depends on the staff's knowledge of their duties and commitments, their user response time and knowing when and how to escalate an issue. A three-level tech support system is generally considered to be the standard support structure.

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How Multi-Level Tech Support Works

Here is the procedure for multi-level tech support:

Tier I support

Tier I specialists gather customer information and analyse product symptoms to determine the problem. When analysing symptoms, it is important for the technicians to know the customer's requirements, so they can address the right issue and save time. After problem identification, the technician can find possible solutions. A tier I technician usually addresses simple problems using a knowledge management tool. This includes checking for physical layer issues, fixing user ID and password issues, installing and uninstalling simple software and checking software and hardware setup.

As this level does not involve complex problem solving, technicians normally only require a general knowledge of the company's product or service. Tier I support aims to resolve the maximum possible number of user issues before escalating.

Related: 16 In-Demand Tech Skills To Have For Technology Careers

Tier II support

Because tier II technicians have more experience and expertise with the product or service, they offer more comprehensive technical support than level 1 and typically command a higher salary. Tier II support is interchangeable with terms like support line 2, administrative level support, level 2 support and several other terms referring to more sophisticated technical methods for analysis and troubleshooting. Tier II technicians help tier I personnel resolve simple technical issues and also investigate complex problems by confirming their validity and looking for available solutions.

Before beginning troubleshooting, the technician reviews the situation by checking how long the tier I technician worked with the customer. Tier II technicians can escalate a problem to tier III tech support if it is a new or complex issue. Many businesses may also stipulate that this group carry out specific troubleshooting procedures to help ensure that skilled technicians can resolve complex problems. Tier II may also carry out onsite setups, hardware parts replacements, software fixes, diagnostic checking or use remote-control software to investigate a customer's computer for issues.

Related: What Does An IT Professional Do? Duties And Requirements

Tier III support

In a three-tiered technical support system, tier III is the top level of assistance, resolving the most complex issues. It is interchangeable with terms like third-line support, level 3 support, support line 3, back-end support and other terms that refer to expert-level analysis and troubleshooting techniques. These technicians have expertise in particular areas and help tier I and tier II technicians investigate and devise solutions to unknown or unidentified problems.

As with tier II technicians, tier III technicians are accountable for checking the work process and determining how much time tier II technicians have given to the user, so they can prioritise and manage the work properly. Tier III employees may require the user's contact details when they first encounter a new problem, so they have enough time to identify the problem and provide a solution. Typically, a programmer or another person familiar with the product's code or back-end manages tier III support.

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Tier IV support

Sometimes a problem can be so complex that the product requires replacement. Tier III technicians typically forward such complex issues to the product developers for detailed analysis. When a problem is solvable, this group creates and develops more than one course of action, testing each in a trial setting and executing the best possible solution. Tier IV usually designates an escalation point outside the organisation, though this requirement is rare. A hardware or software agent typically provides tier IV support.

Related: 7 Common Desktop Support Interview Questions (With Answers)

Key Skills For Technical Support Roles

Here are some of the key skills for tech support roles:

Organisation

An effective tech support employee can meet deadlines and produce results that match the required standards. Organising tasks according to priority or due date can allow these employees to manage multiple tasks. This skill can help them complete projects more efficiently, potentially allowing them to take on additional projects.

Related: Important IT Support Skills To Excel In Tech Support Roles

Advanced computer skills

Technical support professionals perform most of their tasks on digital platforms. They work with advanced tools and often have advanced computer skills. Their expertise can save a company time and resources and may eliminate the need to provide employee training.

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Problem-solving

A problem-solving aptitude is a key requirement for tech support roles, as the prime focus is to resolve users' problems. Possessing good problem-solving skills can also help technicians manage work-life balance and reduce any kind of work pressure. It also enables professionals to communicate with users effectively and resolve their issues as early as possible.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions And Examples

Programming skills

Along with advanced computer skills, tech support employees require programming and software expertise to perform their jobs effectively. These technical skills are necessary for understanding, identifying and resolving technical issues. HTML, JavaScript, C++, Python, Perl, PHP, SQL Server, Unix and Linux Shell may be necessary programming languages for a position. Technicians may also require expertise in Unix scripting, Java, Visual Studio or LINQ.

Related: What Is Computer Programming? (With Definition And Types)

Communication

Tech support employees regularly communicate with users. Communication skills help them to better understand the users' issues and convey technical information in chat or on calls in an understandable manner. Having good communication skills helps technicians decipher the problems faced by users, so they can find efficient and appropriate solutions. Both verbal and written communication skills are equally important for tech support professionals to explain concepts and solutions to users.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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