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This is the basic level of customer support. The customer representative is a generalist with a broad understanding of the product and may not understand the inner workings. In this case, they would identify a customer’s needs and provide tips on how to manage a problem Typically, these solutions are in a FAQ or a knowledge base. Employees at this tier use a knowledge base in a majority of customer calls. Tier-1 support usually provides a 24-hour service and is outsourced to a 3rd party. When a tier-1 support employee is not able to resolve the issue, they classify the problem and pass it on to the appropriate tier-2 employee. At this point, an issue tracking ticket is issued to the customer.

Tier-II support involves technical knowledge and is staffed by technicians who have troubleshooting capabilities beyond the tier-1 employees. The tier-II help desk employees are staffed by either the company involved or outsourced to a 3rd party. The technicians tend to have a specialization and will determine which specialization best matches the customer’s needs before helping him. If their technical specialization is one that can help the customer, the tech then determines whether this problem is a new issue or an existing one. Advanced diagnostic tools and data analysis may be done at this point.

If the issue is an existing one, the tier-II specialist then finds out if there is a solution or a workaround in the database. The customer is then told how to fix their problem. However, in some cases there might be no solution as it’s an open bug. In that case, the tier-II desk adds an entry to the bug list. Then, depending on the number of instances where customers are experiencing the same problem, the help desk could ask the developers to fix the bug.

If a customer experiences a new issue, further analysis has to be done to see if it can be dealt with. The help desk employee would then explain to the customer how to fix their issue. However, if the tech cannot fix the problem at this tier, the problem goes to tier-III. At this tier the problem is assigned to a developer at the company responsible for the product.

Tier-III requires a person who has specialized skills over and above the work the techs do in tier II. This support is usually provided by the specialists involved in product development. They deal with complex issues. To solve the problem, they will collect as much data as possible from the employees at tiers 1 and 2.

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 support personnel around the world and from the crash dumps you report when an application stops working. Sometimes fixing the problem involves a deeper analysis of the operating system. Fixing the problem may require a Windows update.

This tier only exists in a multiple vendor case. For instance, if you’re an app developer and the issue involves fixing the problem on an OS mobile level provided by another company, you simply request support from the other company.