The 5 Levels of IT Help Desk Support

Ezequiel Mancilla December 7, 2021
- 10 min read

In the vast and ever-evolving world of IT, one priority remains consistent: providing excellent customer service. One of the best ways to ensure that this is the case is to have professionals ready to lend a helping hand when things go wrong. That’s where IT Support specialists come into play. They are the ones who help customers with issues that range from simple hiccups such as connection or login issues to bigger and more complex problems that require a more detailed analysis. 

A tiered help desk infrastructure is needed precisely because these problems vary so much in terms of complexity. You wouldn’t expect a Junior employee to fix a whole server, would you? Conversely, a CEO would never be in charge of approving timecards. Let the right role perform the right duties. 

Let's look at some examples of the best-practices for the 5 levels, when they would get involved as well as guidance for IT Managers when assigning employees and staff to these tiers.

IT support tiers/levels


IT Support Level 0: Self Service & User-Retrieved Information 

Level 0 includes every single tool that the company puts at the customer’s disposal to help them fix the incident themselves, such as self-service portal, a service catalog, and a knowledge base. The key aspect of this level is that there is little to no direct customer-to-employee interaction. In fact, a well-put-together level 0 Help Desk Support system ensures that simple fixes are within arm’s reach for customers.

A scenario where an issue would fall within level 0 support tier: 

A customer has been having trouble with the billing for a service that a company provides. Upon reading the FAQ section in the company’s mobile app and consulting the company’s customer forums, they learn that what they thought was an issue was actually part of the company’s billing policy, and they just had to wait a few days for their payment to be registered. 

Thanks to a well-implemented level 0 support system, the customer has found a way to fix the problem on their own, without involving any personnel or support teams directly. 

Some examples of level 0  tools include:

  • Support information on websites and/or apps
  • Detailed manuals and FAQs
  • Support forums
  • Social media    

IT Support Level 1: Front Line Basic Support

Level 1 is where personnel and support teams start to get directly involved in technical support tasks. This tier is customers’ first direct contact with the company’s employees so it is important that those in charge of providing assistance are ready to fix these issues. In addition, they also know when it’s best to delegate the problem to someone in a higher tier. 

A scenario where an issue would fall within level 1 technical support tier: 

A customer is having trouble navigating a banking app and can't seem to find a way to request a loan from the bank. Upon contacting customer technical support, they are met with an employee that walks them through the process of requesting a loan successfully. The problem was relatively simple and it did not require escalation of any kind. Thus, the issue is solved within the level 1 support tier. 

Some more examples of incidents and tasks level 1 help desk support personnel need to deal with are:

  • Ticket creation 
  • Password resets
  • Infrastructure degradation
  • Network performance
  • Application performance
  • Hardware performance
  • Operating system Errors

What would a job description for this level look like?

One of the most common positions for a level 1 Service Desk position is either Help Desk Technician or Junior Level Tech Support Staff and the requirements are as follows: 

  • Broad knowledge of Microsoft operating systems, basic networking principles, and email client requirements
  • Knowledge of integrated office suites (e.g. Word, Excel); hardware installation, troubleshooting, and repair procedures; and software configurations

Duties would be described as such:

  • Answer phone and email to investigate and respond to user questions and problems encountered with hardware/software.
  • Analyze and correct problems. 
  • Assist users in the use of software, hardware, and network systems. 
  • Provide PC software and hardware support services to users. 
  • Maintain software and hardware inventory for supported users.

IT Support Level 2: Advanced Support

Level 2 is where things get a tad more complex. Personnel who belong to this category generally provide in-depth troubleshooting and backend support. Employees in this tier are usually much more knowledgeable of the company’s hardware and software tools, thus ensuring that the issues that level 1 IT Support operators escalated are dealt with accordingly and with a much more well-informed outlook. 

A scenario where an issue would fall within level 2 technical support tier: 

Upon receiving a ticket from a level 1 support specialist, the level 2 support analyst has learned that a customer has been trying to access their account but has been apparently blocked by the company’s anti-phishing software. The customer is of course not a scammer but the system has mislabeled them as one. Thus, the level 2 support specialist lifts the block on the customer’s account after looking into the issue in detail. The issue has been solved thanks to the technician’s knowledge of the company’s app and automated systems. 

Some more examples of problems level 2 help desk support personnel need to solve are:

  • Confirmation of elevated tickets and swift response to the issue in question
  • Complex problems derived from possible issues with servers or hardware that a level 1  specialist cannot solve.
  • Back-end issues only solvable with a sizable knowledge of the company’s ins and outs in terms of software, hardware, and network functioning.  

What would a job description for his level look like?

Level 2’s job requirements include but are not limited to: 

  • 3+ years in information technology (this may vary)
  • Ability to make strategic decisions within assigned scope of authority; exceptional critical thinking skills
  • Ability to plan ahead, and to prioritize and coordinate activities, services, schedules, or programs
  • Strong analytical and creative problem-solving skills
  • Strong experience with Windows laptops and PCs
  • Basic networking (TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP, etc.)

Duties would be described as such:

  • Escalate issues to internal subject matter experts and/or product vendors
  • Develop an understanding of key office workflows and make recommendations to improve the processes with technology
  • Assist with IT services projects and initiatives
  • Provide training on an as-needed basis to employees and staff


Layers of IT Infrastructure


Applications

An IT infrastructure supports the delivery of enterprise applications.

Infrastructure Management Tools and Services

Key infrastructure services at this layer include Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and domain name system (DNS). To manage all elements of the infrastructure efficiently, admins use tools for configuration management, monitoring, authentication, user directories and more.

Servers

The server layer consists of physical and virtual servers for in-premises and virtualized data center environment.

Storage

At this layer, systems such as network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area networks ( SAN) enable data storage.

Network

The network layer includes elements such a routers, switches, firewalls and load balancers.

Facilities

The physical data center facility houses IT equipment and includes necessary power, cooling and security components.



IT Support Level 3: Subject Matter Expert Support

Level 3 is the highest level in terms of IT Support. Those belonging to this level not only know how the products and services of the company work but they also have access to the highest level of technical resources. Usually, they create, maintain, and fix important elements that make up the structural integrity of apps and systems. Oftentimes, they may even participate in the creation of new software and hotfixes in networks, code, and other tools. 

A scenario where an issue would fall within level 3 technical support tier: 

A Customer has encountered a bug in the app which puts the infrastructure’s data in jeopardy. A level 3 specialist would not only fix this specific customer’s problem but also update and fix the app’s code so as to not have this issue ever again. This can only be achieved with extensive knowledge of the app’s architecture and the tickets elevated from levels 1 and 2 respectively. 

Some more examples of problems level 3 help desk support personnel need to solve are:

  • Looking into high-complexity hardware, code, and/or architecture issues
  • Providing hotfixes to systems and apps to ensure their proper functioning
  • Server maintenance and resolving tickets escalated by level 1 and 2 Help Desk Support personnel

What would a job description for this level look like?

This position would be covered by someone who has extensive knowledge in the area of Service Desk Support and the requirements would be the following:

  • Fast learner, with an interest in technology
  • Tertiary Education in IT - ideal but not mandatory
  • 2-3 years' in a Customer Service or software support role
  • Great listener and communicator
  • Attention to detail and passionate about solving client queries
  • Collaborative team player
  • Ability to prioritize, manage time effectively and multitask

Duties would be described as such:

  • Troubleshoot issues escalated by second level support, this may include outbound contact with clients for additional information and resolution.
  • Provide clear and detailed information to clients on product feature functionality, both written and verbal.
  • Communicating client perspective to Product and Development teams for feature improvements/fixes.
  • Documentation of support processes and issue resolutions.

A scenario where an issue would fall within level 3 technical support tier: 

A Customer has encountered a bug in the app which puts the infrastructure’s data in jeopardy. A level 3 specialist would not only fix this specific customer’s problem but also update and fix the app’s code so as to not have this issue ever again. This can only be achieved with extensive knowledge of the app’s architecture and the tickets elevated from levels 1 and 2 respectively. 

IT Support Level 4: External Support

This tier is all about outside technical support provided but not supported by the company. 

A defective batch of printers and monitors that the company has purchased is presenting problems. As a consequence, the official vendors fix and/or replace the products.  

Some more examples of problems level 4 help desk support personnel need to solve are:

  • Problems with specific hardware created by other vendors or the company’s business partners
  • Machine maintenance provided by official vendors and other outsourced services
  • Firmware updates, patches, and addressing other security risks
  • Bug fixes and code updates

What would a job description for this level look like?

In this case, since this is level is not part of the company per se, the requirement simply be an outsourced third-party specialist on key hardware or software

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