Understanding The Four IT Support Tiers 

when Outsourcing IT

Outsourcing your IT support can provide relief from downtime and user frustration as your business starts to grow. If your business is considering a partnership with a managed IT services provider, making the right choice can seem a bit overwhelming.

Besides doing your research into the MSPs you are considering as a business partner, you may also need to learn more about the type of technical support you will receive with a managed services agreement. When your team needs technical support, it can range from a malfunctioning laptop to a paralyzing technical outage that wreaks havoc in your business and requires immediate resolution. To account for this variety of service needs, most MSPs follow a tiered approach to IT support that aligns client expectations about triaging and addressing tech issues, ensuring everyone is on the same page. To accomplish that, MSPs use IT support tiers—Level 0, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.

Before signing any managed services agreement, review the documentation to ensure it provides a clear overview of how the MSP evaluates and assigns service tickets within these tiers. Often referred to as a service level agreement (SLA), these details should include how an MSP prioritizes tickets and the response time for each tier.

Many MSPs use a dispatcher who is responsible for reviewing and assigning support tickets to the correct support tier, while other IT support companies may rely on automation to sort service desk requests and assign tasks to the helpdesk. Either way, severity and breadth of impact are the two common measures used to determine support tier priority.

Four Common Tech Support Tiers Explained

The characterizations of each level of tiered IT support have become standard for the most part, primarily because having clarity between MSPs and customers eliminates frustration on both sides. Let’s start with Level or Tier 0, which is self-service support. Typically, this means a client can help themselves to support and assistance through a gated client portal. Examples of tier 0 support include online knowledge forums or training videos that provide users with step-by-step instructions for resolving simple technical issues without help from the MSP.

The next level of support—Tier 1 or Level 1—is basic helpdesk support, such as username and password resets or help with simple hardware and software glitches. Remediation for these tickets usually entails a junior engineer guiding a user through simple fixes. However, if the issue proves more complicated, it may be escalated to the next step of support, Level 2, which offers in-depth assistance from more experienced technicians.

Tier or Level 2 support tickets often involve more complex issues that require more time and expertise to uncover the root of the problem. Issues at this level often revolve around widely used products or services, impacting the entire business rather than just one individual. Staffed by more experienced technicians, Tier 2 support may demand remote access to devices or significant time with the client. Most helpdesk tickets require Tier 2 support.

Lastly, the third level offers access to experienced and knowledgeable technicians who tackle complex, urgent technology issues that often involve the reinstallation of software or a significant hardware outage. Tier 3 problems impact employees throughout a business or involve a business-critical application. Access to this critical level of tiered support typically happens after techs at lower levels of support have escalated a problem to this stage.

How Tiers of IT Support Improve Customer Service

Following IT technical support tiers allows MSPs that offer outsourced IT helpdesk services to deliver a positive customer experience by quickly resolving simple (but often impactful) technology issues while setting expectations for remediating larger, business-wide issues. Clear documentation of the tiered support structure also drives standardized processes within the MSP, making it easier to funnel challenging issues to more experienced technicians when they arise.

When evaluating an MSP for outsourced IT needs, be sure to ask for documentation of their policies and SLAs for tiered IT support. Keep in mind that some MSPs align tiers and SLAs, while others manage those elements of support separately, so make sure you understand how your agreement is structured. Also, explore how the MSP’s customer support system is accessed by your employees. Most helpdesks use a combination of website forms, email, live chat, and phone, but some may limit access hours. For example, at the lower end of a managed IT services offering, helpdesk support may be limited to business hours, while an “all you can eat” agreement may provide 24/7/365 support.

Other questions you may want to ask an MSP you are evaluating:

  • What are the additional costs for on-site versus remote management of IT problems?
  • How does your service ticketing system work?
  • How is your support team staffed to deliver coverage at each tier of support?
  • What can my employee do if they aren’t happy with the resolution of a ticket?

At SimpleFly Tech, we pride ourselves on customer service and offer quick SLAs that include escalation to the highest level of support as needed. We can provide local technicians for on-site resolution as situations require.