Technical support in the digital age
Calling technical support rarely seems to be a pleasant experience, does it? The conversation tends to run something like this: “yes, it is plugged in... yes, the plug is turned on.”
Although technical support professionals have a reputation for only telling us to turn our computers off and on again, the reality is that these expert teams provide solutions to millions of problems for millions of people every day.
Computers have now entered every part of our lives. We are the first digital natives. We have never known anything else – but for all the amazing things computers can do, they sometimes go wrong.
Technical support is an entire industry based on things going wrong. Computers are integral to so many peoples’ lives. Therefore, making sure they are working is incredibly important. Computers run everything, from power plants and the London Stock Exchange, to websites and street lights.
You may be working for a public-facing company, business-to-business, or internally within a large company or institution, such as a university. Often, companies provide 24-hour support, so pursuing a career in this area may result in you having to work unsociable hours. However, fear not: there is clear career progression and salary increases to match!
If you are good at understanding complex problems, patient and good with people, then this is certainly a rewarding area of I.T. to consider.
The three tiers of technical support
Technical support is typically divided into three levels. These tiers are based on a technician’s expertise, experience and level of responsibility. As you progress up the pyramid, the number of technicians reduces, and their skill levels increase.
Entry-level technicians (a.k.a. first line support) are responsible for helping out with basic user needs. The objective at this level is to diagnose problems and offer solutions, if possible. This kind of technical support is almost exclusively done via telephone.
Often technicians will have a basic knowledge of the software and mostly rely on problem solving programmes to correctly ascertain the causes of the problems. They will then record any findings for future use. The vast majority of problems can be fixed at this level, such as resetting passwords or helping consumers to navigate around specific programmes.
However, if the level of expertise required exceeds that of first line support technician, then they will escalate issues to higher level support technicians.
Enter level two technicians (a.k.a. second line support). This lot have more in-depth knowledge of software and hardware and more experience of complex problems. Technicians at this level may have the ability to remotely access customers’ computers via the internet.
Understandably, though, they have to get permission first. As fun as it might be, you can’t take over someone’s mouse and start clicking on things they shouldn’t be clicking on! Additionally, you might be required to speak with users over the phone, or even visit clients directly to help solve their problems.
Some problems have to be passed onto third level technicians (a.k.a. third line support). Only the most complex problems are escalated to this level. As well as solving the most difficult issues, they also spend their time researching and developing solutions to known problems. Occasionally, technicians at this level may conclude that a problem cannot be solved without the manufacturer redesigning or making additions to the programme or piece of equipment in question.
What are essential qualities for a career in technical support?
All technicians, at all levels, require high levels of patience and good communication skills. Often you will need to deal with customers with high levels of frustration and little understanding of the issues involved.
So, rather than forcing you to hook up an automatic message to your phone saying “Hello, I.T., have you tried turning it off and on again?”, this sector often requires some serious hands-on work and technical knowhow.
If you’re a bit of a techie (not to be confused with a trekkie) with a penchant for problem solving, and you’re patient even when your grandma uses caps lock when she could just be using shift, this could be the right career path for you! Have a butcher’s at some technical support job roles to begin your journey!