Technical support

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AT&T Mobility provides technical support for some of its mobile phones through Device Support Centers.

Technical support or tech support refers to a range of services by which enterprises provide assistance to users of technology products such as mobile phones, televisions, computers, software products or other electronic or mechanical goods. In general, technical support services attempt to help the user solve specific problems with a product—rather than providing training, customization, or other support services. Most companies offer technical support for the products they sell, either freely available or for a fee. Technical support may be delivered over the telephone or online by e-mail, live support software on a website or a tool where users can log a call/incident. Larger organizations frequently have internal technical support available to their staff for computer related problems. The internet is also a good source for freely available tech support, where experienced users may provide advice and assistance with problems. In addition, some fee-based service companies charge for premium technical support services.[1]

Coverage of support[edit]

Technical support may be delivered by different technologies depending on the situation. For example, direct questions can be addressed using telephone calls, SMS, Online chat, Support Forums,[2] E-mail or Fax; basic software problems can be addressed over the telephone or, increasingly, by using remote access repair services; while more complicated problems with hardware may need to be dealt with in person.

Types of Technical Support[edit]

(CALL OUT)[edit]

This type of technical support has been very common in the services industry. It is also known as "Break-Fix" IT Support. The concept behind this type of support is that the customer pays for the materials (Hard Drive, Memory, Computer, Digital Devices etc.) as well as pays the technician based on their pre-negotiated rate when they have a problem.[3]

Block Hours[edit]

Block Hours is basically a way to purchase a bunch of hours upfront to pay a reduced hourly rate. The premise behind this type of support is that the customer has negotiated a discounted rate and a fixed number of hours to use either per month or year. This allows them the flexibility to use the hours as they please without doing the paperwork and the hassle of paying multiple bills.

Managed Services[edit]

Managed Services means a company will receive a list of well-defined services on an ongoing basis, with well-defined "response and resolution times" for a fixed rate or a flat fee. This can include things like 24/7 Monitoring of Servers, 24/7 Help desk for your daily computer issues and On-site visits by a technician when issues cannot be resolved remotely. Some companies also offer additional services like Project Management, Backup and Disaster Recovery[4] and Vendor management in the monthly price.

Crowdsourced technical support[edit]

Many companies and organizations, such as Apple[5] and Mozilla[6] provide discussion boards for users of their products to interact; such forums allow companies to reduce their support costs[7] without losing the benefit of customer feedback. In addition, there are many independent websites devoted to user discussions.

Outsourcing technical support[edit]

With the increasing use of technology in modern times, there is a growing requirement to provide technical support. Many organizations locate their technical support departments or call centers in countries or regions with lower costs. There has also been a growth in companies specializing in providing technical support to other organizations. These are often referred to as MSP's (Managed Service Providers).[8][9]

For businesses needing to provide technical support, outsourcing allows them to maintain a high availability of service. Such need may result from peaks in call volumes during the day, periods of high activity due to introduction of new products or maintenance service packs, or the requirement to provide customers with a high level of service at a low cost to the business.[10] For businesses needing technical support assets, outsourcing enables their core employees to focus more on their work in order to maintain productivity.[11] It also enables them to utilize specialized personnel whose technical knowledge base and experience may exceed the scope of the business, thus providing a higher level of technical support to their employees.

Multi-tiered technical support[edit]

Technical support is often subdivided into tiers, or levels, in order to better serve a business or customer base. The number of levels a business uses to organize their technical support group is dependent on a business’ need, want, or desire as it revolves around their ability to sufficiently serve their customers or users. The reason for providing a multi-tiered support system instead of one general support group is to provide the best possible service in the most efficient possible manner. Success of the organizational structure is dependent on the technicians’ understanding of their level of responsibility and commitments, their customer response time commitments, and when to appropriately escalate an issue and to which level.[12] A common support structure revolves around a three-tiered technical support system.

Tier/Level 1 (T1/L1)[edit]

This is the initial support level responsible for basic customer issues. It is synonymous with first-line support, level 1 support, front-end support, support line 1, and various other headings denoting basic level technical support functions.[citation needed] The first job of a Tier I specialist is to gather the customer’s information and to determine the customer’s issue by analyzing the symptoms and figuring out the underlying problem.[12] When analyzing the symptoms, it is important for the technician to identify what the customer is trying to accomplish so that time is not wasted on "attempting to solve a symptom instead of a problem." [12]

This level should gather as much information as possible from the end user. The information could be computer system name, screen name or report name, error or warning message displayed on the screen, any logs files, screen shots, any data used by the end user or any sequence of steps used by the end user, etc. This information needs to be recorded into the issue tracking or issue logging system. This information is useful to analyze the symptoms to define the problem or issue.

Once identification of the underlying problem is established, the specialist can begin sorting through the possible solutions available. Technical support specialists in this group typically handle straightforward and simple problems while "possibly using some kind of knowledge management tool." [13] This includes troubleshooting methods such as verifying physical layer issues, resolving username and password problems, uninstalling/reinstalling basic software applications, verification of proper hardware and software set up, and assistance with navigating around application menus. Personnel at this level have a basic to general understanding of the product or service and may not always contain the competency required for solving complex issues.[14] Nevertheless, the goal for this group is to handle 70%-80% of the user problems before finding it necessary to escalate the issue to a higher level.[14]

In other industries (such as banking, credit cards, mobile telephony, etc.) 1st level support is carried by a call center that operates extensive hours (or 24/7) acting as "initial sink" for user requests and, if required, creating an incident to notify other business teams/units to satisfy user request (provide new pin, blocking stolen credit cards/mobile phones/SIMs). In some industries, first-line support requires knowledge of the products, terms and conditions offered by the business rather than technical information itself (Retail / Wholesale). Most ISPs only offer tier 1 support.

Tier/Level 2 (T2/L2)[edit]

This is a more in-depth technical support level than Tier I and therefore costs more as the techs are more experienced and knowledgeable on a particular product or service. It is synonymous with level 2 support, support line 2, administrative level support, and various other headings denoting advanced technical troubleshooting and analysis methods. Technicians in this realm of knowledge are responsible for assisting Tier I personnel in solving basic technical problems and for investigating elevated issues by confirming the validity of the problem and seeking for known solutions related to these more complex issues.[14] However, prior to the troubleshooting process, it is important that the technician review the work order to see what has already been accomplished by the Tier I technician and how long the technician has been working with the particular customer. This is a key element in meeting both the customer and business needs as it allows the technician to prioritize the troubleshooting process and properly manage his or her time.[12]

This team needs to collect information such as program name that is failed or application name or any database related details (table name, view name, package name, etc.) or API names. These details are useful for Tier 3.

If a problem is new and/or personnel from this group cannot determine a solution, they are responsible for raising this issue to the Tier III technical support group. In addition, many companies may specify that certain troubleshooting solutions be performed by this group to help ensure the intricacies of a challenging issue are solved by providing experienced and knowledgeable technicians. This may include, but is not limited to onsite installations or replacements of various hardware components, software repair, diagnostic testing, and the utilization of remote control tools used to take over the user’s machine for the sole purpose of troubleshooting and finding a solution to the problem.[12][15]

Tier/Level 3 (T3/L3)[edit]

This is the highest level of support in a three-tiered technical support model responsible for handling the most difficult or advanced problems. It is synonymous with level 3 support, back-end support, support line 3, high-end support, and various other headings denoting expert level troubleshooting and analysis methods. These individuals are experts in their fields and are responsible for not only assisting both Tier I and Tier II personnel, but with the research and development of solutions to new or unknown issues. Note that Tier III technicians have the same responsibility as Tier II technicians in reviewing the work order and assessing the time already spent with the customer so that the work is prioritized and time management is sufficiently utilized.[12] If it is at all possible, the technician will work to solve the problem with the customer as it may become apparent that the Tier I and/or Tier II technicians simply failed to discover the proper solution. Upon encountering new problems, however, Tier III personnel must first determine whether or not to solve the problem and may require the customer’s contact information so that the technician can have adequate time to troubleshoot the issue and find a solution.[14]

This team can analyze the code and data using information from Tier 1 and Tier 2.

In some instances, an issue may be so problematic to the point where the product cannot be salvaged and must be replaced. Such extreme problems are also sent to the original developers for in-depth analysis. If it is determined that a problem can be solved, this group is responsible for designing and developing one or more courses of action, evaluating each of these courses in a test case environment, and implementing the best solution to the problem.[14] Once the solution is verified, it is delivered to the customer and made available for future troubleshooting and analysis.

Tier/Level 4 (T4/L4)[edit]

While not universally used, a fourth level often represents an escalation point beyond the organization. This is generally a hardware or software vendor. Within a corporate incident management system it is important to continue to track incidents even when they are being actioned by a vendor and the Service Level Agreement (SLA) may have specific provision for this. Within a manufacturing organization, the fourth level might also represent the Research & Development.

Remote PC repair or Computer Repair[edit]

Remote PC repair or Remote Computer Repair is a method for troubleshooting software related problems via remote desktop connections.[16] Technicians use software that allows the technician to access the user's desktop via the Internet. With the user's permission, the technician can take control of the user's mouse and keyboard, transfer various diagnostic and repair applications to the user's desktop, run scans, install antivirus programs, etc. If the remote service permits it, the technician can even reboot the PC and reconnect remotely to continue his/her work without the user's assistance.

Common repairs available with online computer support providers are computer virus and spyware removal, computer optimization, Windows Registry repair, device driver issues, Web related issues, and Windows security updates.

Only software can be "repaired" remotely. A computer with a broken hardware component (such as a motherboard or hard disk) can, in some cases, be diagnosed and worked around but must be repaired or replaced while co-located with the defective hardware.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Technical support for the neighbours". BBC News. 2005-03-28. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  2. ^ "Computer support forums". 2012-01-20. 
  3. ^ "Types of Technical Support". 
  4. ^ "Backup and Disaster Recovery". Netstar. 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
  5. ^ http://discussions.info.apple.com
  6. ^ https://support.mozilla.com
  7. ^ "How to Use Online Forums". Inc. 
  8. ^ Berkley, Susan; Maggie Klenke. "Call Centre Trends". The Great Voice Company. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  9. ^ Berkley, Susan; Maggie Klenke. "Call Centre Trends". The Great Voice Company. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  10. ^ "Outsourcing the Helpdesk". eHelp Desk Resource. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  11. ^ Perkins, Bart (2004-11-08). "Outsourcing: First Ask Why?". Computerworld Management. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Walker, Gary (2001). IT Problem Management (Harris Kern’s Enterprise Computing Institute Series). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. pp. 85–113. ISBN 0-13-030770-X. Google Book Search. 
  13. ^ Windley, Phillip J. (2002). "Delivering High Availability Services Using a Multi-Tiered Support Model" (PDF). Windley's Technometria. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Kajko-Mattsson, Mira (July–October 2004). "Problems within front-end support". Journal of Software Maintenance and Evolution: Research and Practice 16 (4/5): 309–329. doi:10.1002/smr.298. 
  15. ^ Leung, Nelson K. Y.; Lau, Sim Kim (Summer 2007). "Information Technology Help Desk Survey: To Identify the Classification of Simple and Routine Enquiries". Journal of Computer Information Systems 47 (4): 70–81. 
  16. ^ Germain, Jack (2007-07-30). "Remote PC Repair, Part 1: The Warranty Alternative". TechNewsWorld. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 

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