In one of my roles, I run a Help Desk for two companies outside of Chicago. One of the confusing things about Help Desk management and talking to people about an IT Operations Help Desk, is that people don’t understand what Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Help Desk support is (as well as Level 0 support and Level 4 support, which not everyone talks about). Here’s my quick primer on what each of these functions do.
- Level 0 support – Automated or self-service solutions that users can access themselves without the aid of the Help Desk. These include automated password resets, Web sites for requesting ITIL support, and knowledge base lookup. Level 0 support is performed without the aid of a Help Desk technician.
- Level 1 support – Filters Help Desk calls and provides basic support and troubleshooting, such as password resets, printer configurations, break/fix instructions, ticket routing and escalation to Level 2 and Level 3 support. May also escalate to IT applications support or call for outside vendor maintenance (Level 4), as needed. A Level 1 tech gathers and analyzes information about the user’s issue and determines the best way to resolve their problem. Level 1 may also provide support for identified Level 2 and Level 3 issues where configuration solutions have already been documented.
- Level 2 support – In my world , this is generally reserved for desktop, laptop, and other user device support but it may also share work with Level 3. Level 2 generally handles break/fix, configuration issues, troubleshooting, software installations, hardware repair (including in-house repair or coordinating depot services). They handle escalated issues that Level 1 support is not equipped to handle. Level 2 will sometimes escalate to Level 3, depending on the issue and the way the Help Desk operates. Depending on the Help Desk organization, a level 2 tech may either 1) be limited to only solving known issues and escalate new issues to level 3; or 2) be authorized to research and implement fixes for new issues and only escalate to Level 3, if it is out of their skill set or ability to solve.
- Level 3 support – Troubleshooting, configuration, database administration, and repair for server, network, infrastructure, Data Center, email, file shares, and other infrastructure issues. Besides always having the ability to deploy solutions to new problems, a Level 3 tech usually has the most expertise in a company and is the go-to person for solving difficult issues.
- Level 4 support – Not a commonly used term. Level 4 refers to those people outside your organization that you can escalate issues to. This usually involve hardware and software vendors, such as vendor software support, printer and copier maintenance, heavy equipment maintenance, depot maintenance, etc. Level 4 support is contracted by an organization for specific services, but they are not part of the organization.
Now comes the tricky part. Even though these are the general definitions of Help Desk support levels, these are not set in stone during implementation. I’ve seen plenty of Level 1 Help Desk technicians who are capable of and perform Level 2 and Level 3 work. You may have times when Level 2 and Level 3 techs take phone calls and direct fixes. Level 2 may work with infrastructure and create new solutions, while Level 3 may handle the desktop.
Generally speaking, the bigger the organization the more stratified these roles. In a multi-billion organization or a Help Desk outsourcing company, there may be compartmentalization and the model may look more like what’s outlined here. In smaller Help Desks, the roles may tend to be more fluid simply because there aren’t that many people available. These roles are not set in stone and may be implemented in various ways but generally, this is how Help Desk professionals think of the differences between each level and what each level may do.