Help Desk Management: What is Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Help Desk support?

Help Desk tech from commons wikipedia orgIn 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.

RELATED: What is IT Operations Management and What Does it 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.

Help Desk icon from commons wikipedia orgNow 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.


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About Joe Hertvik

Joe is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company providing written white papers, case studies, and other marketing content to computer industry companies. He is also a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column for the past ten years. Follow Joe Hertvik on Twitter @JoeHertvik. Email Joe for a free quote on white papers, case studies, brochures, or other marketing materials.
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7 Responses to Help Desk Management: What is Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Help Desk support?

  1. Ian says:

    Very useful. I was looking for some clearer definitions to get my Level 1 (semi Level 2) thinking in the right mindset for escalations. Thanks Joe, much appreciated.

  2. mark says:

    Nice..I am working in IT infrastructure i got it good solution

  3. Praveen says:

    It’s useful for me to make a support level for each one. Thank you very much Joe…

  4. Tungvhn says:

    Thanks for break me out of confusion about my job

  5. Ed says:

    Good clarification. I might add, however, that there is even a growing number of RECRUITERS who are not using these terms correctly. As well, there are employers that feel it necessary to redefine certain roles in their company whenever it suits their budget and/or timelines.

  6. Neeraj Singh says:

    Thanks to eplain the various levels of IT Help desk. Level 3 is best support in tech world.

  7. George says:

    I worked as a tech level 2 (I did some level 3 troubleshooting also when authorized and level 4 for dealing with venders) and in IT help desk level 1 support… I found your explanations very helpful and found myself wishing I known what the organizational structure and responsibilities of both jobs were which I was never insightfully and consciously taught… but experience in those roles filled in those details without the ‘overall explanation’ you gave which makes me wish they would have spent time educating what those roles were, would have saved me some angst. Thanks for your insight, my Department Director new this and was a smart and fair person but never took the time to explain things, why can’t they officially take the time for a 1-2 hour seminar that actually explains such things to those working in the trenches and who had innate skills but were entry level pay. I came from the Architectural Industry trying to make a test to see if I liked IT and make a career out of it but found those two atmospheres are entirely different in how things happen… I overall liked IT but found myself burned out in that tech laptop support (level 2/3) and the ‘turn around time’ and such that was an unreasonable pace for ‘me’ and my innate skill set. Thanks composing this and the IT Operations articles, gave me some useful and helpful insight after the fact.

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