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What is tiered support?

Definition: Tiered support is a customer support model used to structure a business's support center into different tiers based on the complexity of incoming customer inquiries.

It helps businesses efficiently manage support requests by pushing tickets through the model until they arrive at the appropriate tier that can solve their request.

What is a structure of a tiered support model?

The tier support model involves four tires referred to by numbers, each handling increasingly complex customer issues.

  • Tier 0 combines the business's self-service channels (chatbots, FAQs, automated emails… ) that solve customers’ issues without including the support team. The support team constantly updates Tier 0 with new solutions to common to prevent strain on other tiers with low-priority issues.
  • Tier 1  is the first point of contact with a support representative that can solve simple tickets like product usage questions, create accounts, or troubleshoot basic issues. Common tickets on this tier can be automated or have scripted answers.
  • Tier 2  handles more complex issues that take technical knowledge to solve and require in-depth explanations for tickets like billing questions, network problems, and feature explanations. Support representatives at this tier are highly specialized and deeply understand the product.
  • Tier 3 is reserved for highly specialized issues that rarely occur, like bug fixing, software customization, or high-level troubleshooting. These issues require the intervention of the engineering team and are diagnosed through live calls or live chat.

A four-tier structure is standard in the industry, but businesses can opt to include more tiers if their product/service requires it due to the workload on their support or the high level of issue complexity.

Examples of tiered support

Microsoft uses a five-tier structure:

  • T0 offers users a knowledge base for installing their services and performing common tasks like password resets.
  • T1 is automated regarding product-related questions, like tier 0, but offers live chat help with software setup questions.
  • T2 is responsible for troubleshooting their software and solving common bugs.
  • T3 deals with performance issues and critical system failures, a long process requiring live chats with customers.
  • T4 is reserved for high-tech-related topics like advanced security, data analytics, and product customizations.

HubSpot uses a four-tier structure:

  • T0 is an extensive knowledge base of how to use all of their products with blogs, guides, and FAQs. They also utilize chatbot automation on their website and software for easier use.
  • T1 offers email support for setting up their software and answering common low-complexity questions about their products.
  • T2 handles issues with the product’s API usage, integrations, customizations, and common bugs.
  • T3 includes HubSpot’s engineering team working directly with customer support and the customer on data breaches, data loss, system errors, and system monitoring, which only happens in extreme cases.
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Article FAQs

What are the benefits of tiered support?
It allows for optimal resource allocation across the support team, increasing efficiency and speeding up ticket resolution times, improving customer satisfaction. Another benefit is the scaleability of the structure with the business's growth.
What are the disadvantages of tiered support?
Tiere support can have long wait times if there are many complex questions as customer issues get passed from tier to tier, each having delays between them. This model is also complex and difficult to implement, requiring significant investments.
What are some of the common problems with a tiered support model?
The main problem is that higher tiers solve common issues that tiers before them can learn to solve but don’t needlessly delay ticket solutions. Another one is the lack of consistency across different tiers because they are in different teams.

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