When it comes to IT support, tiers help us understand the functions that we should expect from each service level. For example, they can help your staff know who to contact for each type of IT problem, and can offer you a basic idea of how long each problem should take to fix. The first tier of IT support is called 1st line support, and can be a vital part of a well functioning business.
So – what is 1st line IT support and how can your business understand and utilise it effectively? Our in-depth guide will walk you through everything you need to know.
What is 1st Line Support?
Small businesses have many technology needs. 1st line support is the first point of contact you will have with your IT support when day-to-day problems arise. It is the initial helpdesk that you report your computer or technology problems to, where they will be able to troubleshoot most basic issues and queries without escalating the problem further.
Though 1st line support workers tend to be generalists in that they handle a wide range of basic issues, the 1st line of support is a vital one. It helps stop potential problems from developing further and works to fix issues in a timely manner for you and your team.
Roles & Responsibilities
The role of first line business IT support workers is to solve simple IT related problems. These are usually software related issues or network connection problems that can be solved without needing to fix a deeper or more specialist issue.
The role requires a strong general understanding of and training in computers, operating systems and networking equipment, though they will not necessarily need specialist hardware expertise. Since first line support staff handle basic queries, it is essential that they have a good understanding of the kind of problems that commonly affect users, and possess the skills to think through solutions to them.
The first line support worker will also require strong customer service skills as it is imperative for them to maintain positive relationships with customers and be able to communicate effectively under pressure.
First line support usually deal with issues at the user level, which means they are not expected to have extensive experience or knowledge of specific systems. Instead, they should be able to quickly identify issues and know where to find information about how to solve them.
The Importance of 1st Line Support
The first line of support is the foundation of your IT helpdesk and an essential part of any IT support organisation. First line support staff have a wide range of general skills, but still require comprehensive knowledge so that they can solve problems with minimal need for assistance or backup from senior members of the team.
First line support staff form the backbone of the whole IT support team and ensure that your organisation is able to function as smoothly as possible. They effectively stop problems from becoming more complex and costly, so it is important that any first line staff you hire are able to work quickly and efficiently whenever issues arise on user devices.
Some key benefits of first line IT support include:
- Prioritising customer service and user needs
- Ensuring trouble-free system operation
- Reducing technical support time and costs through timely problem resolution
- Delivering first line self-help tools such as FAQ sections, user guides and knowledgebases for users to help themselves.
Other Tiers of IT Support
Once first line support staff have managed to identify and fix any initial problems, if there are any further problems that require more specialist fixes, they will route the query to their second or third line of support. There are generally three tiers of IT support, with each tier more specialised than the last.
The key tiers of IT support include:
- 1st Line – Basic user queries that don’t require significant knowledge of the system or deeper troubleshooting skills
- 2nd Line – More complex queries that need specialist skill sets to diagnose and fix, such as deeper network problems, more involved software issues needing additional downloads, complex device errors etc.
- 3rd Line – Incredibly technical queries that are beyond most users’ ability to fix, such as complex server faults needing a specialist server administrator.
8 Common Examples of First Line Support
Computer and device setups/installations
Basic computer, device or server setups or installations are a key part of business IT. It is the responsibility of the first line support worker to ensure that employees are given all the relevant information and support they need in order to get their computer or device up and running, including any security or privacy settings.
First line support workers need to have a firm understanding of how computers and networks work, enabling them to troubleshoot issues that arise from a malfunctioning device or a corrupted system.
Helpdesk support for software and hardware
A helpdesk is a service provided by first line support workers to help employees with any questions they may have about the software on their computer, or issues they may be having with a particular piece of hardware. The worker will either guide the user through the problem manually, or provide tools for them to carry out the process themselves.
Sometimes first line support workers will need to guide users through specific processes for security purposes. They may need to help users login onto a system, change their password or alter the configuration of their computer.
Wireless connectivity errors/set-up
First line support workers often provide IT related guidance to employees about wireless connectivity issues. This is not an exhaustive list of tasks, the role usually involves the first line worker carrying out anything that comes under basic troubleshooting or installation issues.
Basic firewall/security updates
To prevent security breaches, it may be necessary for first line support to guide users through basic firewall updates. First line IT support will also take care of minor security issues that can be quickly debugged or fixed.
Customer service and management
It is vital for first line workers to have strong customer service skills as they will be the front point of contact with your employees, who may need guidance with IT related problems. It is also their responsibility to manage issues efficiently so that employees aren’t waiting around for issues to be resolved.
Reports and documentation
As part of managing the timeline of resolving issues, first line workers are responsible for writing reports, including how long it took to fix the problem and any possible ways to prevent it happening again in future. They will also need to save relevant information should an issue occur again.
How To Hire the Right First Line Support For Your Business
Many organisations don’t see first line support as a specific role within IT and instead view it as a general position that all IT staff will undertake from time to time. This can often lead to inefficient practices causing problems for your end users and additional time spent on clarifying the role itself.
By having an efficient and well-managed first line support function in its technical infrastructure, your business will receive the best possible service from its IT systems, keeping your end users happy and helping to ensure your business runs efficiently.
In order to make your first line IT support as efficient as possible, it’s important that you clearly define what kind of experience and skills are required from the IT support company you choose.
It may also be helpful to look for a specific enthusiasm or ability in a candidate for first line support rather than focusing purely on finding IT technicians – for example, a candidate who has a passion for providing great customer service may be a better fit than someone with lots of technical expertise but is unable to communicate this in a helpful way.
Alternatively, you may want to build your first line support as part of a wider, tiered support package for your business, in which case you should look into the technical support that a company offers and the full services they offer.
Discover All Your IT Support Needs at Binary Blue
At Binary Blue, we offer tiered support to ensure that all of your IT issues can be managed efficiently and effectively. Whether you’re looking to hire basic small business IT support or are looking for a Full Care Package to take care of all your IT needs, Binary Blue has the right solution for any business.
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