Tiers for Fears: Is Tiered Support For You?

By Andrew Gori

Configuring your support structure to meet your current needs and to appropriately scale to the next growth level can be challenging.

If you’re a business with considerable or consistently growing customer base and ticket volume, and are in the market for a solution, it might be time to consider tiered support. Tiered support is a system that funnels customer queries into more defined levels (tiers), ensuring customer needs are defined properly at the outset, governed by a set of service criteria for each tier. Furthermore, tiers provide customer service teams with a roadmap for when and how queries are escalated.

A lot of your customers access support via self-help content, in which case they’re in a tier commonly known as tier 0. If your web content and social channels are optimized for customer service, tier 0 isn’t a bad place to be from a customer experience standpoint.

But what if their problems require more attention? And how do you go about ushering your customers down a sensible path toward a solution? If you find yourself regularly asking these questions, you might already be moving toward a tiered support solution.

Tiered support example
A common structure employed by many companies is a three-tiered support system. Typically in this type of system, 80 percent of tickets are solved in the first level of support tier 1 (T1). These agents solve the simple requests that don’t require much time or energy, so they’ll spend anywhere from one to 10 minutes on the ticket. The remaining 20 percent of tickets are resolved in the next level, T2. In this tier, agents work on complicated tickets that require more time, and often, specialized knowledge. These might take 11-30 minutes of work. Only six percent of all of tickets are escalated to Tier 3. There, advocates spend an average of 90 minutes on tickets. These are the really tough tickets that might call for experts.

Tip: Create and give agents access to a knowledge base that includes easy to find content for each specific tier, so they can quickly provide customers with relevant information.

Every company will have to do an audit of the different types of tickets they tend to receive, which agents are best suited for responding to them, and how long they typically take to resolve. Then they can begin to figure out how many support tiers to create, and the amount of time agents in each tier should work on a ticket.

The good news is that this is a fully scalable system; even if your volume increases, the tiers would remain the same until, or unless, the customer satisfaction ratings started changing. At that point, you should reevaluate your tiers to better meet your customers’ needs.

So, should your support team work in tiers? If you’re tiered, you’re positioning yourself for efficiency and volume. Here are some key points to consider as you weigh your options: