We’re often asked why we broke the mold with our support team and removed the tiers. Here our Head of Solutions Architecture at Loadbalancer.org, Aaron West, explains why we did it, and why he personally thinks it’s what makes ours the BEST SUPPORT TEAM in the world!
Paid vendor support?
Typical vendor support is unreasonably expensive to provide ,and is therefore also extortionate to the customer. It can cost an exorbitant chunk of the cost of the appliance itself, and is often even mandatory! Some vendors even enforce crippling re-signing fees (Out of interest we don’t!), should you ever miss a support contract renewal. So, in my opinion, people should expect the very best from their vendors’ support teams. You paid for it, so you should get it.
I hate hearing stories of escalation nightmares with customers getting stuck in tier 1 or 2 for days on end. Or, worse still, vendors that try to blame other vendors, allowing them to just run away from the call when a customer’s site is still down!
Support is not an “added extra” thrown in to make a good deal. It’s an important part of the high availability you’re buying into. It’s an expensive and therefore premium service. It should provide you a guarantee that it’s here to at least try and help to solve any problems you have and not just act like a warranty that you never really use or wouldn’t ever want to use.
“Support tiers are like rungs on a ladder to your fix...!”
...once said by a much-respected engineer I know.
Tier 1 is pointless
Tier 1 support is useless or sometimes even incompetent… Almost every tech vendor has this tier, and it’s either staffed by juniors or those that never quite tried hard enough to push forwards in their career. I believe having this tier is deliberate for many reasons, mainly to save money by reserving the best engineers for the toughest of issues, enforcing cost savings for more straightforward cases where you could just tell someone to read the manual. However, in some examples, this is even to discourage a customer from using tech support at all! I’ve seen some cases where people refer to ‘Bad Customers’, which often translates in my eyes to a poorly delivered customer experience. But once a ‘Bad Customer’ has been identified, maybe because they asked too many questions or even complained, they might be encouraged through bad service to leave, so as not to adversely affect KPIs or metrics going forward.
Tier 2: The 'have a go hero’
Tier 2 is often an improvement: it usually has people who will ask the right questions, but might not have the ability to actually fix anything. This is okay. This can even be an essential stage of fixing a tricky issue in terms of getting all the required info. However, you can get stuck here answering endless questions in some helpdesks or, worse, you might find you meet an analyst who can direct you to a fix, but maybe it’s the wrong fix! Maybe they cause you a new problem altogether! If High Availability is important, why would you risk talking with a tier 2 engineer, other than getting any questions answered before escalation, which just adds more time before getting a fix, right?
I should say, this team is often perfectly competent, but they get stuck with asking questions, providing pre-scripted fixes, and then escalating up to the 3rd more expensive tier. This sucks if it’s you working in a ‘tier 2’ position because you rarely get to see a challenging issue resolved, and therefore it can be hard to progress your knowledge and career! However, it’s probably quite rare that you meet the ‘have a go hero’ I described in most organisations these days as companies do tend to filter the mavericks out of tier 2.
Tier 3 and above!
You made it! If you made it here, you now likely have the attention of an expert that can help you! They’ll probably take a lot of ownership of your problems and bring a multi-disciplined view gained from their many years of experience in a wide range of areas of IT. Engineers like this can really help you break down challenging problems. And, most importantly, they should now be with you on your journey to a resolution, whatever happens. Hopefully, there are no more tiers to be escalated through, meaning these guys will care about fixing your problem.
So why again do we have no tiers?
Because for us, we do have tiers, but just one tier, and that’s Tier 3. It’s no hardship for our experts to refer you to the manual if that’s what you need, nor is it a problem for them to ask you all the relevant questions while, most importantly, fixing the actual problem so you can get back to what counts - keeping your services and maybe your business up and running 24/7.