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Tech Support vs. General Support. Explore the difference

Pete Watkins · 5 min read · Sep 25

Tech Support vs. General Support. Explore the difference

The technical support needs of today's large enterprises are changing beyond recognition. The complexity of the technology, the pace of change, and the skills required to solve problems have increased dramatically.

High volume, low-complexity problems like password resets, billing, and connectivity issues are being replaced by automation and self-service options. What remains, however, are the truly challenging issues that can bring down entire organizations if not handled properly. That might be taking down servers to fix the aftermath of security attacks, getting hundreds of email users back online, or resolving network issues that have left thousands of employees disconnected from central databases.

These types of challenges require an entirely new way of looking at support. The need for deep technical knowledge bears little resemblance to the consumer-focused, general support many organizations provide. It’s like comparing professional and amateur athletes. They may play the same sport, but the commitment, expertise, and outputs are miles apart.

To demonstrate how much they differ, let’s look at some of the key characteristics of classic general support, compared to what tech support brings to an enterprise organization.

Classic general support: Transactional, scripted, and reactive

While every operation is different, there are common elements that appear in all general-purpose customer support functions:

  • Transactional interactions: General support exists in a world of tickets; one comes in, an agent runs through a script, and it will either be solved or handed off to another department. The focus is on keeping call times to a minimum so that the ticket can be closed and the agent can move on to the next call.
  • Script-based: When handling the call, the agent will have a set number of questions they need to ask. For instance, a call about a network connection, handled by the network support team, will cover whether certain lights are on, whether they're flashing, what color they are. Depending on the answer, the agent will then ask another question or propose an action. In these types of predictive environments, the solution works.
  • Reactive: When the calls arrive, the focus is on providing a solution to the immediate problem. Rarely does the answer target the root cause of the issue, as the agent is focused on providing general troubleshooting at that point in time. The customer may need to call multiple times with the same problem before the solution switches from the immediate issue to looking at the cause.

5 Critical reasons why tech support is different: Why specialization matters

  1. Finding the real problem: When a problem occurs, tech support engineers will speak to customers, with the understanding that what the customer perceives as the pain point may in fact be different than the actual problem. That means being a detective and knowing when something is left unsaid, or the customer cannot articulate the problem. It also means realizing that the customer's issue may be a symptom rather than the problem itself.
  2. Developing solutions that don't exist: Tech support deals in cases. These are not one-and-done tickets, but problems that may need to be worked over days, weeks, and even months. There is often no script or existing procedure, and with the constant evolution of technology, the team may not have faced that problem before. There could be 30 or 40 different reasons why a problem is occurring, each needing to be worked on to find a solution.
  3. Collaboration: With challenges becoming more complex, no one person can be an expert in everything. That means it’s essential to bring in other people on the team to leverage their experience and knowledge. Documenting the process in ways that can be stored and shared with the wider community is critical. Should a variation of that problem occur elsewhere, other team members are informed and benefit from the learning.
  4. Tailored, not scripted: Many consumer-oriented, general support providers are themselves so big that they are forced to recommend one-size-fits-all solutions that work for consumer applications but are not a good fit for technology environments. They’re not equipped to handle the unique, custom requirements of enterprise tech or be agile enough to move with their changing demands.
  5. Specialized Skills— Hard and Soft: The final, and perhaps the biggest, reason is the need for an entirely new set of skills. General support agents need to be personable, customer-focused, with the aptitude to understand their company's processes and follow a troubleshooting script.

Tech support engineers need these kinds of soft skills too, but that’s just the beginning. In addition, they need highly specific technical knowledge coupled with communication skills to share solutions. How do we achieve this? Finding the right talent is key, and so is training. As our CEO Steve Heffron notes, "Personalized, next-generation training is the only way organizations like Tek Experts can develop engineers who can not only solve problems no one else can handle but do so in a way that adds significant incremental value to the customer. Helping educate a customer or highlighting opportunities the customer may have overlooked are examples of things we’re doing every day."

Redefining what winning support means

Solving technical challenges faster, with less friction, is a major benefit of having technology specialists managing your support. However, perhaps an even bigger benefit is that great support gives you the credibility and permission to go further with customers and build a relationship. It is only at this point that engineers and tech specialists can start to have conversations on how else users can find more value in your offerings. Accelerating time to value and making deeper relationships with your customer are the only true ways to long-term customer loyalty.

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