5 Reasons For & Against Tiered Support – from Real Customer Support Teams

There have been rumblings in the space claiming that tiered support is dead. What do real customer support experts think about this? We asked them.

Zight | January 19, 2022 | 4 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 02, 2023

5 Reasons For & Against Tiered Support –  from Real Customer Support Teams

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There have been rumblings in the space claiming that tiered support is dead.

It’s easy to see why, as this model is the source of much customer frustration. Who wants to verify identity, ask a question to an agent, only to be passed on to another? Who wants that merry-go-round?

And yet as long as customer support departments have been around, this “Tiered” or “Level” model of support has been the typical way of addressing customer issues.


What is Tiered Support?

To put it simply: newly hired support agents get put into the “Tier 1” group to handle basic customer questions. Any issues that are above basic knowledge are passed to “Tier 2” to address.

But if you strip this model away, it can necessitate a lot of training – and therefore, a mess, if agents aren’t trained properly. 

There are many arguments for and against. So we asked five real-life experts we trust. They gave us real answers, based on real experiences.

Liz Drews | Head of Customer Support Services at Onboard

My Support team strives to provide the same level of support to every customer that reaches out. Why? Because each customer can grow our business in ways, we may not immediately see. This makes it worth the attention and care to ensure each customer feels heard and valued by my team.

The other aspect is that we are all humans striving to be the best we can be, so providing the same level of support to each human is the best way to leave a positive mark on anyone’s day.

Jennifer Castillo | Director of Customer Support at DocNetwork.org

Using tiered levels of support is a two-edged sword. While it can free up your experienced agents to handle more complicated issues, it also leads to some of your customers being passed from one agent to another to resolve a problem. There is a lot of evidence to show that passing customers to more than one agent negatively affects their experience and perception of the quality of service they were offered.

We train all of our agents thoroughly, and we rely on collaboration between team members, our internal knowledge base, and our support site to help new agents provide the high level of service that our customers expect.


Peter Analore | VP of Customer Success at OnShift

The “one size fits all” service model is extinct. Today’s B2B customers expect the same personalized service experiences they’re receiving from our B2C counterparts. Companies that don’t recognize this and cling to antiquated service philosophies will lose out in the marketplace. The modern service organization leverages technology, agile principles, and engaged employees to deliver the differentiated experiences that customers desire.


Virginia Ulrich | Head of Customer Support at Sourcegraph

Having been there, done that with levels a few times, I advocate strongly against them.

Flat support leaves customers with less anxiety. They know when they hear back from someone, that is the person responsible for helping them. They don’t have to worry about long gaps being pushed form one queue to another.

Flat support gives the team a break. Only working on long-running, super complex issues takes a toll. Being able to balance it out with quick wins can provide the team with a healthy sense of completion and break from really hard things.

Flat support also makes it easier to navigate the constant guessing game that is predicting case volume. It’s hard enough as-is … why complicate it with having to predict it for multiple levels?

I consistently find that flat support teams are healthier, require less headcount, and can do more because of these positive benefits.


Justin Hein | Customer Support Engineering at Check, Inc

Well, it’s complicated. It takes a lot of planning and strategy to deploy a tiered model that aligns to different customer segments. As an example, if you already have been providing a certain SLA to your VIP customers, do you change that for them if they don’t pay for premium support? Do you just include it in the next upsell cycle? What if they want more than that? Determining what mediums you provide to which customers also becomes complicated as you have to have a pretty robust support model with accurate headcount modeling to support several mediums at differing levels of support.

For us, we work with our customers to provide access to the support they need, which our Customer Success Managers work to align on. So sometimes this requires our support team to flex and provide access through alternative channels, hold ourselves to tighter SLAs, or provide some program management responsibilities.

We’re looking for more Customer Success and Support professionals to feature in our content! If you would like to participate as a panelist in one of our upcoming flipbooks, fill out our form and we’ll connect with you.

*this video was made with Zight (formerly CloudApp)’s video screen recorder

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