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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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User Support Technicians (2282)

Technicians in this group provide first-line technical support to computer users experiencing difficulties with computer hardware and with computer applications and communications software. They are employed by computer hardware manufacturers and retailers, software developers, in call centres and in information technology units throughout the private and public sectors. Technicians in this group are also employed by independent technical support companies or they may be self-employed.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read short messages from automated systems. For example, they read brief error messages on computer screens. (1)
  • Read e-mail and memos from co-workers, computer users and service providers. For example, they may read confirmations of specialized service calls in e-mail from software suppliers. They may read descriptions of difficulties encountered with computer hardware and software in e-mail from users. They may also read memos in which co-workers provide technical information and advise of changes in procedures for opening users' accounts. (2)
  • Read text entries in forms. For example, help-desk analysts read users' descriptions of computer and software malfunctions in on-line tickets and help logs. Technical support analysts verify conditions of use in software licensing agreement forms. (2)
  • May read articles in newsletters and trade publications. For example, they may read articles in PCMagazine, The Register and Apple Insider News to learn about events, new products and trends in personal computer hardware and software applications. Technical support analysts may read expert reviews of new microprocessors and antivirus software in trade publications. (3)
  • Read policy and procedures manuals. For example, they may read their organizations' service management policies for information about the objectives, concepts, processes, key performance indicators, roles and challenges of their jobs. (3)
  • Read equipment and software manuals, help files and technical bulletins. For example, they read sections of software manuals to learn about advanced procedures and improvements to upgraded versions. They may read lengthy on-line help files in software suppliers' support libraries for information on processes such as recovering e-mail from cached copies of users' e-mail accounts. They may read software developers' application notes and programming alerts which explain program errors and patches. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Locate data on labels. For example, hardware and software installation technicians may scan labels on computer hardware to identify ports, serial numbers and other data. They may also locate minimum requirements for microprocessors, memory and hard disk storage capacities on software labels. (1)
  • Locate data in lists, tables and schedules. For example, they may locate names of users and their contact information in e-mail distribution lists. They may identify prices for software licenses in price lists. Call centre agents may scan tables of unresolved service calls to locate data such as descriptions of incidents, names of workers assigned and actions taken. Help desk analysts may locate field technicians' names in service call schedules. Technical support supervisors may identify server names, file directories and start times in backup schedules. (2)
  • Enter data into lists, tables and schedules. For example, they may enter hardware specifications into lists of recommended equipment. Help desk analysts may enter new appointments for technicians into service call schedules. (2)
  • Locate data and identify trends in graphs. For example, help desk analysts may monitor numbers of calls received and abandoned per month and average response times by call type in line and bar graphs. Help desk supervisors may locate percentages of users' calls by source in pie charts. (2)
  • Locate data in forms. For example, they may locate users' permissions for remote access to their computers in authorization forms. Software installation technicians locate menu choices and explanations for software configurations in set-up forms. Technical support analysts may scan event logs to locate error messages, event times and Internet protocol addresses. (2)
  • Complete entry forms. For example, they may complete reporting forms when installing new software applications, configuring electronic mail and performing account migrations for users. Help desk analysts may enter data on computer and network malfunctions, degrees of urgency, information requested and actions taken into computerized incident tickets. Technical support analysts may complete privacy forms and contracts for new customers. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write reminders, notes to co-workers and short text entries in forms. For example, call centre agents write brief descriptions of computer malfunctions and repairs in help logs and on-line tickets. (1)
  • Write e-mail and memos to users and co-workers. For example, they may write e-mail to answer questions from users, warn them of computer viruses and outline precautionary measures. They may write memos to inform co-workers of fixes they have found for reoccurring network glitches. Hardware installation technicians may write e-mail to customers to present brief analyses of computer hardware and software such as the advantages and disadvantages of on-line backup services versus external hard disks. (2)
  • May write instructions, procedures and technical guidelines for users and co-workers. For example, they may write instructions for the operation of equipment such as scanners and computerized cash registers. Technical support analysts may write step-by-step software installation procedures for installation technicians. They may also write guidelines for other support analysts on complex topics such as the transfer of domain users to other work units. (4)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • May prepare operating budgets for work units. For example, help desk supervisors may prepare budgets for help desk operations. Technical support analysts may budget to equip specific users with improved computers and recent software releases. (3)
  • May prepare, monitor and adjust work schedules. For example, help desk agents may change support technicians' scheduled appointments to accommodate customers' needs. Technical support analysts may schedule hardware installations for large organizations. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • May calculate times spent at job tasks. For example, hardware installation technicians calculate durations of service calls by subtracting start from stop times. (1)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare measurements, equipment readings and counts to specifications. For example, software installation technicians compare storage space available on disks to memory specifications in software installation requirement lists. User support technicians may compare data such as numbers of repairs and service calls on specific computers and peripherals to their organizations' standards. Help desk technicians may compare numbers of unanswered calls per day to help desk performance targets. (1)
  • May analyze data on user support services provided. For example, user support technicians may calculate total monthly and quarterly service times per customer and per software application to identify major users of services and problematic software. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate times needed to perform job duties. For example, technical support analysts estimate times required for service calls and travelling times between service call locations. (2)
  • Estimate memory requirements for computer systems. For example, systems support representatives may estimate storage capacities required for servers. They anticipate numbers of daily data transactions and propose reasonable storage space requirements per transaction. (2)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Discuss on-going job tasks with co-workers and suppliers. For example, they may discuss orders and prices with suppliers and request technical support for specialized computer peripherals. Help desk analysts may inform service technicians about users' difficulties and dispatch them to repair users' computer hardware. (1)
  • Discuss technical matters with co-workers, colleagues and suppliers. For example, they may discuss error codes with software developers and quality assurance officers. Help desk analysts may discuss challenging software operations with co-workers and help develop instructions for users. Systems technical support analysts may discuss complications in software implementations with suppliers' support technicians. (2)
  • May teach, supervise and assist workers in their work units. For example, help desk technicians may teach service procedures to new recruits and provide one-on-one coaching for complex and difficult job tasks. Help desk supervisors may describe special projects to junior technicians and provide constructive criticism as they carry out the work. (2)
  • Inform and advise computer users with malfunctioning computer hardware and software. For example, call centre agents ask users questions to diagnose malfunctions. They provide clear, concise, step-by-step instructions in non-technical language to repair computers as quickly as possible. They may patiently repeat their instructions and ask questions to ensure users understand and can carry out instructions as given. They practise active listening and reassure users who may be very worried or frustrated by malfunctioning computers. Technical support analysts may provide explanations about new applications to computer users and make suggestions for improvements to hardware and software. (3)
  • May make presentations and deliver training workshops. For example, help desk analysts may make presentations to supervisors on the advantages of new software which will track help desk performance. User support technicians may teach small groups of users to use new operating systems and software applications. (3)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • Are unable to meet response time targets. Help desk analysts may reduce the time on each call and send service technicians to handle more complex repairs. When faced with increased call volumes, independent technical support technicians may work longer hours, refuse new customers and make plans to hire employees. (2)
  • Are unable to communicate effectively with users who have limited language skills. For example, help desk technicians may speak by telephone to novice computer users who do not understand their instructions. Technical support analysts may find they cannot understand users with strong accents. They may send screen shots and pictures by e-mail. They may access the users' systems directly to make changes. They may also send support technicians to users' locations if necessary. (2)
  • Experience failures and crashes in their own computer systems. For example, technical support analysts may discover that their organizations' websites have been closed down by hackers. They search computer transaction logs to find the entry points. They consult co-workers and look for information in technical support libraries and forums in order to repair and improve firewalls for better protection of systems. (3)
Decision Making
  • Choose methods to correct hardware malfunctions and software errors. For example, call centre support technicians may decide to correct users' computers through remote access when direct instructions to users are too complex for their skill levels. (2)
  • Decide to refer computer malfunctions to field technicians and co-workers with more expertise. For example, help desk analysts decide to dispatch technicians to fix users' computers on-site when instructions by telephone, e-mail and remote access have failed. Technical support technicians may decide to forward complex malfunctions to software developers for resolution when the degree of urgency for the users surpasses their capacities to respond. (2)
  • May assign job tasks to user support technicians under their supervision. For example, help desk supervisors may ask workers in their units to write training materials for new help desk technicians. They take into consideration workers' competencies and interests. (2)
  • May decide to repair, upgrade and replace faulty and inadequate computer hardware and software. For example, technical support analysts determine the extent to which computer malfunctions stem from the age of the units and the software. They compare the costs of replacing faulty units and outdated software to the costs of repetitive repairs. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Assess users' skills. For example, help desk technicians assess the skills of callers so that they can tailor their instructions for diagnoses and repair of computers. They may decide that callers cannot be helpful in diagnosing malfunctions. (2)
  • May assess the performance of co-workers. For example, help desk supervisors may assess the skills of help desk technicians in fault diagnoses and effective communication with users. They may consider quantitative performance data such as the number of calls answered per period and average lengths of the calls relative to other workers. (2)
  • May evaluate the quality of the support services provided by their work units. For example, help desk supervisors may analyze performance data such as average wait times and numbers of calls answered. They also examine solution logs to evaluate the effectiveness of solutions. (3)
  • Evaluate information technology needs. For example, independent user support technicians may evaluate users' software needs. They review their experience with a number of relevant software applications and make recommendations. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

User support technicians plan job tasks around calls for assistance from users. They experience interruptions to their work from incoming calls for service for computer equipment breakdowns, data losses and viruses. They must regularly adjust their schedules to changing priorities. In contrast to other user support technicians, call centre support agents and help desk technicians have limited latitude to organize their tasks. They typically answer users' calls by order of entry. During periods of high demand, they may vary the time they spend with users and change the order in which they answer calls for emergencies. (3)

Planning and Organizing for Others

User support technicians may assign tasks to workers they supervise. They may contribute to strategic planning for their organizations. (3)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember diagnostic and debugging procedures to solve computer malfunctions efficiently.
  • Remember organizational procedures and policies relating to service desk and information systems management.
Finding Information
  • Find information about hardware and software. For example, they consult sections of software manuals, conduct keyword searches on the Internet for help files and speak to co-workers and colleagues such as suppliers' product support technicians. They read trade publications, participate in on-line user forums and attend workshops and conferences. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use word processing. For example, they use word processing programs such as Word to write, edit and format memos, instructions for users and work procedures. They may integrate tables, graphs and screen shots. (3)
  • Use databases. For example, user support technicians use service management database applications to track users' calls, maintain information on customers, dispatch technicians and manage service requests. They may conduct searches for specific computers and peripherals to view repair histories. They may create reports on unresolved calls and generate performance statistics. (3)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they create spreadsheets to track project timelines, manage equipment inventories and develop work schedules. They may import data, modify data formats and carry out data analysis. (3)
  • Use communication software. For example, they exchange e-mail with co-workers, computer users and suppliers using programs such as Outlook. They may also send attachments, create distribution lists and manage personal appointment schedules. (3)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they use Internet browsers to access software suppliers' websites and on-line trade publications. They use search engines such as Google to obtain information on installing, using and troubleshooting hardware devices and software applications. They may download program code to repair corrupted files. (3)
  • May do programming, software design and development. For example, user support technicians may use various programming languages to repair and modify software programs. They may write batch files to update program configurations automatically. (4)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, help desk analysts may use computer management programs to gain remote access to users' computers. They observe users' computers directly, identify errors and repair or reinstall software applications and files. Technical support analysts install, configure, troubleshoot and remove numerous software applications for users. (4)
  • Use hardware and system skills. For example, they install, configure, troubleshoot and update operating systems and network software on users' computers. They may write batch files and operating system scripts. They may set up and connect computers and peripherals. They may use tools to check and compact hard disks, and eliminate viruses, adware and spyware from computer systems. They may also recommend equipment purchases. (4)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

User support technicians perform the majority of their tasks independently. They coordinate their efforts with co-workers in their work units to complete challenging repairs, assess the performance of work units and exchange information about new hardware and software. They may coordinate job tasks with systems administrators to improve the service provided. When working on software development projects, they coordinate and integrate job tasks with systems consultants, software developers, quality control assurance officers and technical writers. (2)

Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is essential to user support technicians, given the fast pace of change in information technology and the diversity of users, software programs and computer systems they service. They must update their technical knowledge continually. They learn by reading solution logs, help files, manuals, newsletters and trade publications, and through trial and error. They frequently discuss computer malfunctions with co-workers and software suppliers. They may share new knowledge through written contributions to on-line discussion groups and logs. They may also attend college and university courses, and participate in training seminars. (3)

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