Salaries Slow, Decrease for Tech Support

Despite soaring salaries in many sectors of the IT industry, there have not been appreciable gains in the salaries of technical support representatives.

Despite soaring salaries in many sectors of the IT industry, there have not been appreciable gains in the salaries of technical support representatives. A new salary survey published by the Association of Support Professionals (ASP, www.asponline.com) finds salaries in many categories flat or declining. The survey, based on the responses of 201 participating software companies, notes that the freeze in support pay is consistent across all levels -- from senior support executives to entry-level customer service.

The only gainers in the survey were support technicians, who saw raises averaging 3.9 percent a year, and department managers, with annual salary gains of 2.7 percent. However, analyst/project managers saw their salaries decline by 10 percent over the past year. Senior support executives (vice presidents and directors) and senior technicians saw no gain over the past year.

Year 2000 remediation, e-commerce, ERP systems and data warehousing are draining the same IT talent pool accessed by software support organizations. However, it appears that many have turned to outsourcing and self-service Web sites to address this skills shortage, and have kept the pressure off support salaries. "The once-relentless demand for support staff seems to be leveling off, thanks to increased use of outsourcing and the proliferation of Web-based self-service solutions," the report states.

Industry studies find that Web self-service is making a significant dent in the volumes of support center operations. ASP notes that Microsoft's phone-based tech support activity dropped by 43 percent since implementing its Web site in 1996 -- from 35,000 calls per day to fewer than 20,000 calls. In a recent survey of support centers by Olsten Corp. (www.olsten.com), 40 percent of center managers report that interactive Web sites have helped decrease call volume.

The salaries of support personnel in mass-market consumer software companies also differs from those in high-end enterprise solutions providers. Besides the greater skill levels required for support of high-end products, high-end software companies (with packages costing more than $1,000) often generate fee-based service revenues, "which helps reduce the budget pressures that mass-market software support organizations feel," the report states. For example the department manager in a mass-market software company averages $49,000 in salary, versus $60,000 in a high-end applications company. For senior support technicians in mass-market software companies, average salaries were about $39,000, compared to $43,000 for their counterparts in high-end application companies.

Organization size also makes a difference. Senior support executives in larger support organizations (more than 30 employees) make about $95,000 annually, compared to $80,000 made by executives in smaller organizations (fewer than 10 employees). The contrast is also significant for department managers ($60,000 in larger organizations verses $50,000), and analysts ($55,000 versus $43,500).