A technical services engineer is an important interface between a company and its customers. Technical support or services is a function of providing information and training to customers for a product line, including troubleshooting of problems, providing new and revised literature, and training employees. There is also a sales component to a technical services engineer position, because this person can look for opportunities to expand sales during their interactions.
Customer troubleshooting is a key activity for technical support personnel, because customers may stop using a product if they cannot resolve an operating problem with it. A technical services engineer may visit locations where a product is used, work with operating personnel there, and determine if repair or replacement of parts is needed. The engineer will then take this information back to their company, where decisions may be needed for product line overhaul or improvement, particularly if problems are seen at multiple locations.
Technical services in the chemical industry may involve product testing in a laboratory, small-scale or pilot plant equipment. Problems with a chemical can either be a defect in the chemical itself, or an incompatibility with the customer's application. The technical services engineer must understand how customers might use their products, and the various ways they might not work in a particular application.
Support in the software or computer industry may involve more of a programming role than physically working with machinery or chemicals. Technical support staff must understand how their software reacts in the customer's application, and be prepared to revise it or request a re-write at the manufacturer. Instrumentation that controls machinery or chemical operations may involve both hardware and software components, which can complicate the task for the support engineer.
Specialty industries such as aviation or space technologies may require a technical services engineer who is a pilot or astronaut, or a ship's captain for a marine application. This may not be needed if the problem involves an instrument or electrical component in an aircraft or spacecraft, which can be best handled by an expert in that component. A problem with aircraft handling, or reactions of a spacecraft in specific environments, may need the expertise of a person certified to operate the vehicle and having the actual operating experience.
Beginning in the 20th century, new equipment often contained instrumentation that could communicate directly with a manufacturer through telephone or computer networks. This has led to a growth in distant technical support, where a technical services engineer can troubleshoot a problem from another location. Remote support can be useful where operating problems are linked to software issues.
Customer instrumentation or computers can be connected to the Internet, and support personnel can download corrected software directly to equipment without having to mail or deliver it. There has also been significant growth of distant technical support for home computers, where a technician might be located in another country. Support personnel could interact with and troubleshoot a customer's computer directly through the Internet, while talking to them over the telephone.