SLAs: The Foundation for Stronger Customer Relationships

Posted on: August 25, 2016

Your service level agreement (SLA) sets the tone for your relationship with a new client by outlining your responsibilities, your client’s responsibilities, and the terms and timelines you will both work under.

When you’re clear on expectations, you’ll be able to measure and manage the user experience in a meaningful way and position yourself as a trusted advisor. The better your agreement, the more you and your clients benefit.

Why Do I Need an SLA?

SLAs deliver clear advantages to you and your customers. By implementing SLAs, you can specify exactly what is (and is not) covered, document roles and responsibilities for both parties, and define service prerequisites that set you up for success. When it’s done well, an SLA delivers peace of mind to your customers, who can refer back to agreed-upon deliverables, see clearly defined terms of service, and access specific instructions for support and
escalation.

 

Where Do I Start?

Your SLA doesn’t have to be a challenge. Start with a few simple Dos & Don’ts to get you on your way:

  • Don’t treat it as a solution to customer-reported issues. Address concerns immediately, so your customers feel heard, and then revisit the SLA if necessary.
  • Don’t make it one-sided. Your SLA needs to work for you and your customer, so make sure it is equally beneficial.
  • Don’t let issues fester. Define thresholds to alert you to issues before they impact your SLA, and communicate performance expectations down to your sales and marketing teams to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Do develop a framework to help you map out your SLA and maximize your efficiency. Rely on automated workflows, where possible, to help you save time and deliver faster service.
  • Do identify specifically what is and is not covered to avoid confusion on both sides. Make sure important things like your availability and contact information are clearly defined.
  • Do monitor compliance by measuring your progress against SLA goals. Rely on reporting to help you keep customers aware of how you’re meeting and exceeding your SLA promises.
  • Do automate reporting. Providing real-time performance to customers through automated reporting provides full transparency into the real status of the agreed upon metrics.

 

What Should An SLA Include?

The following sections are a great foundation for your SLA, and should be included along with clear explanation:

  • Definition of Service
  • Fees and Payment Schedule
  • Taxes
  • Coverage Hours
  • Exclusions
  • Performance Measurement
  • Incident Management Process and Response Time
  • Limitation of Liability
  • Service Requirements
  • Covered Equipment and/or Services
  • Minimum Standards
  • Confidentiality
  • Security

Since your SLA is a legal document, you also want to make sure it is reviewed by a qualified legal professional who understands the industry and any relevant verticals or regulatory considerations.

 

Is It Time To Refresh My SLA?

Things change in every relationship, and your relationship with your customer is no different. On a pre-established, regular schedule, you should meet with your customer to revisit your SLA and make sure it is still meeting the needs of both parties. If it isn’t, you might need a refresh.
Here are 5 reasons why it might be time to refresh your SLA:

  1. You’re offering a new service. Don’t set yourself up for failure by allowing new services—with new
    requirements—to be governed by an old SLA.
  2. Your team is struggling to meet timelines. If you can’t meet current SLA expectations, especially if it’s because
    you’re constantly delivering higher quality work, it’s time to renegotiate.
  3. It’s confusing. If you’re constantly getting questions about a particular section of your SLA, it needs to be
    rewritten for clarity.
  4. It isn’t keeping up. Technology changes fast, and sometimes your SLAs might not reflect the change. Use revision time to update your standards and stay competitive.
  5. Disputes are on the rise. If you’re losing customers to SLA-related disputes, especially at a higher
Originally posted by LabTech Software

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