What are Service Level Agreements?
As technology becomes more sophisticated and an integral part of daily business operations, it can be difficult to maintain high levels of customer service and satisfaction. That’s why it is important for organizations to incorporate service level agreements into the contract with their IT vendor so that expectations and responsibilities are clearly outlined and all parties are on the same page.
Service level agreements – or more commonly referred to as SLAs – is a mutually agreed-upon scope of work that outlines the level of service customers can expect to receive from their IT vendor regarding response times and solutions.
SLAs are oftentimes dictated by IT technical support tiers, which are typically identified by numbers: Tier 0, Tier 1, Tier 2, and so on. Different companies organize their tiers of IT support differently, according to staff size and expertise. The naming of these tiers can also vary by company.
Most companies have 3 tiers of IT support, but have less, or more, depending on their IT support model. As a baseline, the most common support level is tier 2.
Some common service level objectives (SLOs) that are measured using SLAs include:
- Call answer speeds
- Wait and completion times
- First-call resolution rates
- Call quality scores
- Service availability
- Complaint percentages
There are several reasons why a customer should define and document SLAs, and we’ll cover the top three considerations in this blog.
1. Set and Manage End User Expectations
In today’s technology-centric environment, it is not uncommon for end users to desire an immediate resolution to IT-related issues – especially if it is impacting their productivity.
Unfortunately, many end users may be unaware of their organization’s SLAs with their IT vendor, and therefore not realize that an agent’s response time to their ticket is well within reason.
Once you have agreements outlined for different SLAs, it is important to communicate those timelines to your end users to set realistic expectations and foster end user satisfaction.
For example: if your IT vendor’s standard response time to a ticket is up to 24 hours, your end users will not expect a response outside of that timeframe.
2. Create an Avenue for Consistent Support
Smartsourcing your IT solution to a third-party ensures IT needs are still being met while freeing up your internal teams to focus on other important company initiatives. This also keeps your highest-paid resources from answering level 1 tickets and allows them to respond to pressing tasks or escalated issues.
Another benefit of smartsourcing IT is reduced cycle times by leveraging an IT vendor’s knowledge and expertise. Since it is the vendor’s sole purpose to keep critical IT systems functioning, their agents will quickly respond to and rectify any issues that arise.
By smartsourcing elements of your IT – and with SLAs in place – you not only take away the stress and frustration from your teams, but you create a better environment for all of your users, providing quick resolutions for them in addition to important insights back to your IT management that helps keep the business moving forward.
3. Measure Service Quality
It is important that your IT vendor rigorously tracks their service levels to help you measure their performance and ensure they are meeting expectations.
Because SLAs set clear, measurable standards for vendors to abide by, there is little room left for them to deny responsibility for poor performance. A solid IT vendor will enhance their partnership with you by having customer service standards and tracking in place and provide critical feedback as needed. If your IT vendor fails to meet their outlined obligations, your organization’s reputation could suffer as a consequence.
If performance standards are not met by your vendor, you may be entitled to monetary compensation or service credits from the IT vendor. Typically, there is a section within the SLA detailing vendor penalties and what the client is entitled to if the vendor does not fulfill its commitments.
It is also a good idea to select an IT vendor that provides follow-up surveys after a ticket is closed to gauge customer satisfaction and gather feedback on areas of improvement.