A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is vital in any technology contract. It defines the level of service you expect from vendors, laying out metrics by which it will be measured and agreed upon remedies or penalties if these levels aren’t achieved. In the following article, find out with us about the details of SLA, what it includes and how it use in BPO?
What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a service provider and their customers that documents the services they will furnish and defines the standards at which those providers must operate.
The idea behind an SLA is to create alignment between two parties by setting clear expectations and mitigating any issues before they happen. Depending on your use case, many service level agreements exist.
A service-level agreement (SLA) and A service-level commitment (SLC) differ in many ways, but one significant difference is that an SLA entails two teams. In contrast, the single-directional service level agreement establishes what a team can guarantee their customers at any given time.
Why is Service Level Agreement (SLA) important?
Protects both parties: The SLA creates fair guidelines for both parties to ensure expectations match up with responsibilities. Clear, measurable standards help ensure everyone knows their role in the process, which is critical if you want your service or product delivered smoothly and efficiently.
Provides recourse for unmet expectations: With an SLA in place, there is transparency about what will happen if a service provider fails to meet its obligations. Without one or both parties meeting expectations of the agreement and being transparent from day 1 with how things are going – it’s unclear exactly where your rights as a customer fall apart without this kind of protection.
Gives peace of mind: The SLA lets customers know they can hold their service provider accountable for any promised services and outcomes at the time of agreement.
Who needs Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
SLAs are a popular way for many industries to establish standards and create transparency in their services. For example, if you’re an IT professional working with managed or cloud computing providers, then it’s essential that they have some warranty on hardware failure – which will be covered under your Service-level Agreement (SLA).
IT departments need to create standardized agreements with their customers to verify the quality and durability of services provided. The process has been embraced by many companies, who use these metrics as a way to see how well they’re doing compared to other providers or internally-operated systems that offer similar functionality.
Types of Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Customer Service Level Agreement
This type of service level agreement (SLA) is between a business and its customer. It includes:
- Specifics of the service the customer will receive
- Conditions of the service availability
- Standards for the time windows of each service level, if applicable
- Responsibilities of each of the parties
- Escalation procedures
- Cancellation terms
Internal Service Level Agreement
This is when the company has a service-level agreement in place internally between its marketing and sales departments.
For example, when the marketing team knows that each lead is worth $500, they can be confident in providing 100 qualified prospects per month. The two departments could put an SLA in a place where the marketing department commits to delivering a minimum of 100 leads each month by a specific date. This means a weekly report from this department to management will let them know how many new leads have been received and whether or not there are any delays along the way, which might affect their ability to meet goals by deadline day.
Multi-Level Service Level Agreement
This is what the different parties expect when there is more than just one end user or service provider. You can use this to support customers and incorporate customer retention into your agreement; it also works well for operations strategies. In this case, marketing teams would include sales departments with SLA requirements.
What does an SLA include?
A Summary of the Agreement: Your SLA can be a very informative and helpful document. It contains information about who will receive the services being provided and how they’re intended to measure success in this particular task at hand – which helps you know if your team is on track with what needs doing.
The Goals of Both Parties: SLA should include the customer’s goals. This way, you can ensure they will receive the same level of service from your company every time, and there isn’t any confusion about what is expected or required for each party involved with this deal (you).
Description of what’s needed to reach goals: An SLA can include descriptions of each party’s actions to reach its goal. This could be anything from technical maintenance, consulting, or reporting. If you’re creating an internal SLA, it should describe the different departments’ goals so they know where their roles lie within this more extensive system.
Reporting procedure: The SLA should define how and to whom any problems are reported and the reporting process.
Consequences: The SLA should always state the consequence if your goal isn’t met. For example, your company could issue service credits or other forms of compensation.
The Conditions of Cancellation: There should always be a way to get out of an agreement if it isn’t working for you. For example, maybe your SLA wasn’t getting the buy-in from all parties involved or if things keep falling through on almost every occasion. You might want to consider replacing that old contract with something new.
SLAs and indemnification clauses
Indemnifications ensure that the customer will cover any costs incurred by them through violations to contract warranties. In most cases, an SLA might require service providers to acknowledge these damages and losses and pay out money if third-party litigation results from breaches of agreements made within said contracts.
- To limit the scope of indemnifications, a service provider can:
- Consultant an attorney
- Limit the number of indemnitees
- Establish monetary caps for the clause
- Create time limits
- Define the point at which the responsibility of indemnification starts
SLA performance metrics
SLAs are designed so that both customers and providers can measure performance. The agreement on what metrics should be used is challenging. Still, there’s no perfect solution- instead, each party in a SLA needs to have control over how well their own set performs as specified if they want accountability from vendors who provide services under these contracts.
The SLA should specify a reasonable baseline for each metric which can be refined when more data is available on that specific measure.
SLAs tell customers what they can expect from a service provider in terms of performance and quality. Some metrics that SLAs may include:
- Availability and uptime percentage. The amount of time services are running and accessible to the customer. Uptime is generally tracked and reported per calendar month or billing cycle.
- Specific performance benchmarks. Actual performance will be periodically compared to these benchmarks.
- Service provider response time. The time it takes the service provider to respond to a customer’s issue or request. A larger service provider may operate a service desk to respond to customer inquiries.
- Resolution time. The time it takes for an issue to be resolved once logged by the service provider.
- Abandonment rate. The percentage of queued calls customers abandon while waiting for answers.
- Business results. Using KPIs to determine how service providers’ contributions affect the performance of the business.
- Error rate. The percentage of errors in a service, such as coding errors and missed deadlines.
- First-call resolution. The percentage of incoming customer calls that are resolved without the need for a callback from the help desk.
- Mean time to recover. The time it takes to recover after a service outage.
- Security. The number of undisclosed vulnerabilities, for example. If an incident occurs, service providers should demonstrate that they’ve taken preventive measures.
- Time service factor. The percentage of queued calls customer service representatives answer within a given time frame.
- Turnaround time. The time it takes for a service provider to resolve a specific issue once it has been received.
The SLA will specify availability, performance, and other parameters for different types of customer infrastructure. This can include internal networks, servers, and infrastructure components, such as uninterruptible power supplies.
Consider when selecting metrics for your SLA
When defining metrics, both parties must remember their goal. In this case, the service provider’s responsibility would be to motivate appropriate behavior on behalf of customers and vice versa for consumers.
The metrics should reflect only those factors within the service provider’s reasonable control. Furthermore, both parties will resist choosing excessive amounts of measurements or data because it can be overwhelming and unnecessary for your business needs- but including too few could also present problems if one measure is missed out.
It’s best to choose performance metrics that:
- Are within the control of the service provider.
- Can be collected easily and accurately.
- Can be collected automatically, if possible.
SLA Best practices
Define Realistic Goals: The goal of an SLA is to create a plan that defines what you want, can do, and offer. This includes setting realistic goals with stakeholders in mind so everyone knows where their responsibility lies when it comes down to making these promises come true.
Ensure Everyone is On Board: If you want to avoid conflict and ensure everyone’s needs are met with your draft SLA, then be sure that appropriate parties feel included from day one. Find out upfront if there will ever come the point where they need more information or input on how things work before committing them into place.
Get Specific: SLAs are only as good as they’re specific. Using explicit, concise, and easily understandable language will make it easier for everyone to understand what you need from them.
Pinpoint Key Metrics: You need a practical set of metrics that will allow you to measure how well things are going and if there’s been any progress made in meeting these goals over time. This includes marketing successes (like leads generated) and business operations, such as closing deals with customers.
Account for the Unexpected: One good practice for ensuring that service-level agreements are met is to include clauses in case of unforeseen circumstances. This way, if there’s an unexpected event such as severe weather or staffing challenges, you’ll be able to meet the minimum standard without a problem.
Double-Check the Details: The details of your service agreement are important, and it’s worth getting your SLA double-checked before moving forward.
Review and Revise as Needed: Service level agreements are living, breathing documents that need to be updated. The SLA covers a period and describes specific actions for providers or partners who provide services under the agreement. However, these needs can change during an agreed-upon time frame, so it is important to include options in case changes occur before the completion of their supposed duties. It’s also worthwhile conducting reviews throughout each agreement’s duration.
SLAs are important for both businesses and customers. They ensure that customers receive the level of service they expect, and companies know what is expected of them. Contact us today if you’re looking for help drafting or reviewing your SLA. We have a team of experts who can help ensure your agreement meets your needs and those of your clients.