10 SLA Best Practices for Maximum Compliance

Companies use service level agreements to monitor the performance of the help desk. If you have a chatbot provided by a hosting company, you would expect them to commit to, say, 99% of uptime and availability online. In case of emergency maintenance, you would want them to notify you at least a week prior. You seal this in an agreement. 

As a result, your chatbot service won’t fail, not at least due to technical problems. Your service provider has agreed to a certain standard of service, and that’s one less thing for you to worry about. 

What is an SLA?

A service level agreement (SLA) is a commitment between a service provider and a business that monitors the service provided for compliance and states the standards the service is supposed to meet. An SLA also lays out the remedies should a violation occur.

You need SLA best practices revolving around how to manage, improve, and align static SLAs with a fast-growing business. 

SLA Best Practices

  1. Align SLAs to Customers, Not the Business
  2. Address SLA Disagreements Upfront
  3. Take Cross-supplier Impact into Account
  4. Don’t Ignore Handoff Times
  5. Don’t Hoard SLAs
  6. Set Realistic Targets
  7. Revisit SLAs More, Not Just During a Problem
  8. Make Remedies Improvement-focused 
  9. Leverage SLA Earn-backs for Mutual Benefits
  10. Don’t Let Static SLAs Resist Improvement

1. Align SLAs to Customers, Not the Business

Customers don’t care about business hours, staffing schedules, or staff expertise when they have an issue. All they care about is getting their issue resolved. Most companies have a tunnel vision when it comes to setting SLAs; they center service level agreements around their business and function requirements. They assume customer expectations will be fulfilled along the way, which is truly not the case. For instance, you could be easing on SLAs for global help desk teams to cut costs. But your customers want the same commitment to availability and speed no matter where your support team is located or what resources they have. Always center SLAs around customers and customer satisfaction. 

2. Address SLA Disagreements Upfront

A failure to get everyone on the same page guarantees SLA issues down the line. We don’t mean the vendor and the business here, but the function owners and team members. They are the ones who will be directly executing the SLAs. Oftentimes, businesses assume the SLA expectations are clear and mutually agreed upon, but in reality, you might be excluding the opinions of end-users who do the most work. What metrics are worthy of service level agreements? How many agreements are too many agreements? Are you planning less or more than you can manage? Only function owners can answer. Clear any disagreements and get every function stakeholder on the same page when creating the service level agreements.

3. Take Cross-supplier Impact into Account

If you have multiple vendors, you might want to take cross-supplier operations into account. Processes, in this case, are dependant on more than one function. If you manage separate service level agreements for such processes, you can’t hold vendors accountable for parts that are out of their scope. Companies with multiple vendors or service providers may want to implement OLAs (operating level agreements), which define how multiple parties involved in providing services interact with each other in order to maintain accountability. 

4. Don’t Ignore Handoff Times

Forgetting the handoff delays is a common SLA pitfall. Most service requests need cross-functional ownerships and inputs before reaching closure. When tickets are transferred, a new SLA clock sets off. Handoff times are thus excluded from the overall resolution time and response time. On top of it, handoffs due to business hours and ticket queues could further delay the resolution time, leading to a potential escalation. You can solve this issue by improving the first contact resolution and reducing the number of ticket handoffs. Additionally, you can use automation workflows to automate recurring tasks like approvals, IT asset management, and intermediary ticket actions.

5. Don’t Hoard SLAs

Too many SLAs can lead to too many breaches that are unnecessary in the first place. SLAs are for core processes that your business relies on. Having too many SLAs dilutes the impact of each one and the vendor could get confused about what SLAs to prioritize and manage. It may seem that implementing disaster controls at every turn would ensure compliance, while in reality, they are but hurdles that slow you down. 

6. Set Realistic Targets

Pushing your limits is good. But businesses who set highly unrealistic target SLAs are setting themselves up for failure. When you set SLAs, you should assess if you have the resources to meet them. You should set clear, achievable performance KPIs that can be substantiated with the data you have access to. Service level agreements will be an ongoing part of your IT infrastructure. Businesses need SLAs that their whole organization can get behind, and not pipe dream targets that their analysts assume are achievable. 

Measuring the SLAs

Measure, monitor, and report your service level agreements for maximum returns with HappyFox Reports.

7. Revisit SLAs More, Not Just During a Problem

Service level agreements are not a one-time exercise. SLAs are responsible for more than conflict control. They assess business vulnerabilities, security threats, productivity constraints, and are obliged to adapt and improve the SLA performance at regular intervals. You should move from reactive models to more proactive and intelligent models where your SLAs are always aligned with processes and are on the road to improvement.

8. Make Remedies Improvement-focused 

Service level agreements hyperfocused on compensation and revenue returns instead of performance insights are of little benefit. SLAs are usually set so you can manage your operations with ease and ensure compliance. If you face breaches often, it means you should revisit your very rules again. It always helps to keep SLA remedies focused on improving performance and maximizing help desk functionalities rather than on compensations. Also, you’re likely paying more if you have too many or unrealistically high-performance SLAs. 

9. Leverage SLA Earn-backs for Mutual Benefits

This is more of a service level agreement hack to achieve high performance. Earn-backs are an option that your service providers can avail to perform above the standard SLA to a certain degree or a certain amount of time to make up for an SLA violation. This would cut down their payable SLA credit. You can opt for earn-backs particularly when you are looking to overachieve your targets or do A/B testing of your service delivery.

10. Don’t Let Static SLAs Resist Improvement

In digital business models, companies need fluid metrics that allow them to keep up with changing reality. Static, unattended SLAs hold businesses back from moving forward with their service goals. You should set contractual clauses that mandate vendors to bring a certain percentage of y-o-y improvement on the level of service provided. 

Understand SLAs are 360, not 180 Degree Entities

SLAs maximize your IT service desk and help desk software performance. Apply these best practices for service level management to lower the cost to serve and improve operational efficiency. 

HappyFox offers you a complete package of customer support and IT service management tools (ITSM) for inside-out business growth. Sign up for a chat with our product experts to discuss your business needs.