Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can be a serious subject for many managed service providers (MSPs). While SLAs are common in medium-sized businesses and enterprise environments, they are not so common with smaller customers. This doesn’t mean you should ignore SLAs if your client base is smaller. Whether you provide formal SLAs or you just want to make sure you are delivering a level of service that meets your standards, monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for service delivery is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction.
Your service delivery always starts with the creation of a ticket. That is the first event that can be quantified with a specific date and time. From the ticket we can then start timing how long it takes until other events take place. Some of the common events are:
- Time to first response
- Time until a technician is assigned to the case
- Time until the ticket is resolved
Each one of these represents a definitive stage in the life cycle of a ticket. At the bare minimum most service providers monitor the first response and resolution times to determine their level of service delivery.
An effective SLA structure will keep tickets and the work required to complete those tickets moving through the service desk with a velocity that reduces the chance that tickets get stalled or, even worse, forgotten. A typical SLA rule is basically no more than a simple if-then statement. For example, «If a ticket is opened by A1 Demo Corp and no one responds to it within 1 hour then notify all administrators.»
Some ticketing systems like SolarWinds MSP Manager, will also generate warnings when a ticket is getting close to a breached status. Another powerful feature of most SLA aware systems is the ability to setup different SLA criteria for different customers as shown in the example above. This allows the MSP to customize the delivery experience for different customers with unique requirements as well as offer different pricing for higher levels of service attention.
Reporting is also key to managing your SLAs. Being able to analyze SLA breaches by customer or by technician can be critical in making business decisions. In addition to reporting, dashboard statistics and tools can also be useful in providing technicians and management a real-time view of service delivery metrics.
In the end, SLAs are designed to help you deliver your best service experience every time. The most common danger is over complicating your SLA’s so endeavor so make them as simple as possible. Done properly, SLAs will make your service delivery consistent and measurable ensuring customer satisfaction.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP