As a trusted MSP, we commonly hear confusion from prospective customers surrounding service level agreements (SLAs). We totally agree with you, at times SLAs can be confusing, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Unfortunately, many end users don’t understand their SLAs or why they are so important. So, let’s take a deeper look…
What is an SLA?
A service level agreement (SLA) defines the delivery times for the services provided to customers. SLAs are applied to a contract to set expectations between the end user and the provider. This provides customers with the knowledge, understanding and clarity they need of when to expect a response and resolution to a specific issue. In short, an SLA represents a promise to deal with customer issues within a certain timeframe. Commonly IT companies will determine their SLAs by urgency and impact.
If an IT provider does not use SLAs, this creates ambiguity for both the end user and the IT engineers as there is no agreed expectation to be met. If you don’t know your SLAs or think your IT provider does not provide SLAs, perhaps start with an open and honest conversation of why.
The Importance of SLAs
- SLAs help to ensure your customer experience remains consistent, you understand and know what service level you are going to receive from your IT provider.
- SLAs help you to understand what level of service you are paying for; is the level of service more important than price, a company’s SLAs will reflect this.
- SLAs are a good way to measure the service you are receiving month on month and to ensure that you are getting the service you were promised when you onboarded with your provider.
- SLAs can help you to determine if your current SLAs are a good match to your business requirements and needs.
How to find out what your SLAs are
When you onboard with an IT provider you should be informed of detailed explanations of your agreed SLAs, reflecting the level of service you will receive. It is vital that you take the time to understand the SLAs, so you know what to expect from your IT provider; further still, this information needs to filter down to all employees in your company so there is shared knowledge of your expectations.
More to the point: How can you judge the level of service you receive if you have no expectation?
If you cannot find out what (or where) your SLAs are, then speak to your account manager. Your IT provider should be able to set clear explanations of these expectations to you as their client, to ensure you are receiving the appropriate service level. That’s what it’s all about!
Best Practice: Reputable IT providers offer guides or webpages with SLA information so you and your team can use them as a point of reference. It also tells prospective customers what they can expect too!
If your current IT provider is not meeting your agreed SLAs, then perhaps a review is in order to determine if your IT partner is still a good fit for your business.
On that note: Common things to look out for with SLAs when switching IT providers:
- Definitions of SLAs – Make sure you look closely at the definitions, companies define SLAs differently, make sure you understand what they mean.
- Are SLAs commonly met? Look around for monthly statistics, if they are not visible ask for a copy, are they frequently unmet?
- How many SLAs are you given?
- How are the SLAs structured what are they determined by, is this clear?
- Are you provided with a visible place where you can refer to your SLAs and their meaning?
TOP TIP: When comparing IT providers SLAs can be difficult to evaluate directly as they may be determined by different factors, so review the definitions and stats closely to make an informed decision.
How we structure SLAs at MFG
At MFG setting expectations with our customers at every stage of service is so important. When a client raises a ticket with us, the ticket will be assigned a priority level of 1 to 5, which is measured by two key factors, urgency and impact.
The priority level your ticket is assigned corresponds with a first response SLA and a resolution plan SLA.
First Response SLA: Your first response SLA is the time elapsed from the logging of the ticket and one of our team responding (clients will receive an email to say we have received their ticket; but this is not their first response*).
The Resolution Plan SLA: Your resolution plan SLA is the time elapsed from logging the ticket and receiving a meaningful update or solution to your incident.
*TOP TIP: Look closely at how the First Response SLA is defined, as IT providers can determine this differently; some may classify an automated response as their First Response SLA. Be aware of this as an automated response does not actively indicate work is being undertaken on your ticket.
Extra resources provided at MFG:
- Client Training Area: This is an area that new clients are direct to when they onboard, this area displays a series of videos going through all the important topics such as what your SLAs mean, how to log tickets and much more.
- SLA Guide: This is a three-page guide detailing our SLAs, with some examples, which can be downloaded for our clients to refer to.
- SLA Webpage: A dedicated webpage for our clients to refer to if they need a reminder about their SLAs.