While searching for the right IT Support provider, you’ll have a bunch of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) thrown at you. Salespeople love to wave these around as if they were the holy grail; after all, who wouldn’t want a quick response time, or an easy problem-solving process guaranteed by a service provider?
We get it —an SLA is an easy, tangible thing to look at and compare, and selecting a new IT Support provider isn’t a simple task, so this may be one of the primary decision criteria you focus on when you’re first trying to decipher the many different offerings from the multitude of providers out there. No one wants to be the scapegoat when employees or co-workers complain about not being able to do their jobs or not hearing from the company for days. Showing them SLAs won’t cut it.
So let me tell you why the SLA is dead, why you shouldn’t focus on it, and what you should do instead. SLAs reward the wrong behaviour in an IT Support team; as a result, your employees and colleagues won’t get the service they deserve, and your business won’t get the technical partner it needs.
Typically, a service provider’s SLA will focus on and outline the expected response and resolution times (typically expressed as a percentage) and what they will use to prove to you that the service they provide is meeting the mark. But we’ll discuss later how those methods don’t prove anything.
Let’s focus on responses and resolutions and what they mean to you and your team:
How does your IT Support company define a response? Does an automated email when the service ticket gets logged count? Does “we’ll be looking into this shortly and update you” count? Does a response mean someone’s working on the issue? If so, how does this get measured and proven? You can see it’s all ambiguous and subjective. In the end, that ambiguity only benefits one side, and it’s not yours, unfortunately.
Does this metric measure your satisfaction with a job completed and well done?
Well, no. The measurement of resolution rests entirely in the provider’s control, not yours. This encourages service tickets to be closed quickly, not necessarily with the “resolution” you want. What about auto-closed tickets because people didn’t respond? Or simple maintenance tasks? If any closed service ticket counts as a resolved ticket, those get added to the total and dilute that percentage you’re being fed. If the provider isn’t showing re-opened service tickets and adding the additional time and date they were opened into this measurement, then you can see what can happen, right?
Service providers are blind to the negative impact of focusing on response and resolution times for their own businesses. This doesn’t encourage effective customer experience or going above and beyond for a client – it incentivises closing tickets before they’re resolved, looking for a quick fix, and not the root cause. This reactionary method won’t help you find trends or assess future risks, which can and will impact your business.
Hopefully, you now understand how these metrics are ultimately designed to serve the provider’s needs rather than yours. SLAs make it easy to manipulate and justify poor performance because they’re technically meeting the goals and standards they set, despite what you hear from your colleagues and what you see every day in dealing with your IT Support provider.
So, what’s the solution?
All that matters is your experience. Who cares if the provider responded quickly if the response was rude, not helpful, or filled with jargon even those who speak Klingon wouldn’t understand (sorry for the Star Trek reference, we are geeks at heart). Whether it’s a recurring problem or a service ticket that requires a simple answer, the resolution time still shows 98% against SLA. The service should result in a good experience and satisfaction that is easy to measure and can’t be manipulated… Straight from you and your colleagues through the feedback you give on every interaction with us and through annual surveys.
Instead of relying on metrics that only consider a few indicators of an individual’s performance, we look holistically at something that encompasses the whole encounter from start to finish, that only you can decide on – your experience. Each interaction with us, from a service ticket to an invoice, is part of your experience, and it’s vital we include each of these in assessing the quality of our service.
At Sereno, we decided to go against the industry standard and throw away the SLA. Instead, allow us to introduce the PXA – Partner Experience Agreement.
This metric serves the same purpose as an SLA, to monitor our performance as well as your satisfaction while giving us richer and more valuable information to judge and improve the service we deliver. Instead of checking if SLAs were met, we assess all aspects to identify the specific area for praise or improvement. Even if the response was quick and resolved within minutes, if you didn’t get an clear explanation, that’s not the best experience you could have had. You should know why your issue occurred, how it could be prevented, from a knowledgeable, trustworthy IT Support team; that’s what makes a good experience, and why we don’t rely on SLAs.
If our staff knows that each client touch point must result in a great experience and satisfaction, they think about the client’s overall experience by putting themselves in their shoes. This encourages ownership, above-and-beyond staff, and teamwork to improve the client experience. If ownership isn’t encouraged, you’ll be passed from one engineer to another, each not knowing what was done and repeating mistakes. Focusing on overall experience broadens our engineers’ view to include your entire technology environment, not just the current service ticket. They now care about all potential future issues in addition to the one they are currently working on to make sure your systems work together seamlessly.
All employees are focused on and incentivized by your Partner Experience number. You have the whole company working to give you the best experience, and they know it takes more than quickly closing a service ticket. Your Partner Experience Number is the only number we care about because it’s a number straight from you and your team… One number to rule them all! (I warned you, we’re geeks at heart!)
We are so confident in this new approach that we embed it right into our service contracts. Client Experience is based on feedback for each engagement you have with any aspect of our business and annual questionnaires to all staff, which we can do more of if the client wants. We encourage accountability. If we dip below 95% of Partner Experience (PX), we automatically review your service requests and enter you into a service improvement plan. If you are still dissatisfied after this 90-day action plan, we release you from the contract… It’s that simple. If we aren’t delivering an excellent service and can’t find ways to improve the experience through advice or service improvement, then we aren’t delivering the service you pay for.
We live and breathe our values and put our money where our mouth is.
Despite discrediting response and resolution times, these metrics help us track and improve service delivery. Not only because it’s important we give complete visibility and honesty to our clients, but because this data will be used to identify improvement areas and give your colleagues a better overall experience with their technology. Read about other ways we improve our service while saving you money here.
Happy staff = Happy partners;
Happy partners = Happy staff;
Happy people = GREAT EXPERIENCE
If you think you could be suffering due to SLA’s or experiencing unreliable service from your outsourced IT Support provider, then please contact Sereno on 02030890141, firstname.lastname@example.org and chat with one of our knowledgeable advisors on how we can help.
No commitment, no hard sell, just honest advice