With late August comes back-to-school. For the next few weeks, instructors will spend time reviewing some nuggets of knowledge that their students likely forgot during summer. And so, in that same spirit of learning and review, let’s look at one of the basic elements of customer support: the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and, equally important, how to avoid SLA non-compliance.
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a service provider and its internal or external customers that documents what services the provider will furnish. It’s important to know what to include in the agreement and how to best ensure your company can comply with the SLA. First, let’s look at the SLA’s key elements.
The 5 key components of an SLA
By including the following five elements, you can be assured that you’ve covered the most important aspects of your SLA.
- List your exact service: By being extremely specific about what service(s) your company will provide, you lessen the potential for communication mishaps and eliminate loopholes.
- Define your roles and those of your customer: Let the customer know what they can expect from you and what you will expect from them. Each party needs to communicate effectively from the beginning of the business relationship for the most mutually beneficial relationship.
- Specify response and resolution times per issue priority: Define the level of priority (usually 5 levels) for common issues. Next, create a timetable listing both the response and resolution times, per priority level. Be sure to specify what constitutes an SLA hold (for example, when the customer needs to respond with more information or issues received during non-business hours), and explain that during hold times, the timer for response and resolution is not ticking.
- Include dispute-handling procedures: When your customers know there is a mechanism in place for handling disputes, it helps give them peace of mind.
- Specify penalties for SLA non-compliance: Penalties for SLA violations, such as missing a resolution time, will vary but often include incurring fines or having to provide credits to the customer. Penalties for violating the SLA are often negotiated on a customer-by-customer basis. The important thing is that whatever is agreed upon is part of the SLA.
Great software tools + a strong SLA = Service Excellence
Without a good software solution, managing SLAs would easily become an overwhelming task that could end up costing the company in terms of revenue and reputation. Since each customer can have a multiple SLAs based on their individual contracts, products, or priority, it is extremely challenging for managers and customer support representatives (CSRs) to stay on top of what has been agreed.
PhaseWare’s Tracker Suite plays a major role in helping companies stay within SLA compliance and deliver on their commitments. Tracker’s highly configurable system takes the burden of tracking issues off the CSR by associating new tickets with any existing SLAs. The CSR only needs to determine the severity level of the issue; Tracker automatically determines the response and resolution time for the ticket depending on the issue severity and SLA.
When combined with the Event Engine, Tracker can help you decrease and eliminate violations by automatically escalating high-priority incidents, providing alerts for impending SLA violations, and streamlining trouble ticket procedures. It’s a smart way to shore up your support team without the need for additional headcount.
Ready to learn more?
Go to the head of the class with Tracker. PhaseWare is the customer support software expert for software and technology companies–we understand what it takes to help you meet your SLAs. Contact us today to schedule a highly-informative demo of our Tracker Suite.