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Understanding Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Customer Support

Keeping up with customer demands can be difficult. That’s why when two companies decide to do business, they often work together to create Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that outline what is expected from each other. Let’s take a closer look at SLAs and, more importantly, how to manage them efficiently so they become an asset instead of a liability…

What are SLAs in customer support? – Customer support SLAs are a set of service-related goals that a company creates for processes that have a quantifiable outcome. Some of the more common SLAs are based around how quickly a support ticket will be replied to or how fast a ticket will be closed. For example, an SLA may indicate that 90% of support requests received (on a normal support day) will be responded to within 6 hours. Many companies also use SLAs to organize their support tickets and better understand customers.

Why do companies use SLAs? – Simply put, SLAs provide companies a standard to hold each other accountable in regards to customer support efforts. They also create a goal for employees to meet so they remain productive. Most importantly, they can prove that negotiated promises between companies are being kept. Depending on the agreement, failing to meet an SLA (often called an SLA violation) can result in a cash payment and/or a discount to the customer. This compensation is for the business inconvenience that may occur from the poor support experience.

How do companies start with SLAs? – One of the most common examples of SLAs to start with is based around ticket severity types (low/normal/high/urgent) with different response and resolution timeframes assigned based on the severity. It should be noted that some companies prefer “private” and “public” SLAs – this means showing customers one thing with the SLAs stating another. For example, a company may tell customers to expect a support ticket response within 6 hours, but their SLA requires a 4 hour response. This gives them wiggle room and makes them look better to customers if they are able to respond faster - classic "under promise and over deliver".

Want to learn more about how companies are utilizing SLAs? Click here to watch our webinar on SLAs with new and improved SLA functionalities and features

How can you efficiently manage SLAs? – You can do a lot with SLAs and keeping track of them has sometimes been a job within itself. That’s why many B2B (business-to-business) companies are looking to simplify the management of these SLAs by utilizing new capabilities found within customer support software solutions. Some key features to look for in an efficient SLA management solution include…

General customization – Find a solution that allows you to set up SLAs similar to how you have them structured in your agreements. Don’t settle for a rigid system that makes you try to fit a square peg into a round hole

Pause capabilities – It’s common for companies to agree to not enforce SLAs on certain days such as weekends or holidays. This is a common usage of “pausing” SLAs so violations don’t erroneously occur

Customized hours – This is ideal to have in place when agents work across different time zones and different sets of business hours. There’s no need to keep agents up late responding to low priority tickets just to meet SLAs

Product specific options – Some products are more critical to customers than others for operating their business. A software solution that allows for creating different SLAs based on unique products can be crucial in prioritizing agent time

Displaying violations – It’s important to see exactly how often agreements are not being met. Make sure your SLA solution can report on violations and ideally go into detail about these violations at the company or customer level

SLA cloning – Maybe you need to create a new SLA with just a small tweak to an existing one. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel, choose a solution that has a "clone SLA" feature to simplify the process

 

To summarize, SLAs can be the backbone of customer support relationships between two companies. Creating and managing SLAs are important to make sure you’re not only meeting the expectations of your agreements but to also hold yourself accountable. Getting started with SLAs is easy and selecting a help desk software solution to manage multiple unique SLAs will help to ensure you are doing your best to keep business relationships prosperous.

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