The do’s and don’ts of service-level agreements (SLAs)
If you’re working in any customer-facing field, you’ve probably heard of service-level agreements — but what are they? Why are they important? And how do you create one? We’ve put together this quick guide to answer all those questions as well as outline the do’s and don'ts of service-level agreements.
What is a service-level agreement (SLA)?
A service-level agreement (SLA) defines the level of service expected from a company or service provider. It’s the promise a company makes to its customers – and to itself – about the standards of service it will provide, both in terms of quality and availability.
Why is a service-level agreement important?
SLAs help hold a company accountable for its services. Most importantly, they provide a framework for what happens when a company fails to meet the promised standards.
A good example of this is when Domino’s Pizza promises delivery in under 30 minutes or your pizza is free. A 30-minute delivery time is their SLA, and a free pizza is the penalty they incur for an SLA violation.
What’s included in a customer service SLA?
A customer service SLA indicates the type of support expected by customers and the consequences that occur if they don’t get that support.
For instance, a customer service SLA might state that 95% of all support requests will be addressed within an eight-hour workday. If the customer support team doesn't meet those benchmarks, this constitutes a failure on their part and is an indicator that something isn’t working.
When creating a customer service SLA, these are the key elements to include:
Services provided: What service(s) will your company provide customers?
Service reliability: When and how often is customer service provided?
Response and resolution time: How long does it usually take to respond to customers? How long to resolve the average issue?
Performance tracking: How will your service performance be tracked? Which performance metrics or KPIs will you use to define success or failure?
Reporting: If the SLA is breached, who reports it and to whom?
Security: What security measures will be taken to keep your customers’ information protected?
Penalties: What happens if the service-level agreement isn't met?
An SLA can be simple or complex depending on your needs. But no matter what, it should always cover what's required for the agreed-upon level of service, as well as penalties for not meeting that level.
4 service-level agreement metrics to track
It's important to identify the metrics that will be most relevant to customer needs. If you don't know where to begin, here are some common metrics to start measuring:
Response time – How long does support take to respond to a request? You should track the time it takes from when a customer submits a ticket to the time a support agent responds to it.
Resolution time – How much time does it take to resolve an issue? This metric will vary depending on the complexity of the issue, but it’s good to keep an eye on. You can measure this metric by tracking the duration of time from when a ticket is submitted to when it’s marked as “Solved”.
Wait time – How long are customers waiting on hold or in a chat queue before an agent is assigned to them? This metric tracks the amount of time a ticket sits in the “Open” status.
One-touch resolution tickets – How many tickets were resolved during the first interaction? This metric will help you determine how efficient your support organization is.
Once you establish your metrics, you should then set a defined SLA for each so it's clear what goals agents need to hit.
Best practices for service-level agreements
A service-level agreement should be specific, measurable, and have clear priorities so that you are accountable for the level of service you provide. As you create your SLA, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
DO be specific
In your SLA, be sure to specify the services provided, as well as the days and times during which it is available. Also, include what channels the service is accessible on, and help manage customer expectations with estimated wait times.
DO outline prioritization
You want to provide fast service to all your customers – but some cases are more urgent than others. Does your service help both paying and non-paying customers? Do you serve multiple tiers? Assign an urgency rating to each and a corresponding response time.
DO measure performance
How will you measure performance to ensure quality? If an SLA isn't quantifiable, it won't provide real value. It's important to clarify expectations so both the company and the customer know what they're agreeing to before the terms and conditions are signed.
DON’T leave your agents out of the loop
Your agents are the ones who execute your SLA requirements. If you set unrealistic standards, your team is bound to fail. Make sure to include your customer support team in the SLA creation process. They will help you determine what benchmarks are achievable.
DON’T ignore customer feedback
The point of an SLA is to ensure you’re meeting customers’ needs, so you should consider their feedback. If customers are constantly complaining about long response times or giving low customer satisfaction scores, your SLAs need to be adjusted.
DON'T forget to update regularly
Customer expectations and support requirements will likely change over time. Make sure to regularly review your SLA – either quarterly or bi-annually – so it’s always updated and in line with customers’ current needs.
How to use help desk software to meets SLAs
If you’re continually struggling to meet your SLAs, you might have operational inefficiencies that are keeping you from providing quality support. Help desk software can help with that.
Wix Answers has a state-of-the-art AI support engine, Spotter, that operates behind the scenes 24/7, tracking and learning your SLAs. It proactively identifies support gaps and will act in real time if your SLAs are in danger of being breached.
For instance, if a ticket has been left unanswered for too long, Spotter will notify a shift manager and instantly reassign the ticket. This all happens without anyone lifting a finger. With this type of automated and proactive support, you ensure that your SLAs are always met – even in times of unplanned demand.
Request a demo today to see how Wix Answers can help you meet your SLAs and avoid customer frustration, while also improving operational efficiency.