4 Absolutely Necessary Categories of SLA Metrics

SLA Metrics

How do you choose the right service level agreement metrics when outsourcing your customer service or service desk?

It’s a challenge & that’s a given but the metrics drive your service level agreement’s success. They can serve as performance targets, they can motivate call agent behavior, and they can help you gauge a provider’s performance.

Metrics can also help you answer a critical question: “Was outsourcing IT service desk worth it?

Choosing SLA Metrics

One way to make choosing metrics easier is to complete the following three steps in order:

  1. Group metrics into broad categories
  2. Select the most appropriate metric(s) from each category
  3. Combine them into a “balanced scorecard” for the project

The first step is perhaps the most critical. Use the categories below to determine which metrics go where:

Volume Of Work

 The volume of work is the key size determinant of a project. It spells out the provider’s required activity level. If your out of hours call handling service consistently exceeds this level, they’ll probably charge you separately or want to renegotiate the existing SLA.

Metrics in this category reference thing like the number of units of a work product or the deliverables per unit of time. Make sure you specify the “volume of work” metrics for every deliverable when creating an SLA.

Choose the simplest metrics possible in this category. Doing so ensures consistent results. Metrics in this category include things like the number of support calls per month or the number of maintenance requests per month.

Quality Of Work (SLA Metrics)

This category is the most diverse. Metrics here cover a wide range of work products, deliverables, and requirements. Quality metrics usually measure the provider’s conformance to a standard. They generally refer to things like defect rates, standards compliance, and technical quality.

Each deliverable should have quality acceptance criteria. Some metrics express quality positively (percentage of deliverables accepted). Others express it negatively (percentage of deliverables rejected)

Often, several metrics comprise the overall quality acceptance criteria. Other times a single metric determines the quality level. It depends on the project. Two quality metrics for outsourcing tech support are service availability and customer satisfaction.

Responsiveness (SLA Metrics)

Metrics in this category generally measure the time it takes to complete a task or satisfy a request. Responsiveness metrics are of critical importance to consumers and clients. They figure prominently in their perception of the quality of service delivered.

Responsiveness is often a key reason why companies choose to outsource work initially. Key metrics here include things like time-to-market, time-to-implement something, time-to-acknowledgment, and the size of the backlog.


Metrics in this category measure a provider’s effectiveness at delivering service at a reasonable cost. Using only cost metrics to determine efficiency doesn’t tell the whole story. It misses the relationship between the volume of work and the effectiveness of delivery.

Increased efficiency often reduces costs, increases profits, or both. Sharing benefits with the provider is a good way to encourage it to seek efficiency improvements.

Efficiency metrics usually translate into the same volume of service for less money or a greater volume of service for the same money. Key metrics here include cost/effort efficiency (cost per support call) and team utilization (percentage of time spent on support).

Choosing the right metrics for a service-level agreement can be challenging. But metrics are critical to judging a provider’s performance as well as the success of an outsourcing project. Using the three-step process outlined above simplifies the effort.

Action Point: Review the metrics for an existing SLA. Slot them into one of the four categories above. Then determine if you have a “balanced scorecard” that you can use to judge both the provider’s performance and the project’s success.

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Posted in SLA

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