Keeping customers happy used to be easy.
All you had to do was provide high-quality products and services.
Not any more!
Today’s customers won’t settle for just good quality products and services. They also want epic customer service.
In other words, they want you to exceed their expectations, and they’ll accept nothing less!
But keeping customers happy takes some doing—especially when outsourcing help desk and tech support.
So how do you guarantee epic customer service from an outsourced provider?
You hammer out a rock-solid service level agreement, the one that puts customers first and achieves key business objectives.
A Working Process
Service level agreements may not always be binding contracts. They may or may not hold anyone to anything legally— although they can be used as the basis for a contract.
Instead, SLAs are working processes that improve service quality by defining and balancing out business requirements, customer needs, and available resources.
But to develop a rock-solid service level agreement, your agreement needs the 7 components described below.
1. Key Business Objectives
This section spells out the agreement’s business objectives explicitly. Your objectives could be to improve service, cut costs, gain access to new technologies, and/or a variety of other things.
Whatever they are, make sure you quantify them. Establishing your objectives upfront helps you determine the service levels needed. Also, it tells the service provider exactly what’s required and why.
2. Description Of Services
This section needs to be explicit. Include what the service is, where it’s to be provided, to whom it’s to be provided, and when it’s to be provided. The more detailed and specific this section is the better.
3. Performance Standards
This section also needs to be detailed and specific. It lists the standards of performance to be met. Setting the level of these standards is a matter of balance and judgment. So weigh each standard carefully.
Also, weigh the individual services differently depending on their business importance. Make the standards challenging and realistic for all services.
4. Compensation / Service Credits
SLAs need financial consequences to have a “bite”. Often, compensation takes the form of a service credit where the provider gives you a certain amount of additional service if the service falls below a certain level.
Look at each service individually, if there’s more than one. Make sure the credits are reasonable, stimulate action, and kick in early enough to impact the situation.
5. Critical Failure
Every SLA needs one of these sections. It spells out what happens when service levels fall well below standards. The section also spells out your right to terminate the agreement if service delivery becomes unacceptably bad.
6. Contract Management Provisions
Critical in long term, this section includes details regarding reviewing, reporting, and meetings. It also includes details on information provision, escalation procedures, and dispute resolution activities.
Don’t overlook this section. Many managers do — and they often pay for it! Make sure you follow the procedures spelled out in this section. It can help determine the success of the engagement.
7. Change Control Procedures
Change is inevitable & so is this section when crafting a rock-solid service level agreement. It sets down a mechanism for agreeing and recording changes either to the contract itself or to the services to be provided.
In agreements covering long-term situations, this section is a must. It helps you define explicitly the quantity and quality of service you expect from your service provider.
SLAs are great tools. They’re working processes that determine the quality of service your customers get from a provider.
They can also determine the success of an outsourcing project. So don’t skimp when it comes to crafting one.
Instead, hammer out a solid agreement — one that not only meets your business needs but also puts customers first.
It’s among the best ways of keeping customers happy and increasing customer satisfaction.
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