Service Level Agreements
|Service level agreements
(SLAs) are part of a general move towards quality and accountability
and emphasize the importance of the internal customer. They
are usually a form of contract between two departments or
sections within the same organization.
Coverage of an SLA
Service Level Agreements normally:
SLAs are related to general standards used for internal management purposes. They can help flesh out job descriptions and appear in some appraisal and performance related pay systems. Standards can be incorporated, selectively, within service level agreements. SLAs may also be reflected in customer charters.
What is an SLA?
An important component of Customer Service, an SLA is an agreement, usually written, within an organization and made between the provider of a service and those receiving it. It is like a contract, but is not binding in law. Like a contract for services, it:
The period covered by SLAs is often the organizations financial year, but it can be for another period e.g. a project life, a trading period.
Why have SLAs?
It is probably easiest to think of this in terms of what the position would be like if no SLA existed for a service critical to the success of the business. Take for example, an SLA which one organization has with its IT section for the provision of all computer services. Without the agreed SLA:
Contents of an SLA
The content of an SLA will depend on many things, for example the nature of the service being provided, the culture of the organization, and the coverage of the agreement (whether there are one or many services; one or many users). In general terms, an SLA should be written in a clear and unambiguous style, it should be specific rather than vague, and it should be measurable and relevant to the situation.
In general an SLA should consist of:
Specifying the Services
Specifying the services to be provided puts flesh on the bones of the SLA. Specifications for all types of support services could set out:
Putting People into SLAs
Putting an SLA into place often changes traditional working arrangements and relationships. Colleagues who have previously had little, if any, understanding of how their work impacts on others are suddenly contracted to work in certain ways and offer certain standards. At the worst, colleagues who have little liking or respect for other colleagues can feel they are being forced to provide a service which they see as unreasonable or unrealistic.
To make sure that an SLA runs effectively and that the people concerned honour their responsibilities a planned programme of information and training will be necessary. At a minimum this should cover:
SLAs are a powerful way of formalizing levels of service. To be effective, they need to be business linked, clearly specified, understood by all parties and made to work.
SLAs are growing in use and application. They are very important to levels of both internal and external Customer Service. This paper briefly examines some of the issues crucial to the design and implementation of SLAs. For help in designing SLAs or training people to implement them, please contact us.