What is a Service Level Agreement?

Your Service Level Agreement is part of your contract with your MSP or IT services clients. It will create the foundation for your relationship with your clients, and explain baseline metrics for what they can expect from you in terms of quality, availability, response time, and more. It will also add details such as who will be responsible for certain elements of service, where extra fees will be incurred, and what metrics will trigger different levels of support or attention.

As an MSP, understanding how to define your SLA is essential for great customer management and also for business impact on your own company. In some service industries such as managing cybersecurity, the stakes are so high that a water-tight SLA becomes an imperative. Let’s go through what you need to know, and some best practices for improving your SLA, too.

 

Types of SLA

 

Your SLA should be ready to go when you onboard a new client, as part of your onboarding process. If you’re looking for some ideas, Atera has a free SLA matrix as part of our onboarding proposal template, which you can download here.

 

There are a few types of SLA that you might want to consider, to work out which would be the best choice for your business. Let’s cover a few here, and the pros and cons of each.

 

  • Customer-based SLA: This kind of agreement will look at a specific type of customer, and cover their exact services. One example could be for medical-related customers, and cover their helpdesk, billing, security tools and more. You might offer one SLA for these customers, and another for retail customers or finance-based organizations. The benefits here are you can offer a package that is very niche to the type of customer and what they need – eliminating the back and forth when you try to fit one SLA type to different kinds of businesses that may have unique or more critical needs. However, it’s obviously more complex to manage.
  • Service-based SLA: In this case, you reduce the complexity on your side and offer the same SLA to all of your customers, based on what services you are offering. You agree on a set response time for all customers, and specify when you will jump in and take responsibility across the board. The problem with this approach is that not everyone will need the same level of service, and in some cases you might be pulling down the level of service for those with high-level needs. Let’s say one customer asks you to sort out high-speed internet for example, how will you address this in a ‘one size fits all’ SLA?
  • Multi-level SLA: In this situation, you don’t segment SLAs by customer, but by the varying needs, even within the same customer or client. That means you have a few SLAs set up, and you can roll them out or upgrade existing customers depending on their needs. You could offer a service-level SLA as standard, a specific type of SLA for high-needs customers, and a premium SLA which could be for the C-suite or those with critical customer-facing roles, or even for customers who are willing to pay for premium support. Of course, to make this work you need to be able to offer flexible contracts with various rates on the same invoice where necessary.

 

How to Think About SLA Possible Calculations

 

So, what should you be including in your SLA? First, cover everything that you’re responsible for managing, and be thorough! Then, highlight anything that you don’t cover – especially where you think there might be a misunderstanding, or you offer these extras for a premium price.

 

Now it’s time to think about the numbers. In some cases you might want to offer percentage-based goals, for example with network connectivity you might offer uptime at 99.9%. You might discuss maintenance and downtime in your SLA, too.

 

Essentially, your SLA will calculate what’s expected of you in terms of responsiveness and resolution times. You might decide to have a table or a chart where you describe different levels of criticality, and how quickly these issues will be solved or attended to. A full system shutdown would obviously need the quickest response time and you might promise this response time within a matter of hours, while a single user issue, or some unusual behavior with the router or an access switch could be dealt with within two days. You can find some common metrics worth thinking about tracking here.

 

Make sure that you highlight in your SLA who your customer’s contact should be, the method with which you expect them to reach out, and who would be a back-up option if that contact is unavailable. You can also include terms and conditions for your business if the contract terms are not met as written, which may allow your client to end their contract early, or even ask you to take responsibility over costs incurred due to your inability to meet your SLA. At Atera we offer the ability to prompt you when a ticket time reaches a certain threshold for example, so that you’re never in danger of defaulting on your SLA word.

 

How to Improve your SLA as an MSP

 

It’s important to consider that your SLA is not aspirational – ie, you need to be able to meet the requirements that you lay out for yourself, and even more than that, you should be looking for ways to exceed your SLA and delight your customers, too. There’s no point overpromising on your SLA just to get a customer through the door, and then being unable to fulfil your promises. After all, scraping by with a mean time to resolution or response that only just covers your SLA won’t have your customers telling their friends about you.
Atera includes many opportunities for automation and proactive support so that you can reduce the number of urgent support tickets that come in, without needing to continue to scale your Customer Support Representatives to meet your business growth.

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