Measuring the performance of your firm’s help desk is an integral part of understanding your client’s needs. In fact, in this high-tech age, if you are operating a help desk without some method of managing or measuring performance, your organization will almost certainly be at a disadvantage when attempting to meet their customer’s expectations and staying competitive. Measuring help desk performance usually begins with the Service Level Agreement. This post will define the Service Level Agreement (SLA), its purpose, common characteristics of effective SLAs, and the benefits of having an SLA in place.
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a written agreement between the help desk and its customers that defines a specified level of service. The agreement sets forth the expectations of support provided by the help desk for their products and services. The SLA is the primary “Go-To” document for leadership that provides a starting point for ensuring that the client is receiving the appropriate level of service.
The main purpose of the SLA is to define the terms of what users can expect from the help desk when reaching out for support. The SLA should include the scope of services provided such as the types of hardware and software supported and other related services such as how-to operational assistance, or scheduled maintenance. It should also contain the level of service for response time and hours of operation, a method for evaluating and reporting on fulfillment of the agreement, and a process for escalation and handling conflict between user and analyst.
An SLA will include some combination of the following information:
- Client Company Name and Authorized Users
- Mission Statement/Core Objectives
- Terminology – Specific terms that are used throughout the agreement such as Down-Time or Scheduled Outages
- The 4 Ws: Who, What, When & Where:
- Who should the user contact for support? Support team, Account Manager, Project Manager
- What are the methods of contact? Phone, email, portal
- When can I contact support? Days & hours of coverage.
- Where will the services be provided? Remote/Onsite
- List services supported
- List services not supported
- Service level goals/guarantee
- Escalation procedures – includes various options for escalating issues
- Measurable events or milestones specified in the agreement
- Customer satisfaction (Surveys, cold-calls)
When developing SLAs, do not over commit to a level of service you cannot deliver. Start by developing agreements that include more moderate performance deliverables and then increase your standards as you gain more experience. Below are some best practices for developing your SLAs:
- Highly measurable including components for metrics, reporting, and conflict resolution
- Easy to understand with a clear definition of terminologies such as response and resolution times, and categorization of problem type.
- Levels of services & service types defined
- Based on mutual consideration of business goals and user requirements
- Developed with involvement from leadership, help desk analysts, and users
- Roles and responsibilities of all parties defined
- Standards for service evaluation defined
- Set realistic terms of delivery
Having an established SLA between the help desk and its customers provides several benefits. First, it allows you to set expectations and establish accountability for all parties. It standardizes service levels; provides formal, written documentation; defines criteria for accessing service levels, and sets benchmarks for improving overall performance.
Use SLAs to help define and set expectations for all relevant stakeholders, enhance communication with your customers and internal team members, assess performance and the delivery of service, improve the overall customer experience, and deliver the Power of Being Understood.
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By: Nancy Hogan