A well-written service level agreement (SLA) can protect your MSP business from legal action, as well as ensure that you and your clients share a common understanding of service expectations. SLAs form the foundation that is necessary in building strong client relationships, so it’s essential that they are clear and well-constructed.
As an MSP, you can avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to costly complaints and lawsuits down the road by carrying out these service level agreement best practices. To get you started, follow these five guidelines when writing your managed services SLAs to achieve long-term success with your clients.
Five Guidelines to Strengthen Your SLAs:
1. Revisit several times before finalizing
Taking the time to craft a well-written SLA can prevent disputes from arising later, saving you expensive and time-consuming legal action. If it only takes you a few hours, you probably haven’t done a thorough enough job.
2. Don’t rely on templates alone
Service level agreement templates are easy to find online, but most of them don’t always include all the key elements you should include in your SLA. You should definitely use them as a starting point or idea generator, but don’t use them as a substitute for your own work.
3. Hire a lawyer
You know what happens when someone with little technical ability tries to set up a network; the same goes for when somebody with no legal training tries to write a managed services contract. Hiring a lawyer can help protect you and your MSP business, and it will also help you iron out legal fine points in your SLA like indemnification policies, exclusions and handling third-party claims.
4. Don’t treat an SLA as a marketing tool
A well-crafted SLA should demonstrate the value of your MSP business, not inaccurately represent your company and your capabilities. First, invest some time in an honest self-appraisal of your company’s abilities. Then you can make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and closely examine the operational procedures you use to deliver every service you provide. The point of an SLA is not to sell the client, but to have a reliable contract that protects the interests of all parties.
5. Strive to under-promise and over-deliver
You never want to oversell yourself – it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to make guarantees you just can’t keep. Many MSPs assume that they need to promise quick resolution times in order to win new clients. While this is important, it’s way more valuable to meet your resolution expectations every time, instead of under-delivering. Remember that you are better off guaranteeing too little versus too much; you can always strengthen your SLA later if it understates your abilities.
Your peers can be a great source of advice on what to do and who to talk to when preparing an SLA. For help finding and hiring a lawyer, Nolo is a great resource for understanding what you need, while the American Bar Association provides a comprehensive list of firms and lawyers.
At its core, an SLA should dictate how things get done. Writing a solid SLA is essential to the success of any MSP business, but remember that it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Following these tips will help you create a document that will give your client relationships a solid and long-lasting foundation.
Want to learn more about crafting strong MSP SLAs?
By Paula Griffin
By Meaghan Moraes