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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Posted December 6, 2016by Jacque Rowden

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SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed. Just like building a house, it’s important to have a strong foundation in case any larger issues emerge. Sure, your house may stay standing through a few thunderstorms, but what happens when a hurricane rolls through? Will your foundation be strong enough to weather the storm? SLAs provide that same foundation for your managed services business, and if they aren’t built correctly, you may be in trouble when disaster strikes.

A solid SLA helps establish standards in case something goes wrong and bridges the gap between your clients’ expectations and your own. However, some MSPs focus only on selling new solutions and getting clients to sign on the dotted line. As a result, they don’t put due time into crafting and strengthening their SLAs.

Building a clear, precise service level agreement will set your MSP business up for future success. Here are five tips to help improve your SLA:

1. Set reasonable and attainable goals

While a well-crafted SLA is a great way to demonstrate the value of your MSP business, you never want to represent your company or your abilities inaccurately. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to make guarantees you just can’t keep. Many MSPs think 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.

2. Be honest

Setting the attainable goals that we just talked about starts with being honest – with both your clients and yourself. It can’t be stressed enough that you have to deliver results that are within your actual capability. An SLA should never be confused with a marketing gimmick. The point is not to oversell yourself to your client, but to have a reliable contract that protects the interests of all involved parties.

3. Clarify specific points

If there’s one place you don’t want any ambiguity, it’s in your SLA. Precision and clarity can help your clients determine what to expect from the relationship, your services and certain aspects of your services, like response times, for example. It’s much easier for an MSP to guarantee response times, versus time to resolution. You should clearly state these times in your SLA and stipulate that they are in fact response times, not resolution times. Be sure that all parties clearly understand who carries what responsibility, and for which metrics. The beauty of a great SLA is that it takes the guesswork out of the provider-client relationship.

4. Properly train staff 

Your employees must be thoroughly trained on SLA protocol in order to eliminate potential miscommunications. They need to know exactly which problems fall within their sphere (according to the SLA) versus those for which they’re not responsible. They should also all be well-versed in disaster recovery protocol and how to respond to issues of different priority levels.

5. Include hold harmless clauses 

MSPs work within a number of independent environments, which means there are a number of different elements and limitations to be mindful of. While your SLA is intended to outline the specific services you will provide and set performance metrics, it is in fact a legal business contract. As such, it must protect your business by limiting your risk. Including a hold harmless clause provides that protection, so you aren’t left vulnerable to conditions outside of your control.

Conclusion

Achieving SLA success starts with a practical and workable service level agreement that gives assurance to your company and your clients’ companies as well. A well-written SLA can provide that strong foundation on which to build a relationship with your client, help you manage expectations and establish clarity. By following the five steps listed above, as well as other best practices, you’ll be well on your way to achieving long-term success with your clients.

MSP Guide to Managed Services SLAs  [white paper]

Jacque Rowden is Continuum's Help Desk Senior Director. The Help Desk supports more than 20,000 MSP clients. She has been managing global IT support teams for more than 20 years. In 2008, her Help Desk was one of two finalists for ICMI's "Best Small Contact Center in the World." She is a regular speaker at user group meetings and industry conferences on topics including Agile Service Management and Service Desk Careers.

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MSP Guide to Managed Services SLAs  [white paper]
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