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Monday, June 4, 2012

5 Things to Remember about SLAs in MSP Business

Producing service level agreements is hardly the most exciting job in the life of an IT professional. However, a well thought out SLA (Service Level Agreement) is an essential part of the relationship between IT provider and client.

Done correctly, your MSP SLA will help ensure client relationships run smoothly, improve customer perception and minimize disputes.

Here are five important points to remember when working on SLAs.

1. SLAs are for Both Parties

It is wrong to view SLAs as nothing more than a stick that unhappy clients can beat you with!

An SLA is, after all, an agreement, and should be as much about what you expect from the customer as what the customer expects from you. By covering details such as normal working hours, exceptions to standard monthly fees and arrangements for weekend working, you can make sure you are treated fairly and eliminate invoicing disagreements.

2. SLAs Clarify User Obligations

A well-written SLA can go some way to mitigating some of the commonly contentious issues between IT and users. These can include installation of unauthorized software; the importance of logging problem calls in the correct manner and the need for accurate communication of error messages.

After all, how often do technicians have to begin to fix a problem with no more information than “my computer isn’t working properly?”


3. SLAs Improve Client Perception

There are many unprofessional IT support firms around who document badly and fail to work according to best practice. Even the smallest client is unlikely to see the need for a service level agreement as an exercise in excessive formality. Instead, it marks your company out as one of those that takes their business and their obligations seriously.


4. SLAs Provide Protection

Good service level agreements can give you protection and peace of mind if your company is unlucky enough to become embroiled in a legal dispute with a customer. If, for example, you have a customer who fails to pay, you will find it far easier to prove that you met all of your obligations if you have a signed agreement detailing your business relationship.

In order for your MSP SLAs to provide this protection effectively, a trained legal professional should check their content.


5. SLA Performance can be an Effective Marketing Tool

If you produce SLAs containing achievable performance targets and consistently meet them across your client base, you can use these statistics to prove your competency to prospective clients. If a possible customer is comparing two companies and yours can show documented proof of consistent compliance to SLAs, it is likely to put you at a significant advantage.

Conclusion

When you combine all of these factors, it’s hard to dispute that these agreements provide too many benefits to be ignored. If you still have informal support arrangements in place, its time to get to work on your SLAs.

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