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Service Level Agreements: A 5-Step Guide for SME IT Consultants

Service Level Agreements: A 5-Step Guide for SME IT Consultants Chances are, you don’t find the topic of service level agreements (SLAs) especially exciting. They are however, a very useful tool, both for managing customer expectations and for protecting your IT business if things go wrong.

Some SME IT consultants don’t bother with service level agreements, preferring to keep things informal. While this may work for some, it is a rather amateurish approach and one that could discourage prestigious potential clients.

Here’s a five-step guide to getting started with service level agreements:

1. Decide how formal you wish to be

Working with some SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) can be jovial and light-hearted. Other small companies take themselves very seriously. Either way, you need to decide what kind of IT consultancy you’re going to be.

You need to get the balance right. After all, presenting a one-man band startup client with a multiple-page service level agreement may come across as disproportionately formal. At the same time, putting nothing in writing with a larger and more established business could make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

2. Work out what you can truly commit to

Before you can draw up workable SLAs, be honest with yourself about what you (and your team) can agree to. For example, is a one-hour response and four-hour resolution time something you can always guarantee? Could this target slip if two clients reported a problem at the same time?

It’s important to remember that SLAs are agreements that lay out what customers can expect of you, and vice versa. Tackled correctly, they can benefit both parties.

3. Decide whether to use SLAs with all clients

Obviously, the ideal is to have a well-written SLA in place with all of your clients, but there may be situations where it’s unwise to sign up to something unrealistic.

A good example here is if you have a client who stubbornly refuses to invest sensibly in up to date infrastructure. If a customer has willfully placed you in a position where you have to support a crumbling system, it probably doesn’t make sense to sign up to have it fixed within an unrealistic timeframe.

4. Be prepared to make tweaks for different customers

It’s very unlikely that a standard “boiler plate” SLA will work for every customer. They all have different systems and requirements, and your agreed service levels may differ between clients too.

So, start from a core template, but be ready to add, subtract, and amend for each client as necessary.

5. Continually monitor your progress

There’s little point in having a service level agreement if nobody checks you are complying with it and (hopefully) exceeding your targets.

Over time, your performance against agreed service levels can help you as a marketing tool. In the same way that airlines boast that x% of their flights arrive on time, you can begin to draw attention to how quickly you resolve IT problems.

 

What’s your company’s approach to service level agreements? Let us know in the Comments box below.

 

And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on IT Service Contract Secrets for Getting More Repeat Clients and Recurring Service Revenue.

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