what should be included in AN SLA document?
Who, what, when and where
The first page (or first section) of an SLA document will detail the organisations involved – i.e. service provider(s) and customer(s), document version history, document owner(s) and any start and end dates that may apply. However, an SLA referenced by a service contract will not require dates since the SLA will be subject to the contract dates. The document may also specify the territory covered by the support contract (e.g. North America or Europe).
The SLA document starts with a summary of the document scope. The scope covers the service(s) involved, the service tier (gold or bronze, for example), and a summary of what success looks like to the parties involved.
Stakeholders and goals
Stakeholders involved in the Service Level Agreement are usually the company offering the service and those receiving it. A service provider may need to define the specific customers or group(s) of customers that an agreement applies. There are several ways of slicing your service agreements in addition to customer groups. e.g. different services, service tiers (e.g. Gold / Silver / Bronze), users of a particular product, or customers in a specific market (e.g. healthcare, who might have different expectations and needs to, say, Financial Services). (#read more: Types of Service Level Agreement).
Whilst not always done, stakeholders outlining their goals can help to place a focus on what the SLA agreement needs to cover. What does the service provider hope to achieve? How does the customer seek to benefit? Customers may want to reduce or mitigate the risks associated with outsourced, critical business services, obtain generalised support for a business problem or task, or obtain a specific deliverable – like reliable, fast internet connectivity.
Guarantees or indemnification?
Make clear what happens when service falls below expectations. Customers experiencing a service outage may seek a refund (guarantee), or ask for any incurred cost to be covered by the service provider (indemnification). On the other hand, Service Providers may add a clause to state that no compensation or refund is available.
Different commercial necessities may require different approaches to the SLA document. For example, an SLA document may be a simple promise to a customer or a legally binding document that forms part of a contract of sale.
What happens when a service provider is subject to takeover by another organisation? Should the SLA transfer over to the new owner? Customers may demand this clause, or the service provider may add it to provide certainty over service delivery and inspire customer confidence.
Measures of service quality (KPIs)
The metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) used to monitor the performance of the service are documented in an SLA. Customers will want to know the minimum level of acceptable performance. For instance, are you saying that customers can expect 100% uptime or network availability? Can customers expect to phone a support line any time of the day and night, anywhere in the world?
Other metrics may cover customer service response times, and outage resolution times. The acceptable margin of error or deviation from the standard should be stated.
The security of software and systems is increasingly important. It is common to define in the SLA any specific component testing standards and cyber security credentials or processes, like the timely application of software updates.
It is not uncommon, especially in outsourced or highly integrated supply chains, for customer operational performance KPIs to be specified. E.g. the number of customer calls answered within a specific time frame, or the number of parcels shipped daily.
When selecting metrics for inclusion in the SLA, consider their potential to encourage desirable business behaviours – don’t turn staff into busy fools with a focus on non-value add activities. Instead of measuring the process (a common mistake), try to measure outcomes, or select the metrics that will deliver the required outcomes.
How can service levels be monitored?
How can a customer monitor your current and recent performance of the KPIs covered by the service level agreement? Should they be published periodically? Options include access to an online portal or the publication of SLA KPIs in quarterly business updates.
Points of contact
The service level agreement should also define customers should contact service providers – i.e. the first point of contact for reporting an issue. How should the service provider then keep the customer informed with progress updates for the issue? When continued unwanted variation in service delivery occurs, how can customers complain?
Suitable points of contact should be defined – either as a named person or a role/team within the service provider. The document should also detail the document owner and who they should contact at the service provider regarding the SLA agreement or the routes to seek redress when performance drops to unacceptable levels.
The service provider may also require up-to-date contact information for a point of contact in the customer organisation who can receive service-related messages. Such as notifying the customer of expected downtime, service changes like an IP address change, or advising of a change in telephone support hours for an upcoming public/bank holiday.
How often should the SLA be reviewed? When no regular review of a related service contract is in place, service providers and customers may wish to review the SLA on a regular basis. Reviews should check that the Service Level Agreement is still facilitating the attainment of goals and objectives for all parties and that the stated goals and objectives are still current.
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More resources for the SLA business document:
What are the different TYPES OF SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT?
As a Service Level Agreement can be used in different scenarios, there are several types of SLA. This could be a customer service desk, network availability, the provision of IT software or SaaS services, or for a maintenance contract. You might have SLAs for specific customers, specific markets or specific products. You might even create a multi-level SLA that defines the different sets of customers who might be serviced by different tiers of product e.g. Bronze, Silver and Gold (and billed accordingly).
Find out more about different types of SLA >
DEFINITION: What is a SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT?
What is a service level agreement?
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a document that is used to define the level of a service that exists between a service provider and their customer. An SLA should record a common understanding about services, priorities, responsibilities, guarantees, and possibly the right to compensation or penalties for underperformance on the side of the provider.
SLA Service level agreement template and downloads
A Service Level Agreement template and example. The template includes an agreement overview, stakeholders, review schedule, the agreement (including scope, requirements for the provider and the customer) as well as how the service will be managed. The template can be downloaded as a PDF, InDesign or Word file.