5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are a critical component of any modern MSP business. The goal of these documents is to provide clients with a detailed understanding of the scope of your services, define which parties have ownership over certain functions, and to set proper expectations for things like resolution times and escalation procedures. SLAs also provide both parties with a level of protection against legal action should an issue or misunderstanding arise—so they need to be crafted thoughtfully and carefully.
When built correctly, Service Level Agreements can help foster a successful and mutually-beneficial relationship between MSPs and their customers—but if you try to rush things or cut corners with these important documents, you'll likely run into trouble. Here are five ways to strengthen your MSP SLAs:
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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 misrepresent your company or the nature of your products and services. An SLA is a legally-binding agreement which should outline exactly what you will and won't do for your customers—so you'll want to use language that is crystal clear and leaves no room for interpretation or confusion. When laying out resolution or response times, discussing the level of support you'll provide and what your troubleshooting and remediation practices look like, It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver rather than make commitments that you're unable to keep.
Pro Tip: Your SLA shouldn't be a one-and-done document that never gets revisited—there are plenty of opportunities for you to review and potentially modify these agreements, particularly during quarterly business reviews and other conversations with your customers.
2. Be Transparent and Honest
A Service Level Agreement is not a marketing or sales document—and it shouldn't have any of the "fluff" or elevator pitch language often found in those types of assets. Don't use an SLA to try and sweeten the deal or convince a prospect of your value prop; be 100 percent honest with both yourself and potential clients when building an SLA and treat it as a contractual agreement. Your SLA should take all guesswork out of the MSP/SMB relationship, and as such needs to be written using language that is extremely clear and specific. Avoid jargon where necessary and clearly define the concepts being described throughout the document.
3. Hire the Right Experts
As a legally binding document, you'll want to ensure that someone with actual legal expertise is weighing in and helping you craft an SLA. This may sound obvious, but many MSPs will attempt to leverage pre-existing templates or other fill-in-the-blank resources as a means of cutting costs and speeding up the process—these can be detrimental mistakes that end up costing you quite a bit in the long run. To ensure that the document you're building is well-aligned with your business model and service offerings, seek out a lawyer with some proven experience in the IT and managed services market.
4. Train Your Staff
Your employees must be thoroughly trained on SLA protocols and expectations in order to eliminate potential miscommunications. Depending on functional role and area of expertise, your team members should know exactly which aspects of your SLA fall within their lane (e.g. service delivery, customer support, disaster recovery) and which elements they are not responsible for. This should also be an important part of your training and onboarding process, ensuring that new team members and employees are well-versed enough to properly explain things to customers and ensure they are adhering to the guidelines and requirements laid out in your SLA.
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.
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.