How MSPs Can Improve Their SLAs

Managed Services

The basis of any partnership between an MSP and their client is a thoughtfully and carefully crafted Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA, which is basically a contract, provides clients with a thorough understanding of the scope of your services, defines who will be responsible for which functions, and sets expectations and benchmarks for things like resolution times and escalation procedures. In addition, SLAs provide the MSP and the client with protections against legal actions should an issue arise.

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When done right, SLAs can build a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the MSP and the client, but cutting corners will almost certainly create problems.

Here are six ways to strengthen your MSP SLAs:

1. Set Realistic Goals

A well-crafted SLA is a perfect opportunity to show the value of your MSP business, but be careful not to misrepresent your company or the nature of your products and services. In other words, don’t over-promise and under-deliver. An SLA is a legally binding contract, so you should outline exactly what you will and will not do for your customers. Be crystal clear, and don’t leave room for interpretation.

When it comes to your resolution or response times and discussing the level of support that your partners can expect, it’s best to set reasonable but attainable benchmarks. It’s always better to meet and exceed expectations than to make commitments you are unable to keep.

Pro Tip: An SLA shouldn’t be signed and forgotten. Take the opportunity to reassess and modify your agreements during quarterly business reviews and other meetings. 

2. Always Practice Transparency

An SLA is not a place for “fluff” or salesy language, as it is not a marketing or sales document. You should not use the SLA as a way to convince your prospect of anything. Instead, be 100% honest in your agreements and use language that is well-defined and specific. Your SLA should take all the guesswork out of the MSP/SMB relationship and should set clear expectations.

Bonus Content: See what it takes to deliver IT service excellency, including SLA best practices, in this IT Service Excellence Toolkit.

3. Hire Experts

Because an SLA is a legally binding document, it’s a good idea to have someone with a legal background weighing in and creating the draft. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t the time to cut corners or seek shortcuts just to speed up the process. Make certain that the SLA you pull together is well-aligned with your specific business and the services you can offer your clients. Hiring a lawyer with some proven experience in the IT and managed services market is the right call.

4. Properly Onboard Your Employees

In your SLA, you outline expectations for response times, levels of support, and more. Your employees should be thoroughly trained on those protocols to avoid any risk of breaching your SLAs. Each team member should know which aspects of the SLA apply to them (e.g., customer support vs. disaster recovery) and which they are not responsible for. Bake this training into your onboarding process to ensure that every new team member adheres to the guidelines laid out in your SLA and can speak to them properly.

5. Include Hold Harmless Clauses

There are a number of independent environments that MSPs work within, especially given today’s remote work landscape. Being exposed to so many different elements and environments leave your business vulnerable to forces outside of your control. To mitigate and limit those risks, you may want to consider including a hold harmless clause in your SLA that protects you should something unexpected (and out of your control) occur.

6. Invest in the Right Tech Stack

When it comes to adhering to your SLA points and assessing whether or not you are on the right path, it helps to have software in place that allows you to track your metrics. Pairing ConnectWise Manage® and BrightGauge®, a ConnectWise solution, can help you track all components of your SLAs and see their status in real-time on business intelligence dashboards. Having access to this type of information can help you make better, more informed decisions and allow you to be proactive about your important SLA metrics so that nothing slips through the cracks.

Conclusion

Approaching your SLA from a well-thought-out and carefully crafted point of view ensures that your client relationship gets off to a good start. A practical and workable service level agreement gives you and your client assurance and helps you manage expectations and establish clarity. Following these SLA best practices can help you achieve long-term success with your clients.

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