A service level agreement for help desks is a lot like a marriage. When you outsource your IT help desk, there is a relationship, understandings and expectations, all described within an agreement that your organization has with the company that will be handling your IT help desk.
This relationship you have with your help desk can be very harmonious and beneficial—lasting years. But break that contract, the consequences can be grim.
Today I want to discuss what you should expect from a service agreement for help desk and to make sure you’re thinking about all the dotted i’s and t’s before signing on the dotted line.
What is an SLA?
Basically, you can think of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a contract between the provider of a service or product and a customer. Essentially the agreement commits the person providing the service (in your case, IT help desk support) to providing you with resources (technicians ready to help if your users are having issues) and you (the customer) commit to pay for the on-going support.
The concept of the SLA seems simple enough, but your contract may have stipulations, such as service only at certain times of the day or week (say 9-5 Monday through Friday) or for only certain types of support (maybe tier 1 support that assists with basic troubleshooting, password resets, or issue documentation if a user has a complex issue). Whatever your agreement, the SLA should be written in layman’s terms as to how your help desk support solution will service your business’ demands.
SLAs should lay out the key services and processes required to meet your organization’s needs. It might focus on how IT help desk support can focus your attention on costs or optimize time utilization of folks in your internal IT department. The bottom line: the SLA should clearly communicate what your needs are and how they’ll be addressed.
And an SLA is not cut in stone. As your needs change, your SLA likely needs to change too. When you’re thinking about your help desk needs—past, current, and future—you likely can think of support tasks once needed are of no use (maybe through automation) but have a greater demand in other areas. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to evaluate your help desk SLA to determine whether your needs changed and whether they are well-defined within your current agreement so that your business needs and expectations of a help desk are met.
Why use an SLA if you are considering outsourcing your help desk?
An SLA should put everyone (your business and your help desk support) on the same page when it comes to everyone’s expectations, how to evaluate whether the process is working to those expectations and what can be done to fix any service issues. The cold hard fact is that many SLAs fail to address the big issues in IT help desk service, leaving businesses without a good way to understand whether their IT help desk has made improvements to better serve users.
Why SLA adherence doesn’t always mean getting good help desk service
Even if your IT help desk reports 99% first call ticket closures or fast response time to requests, the really critical times when you or your users need your IT help desk to be responsive or able to help are the times that really matter (see here for some metrics that any IT help desk should consider using). An SLA report likely will always look nearly perfect, but doesn’t show how your IT help desk support is really impacting your team’s productivity or effectiveness.
When you evaluate your SLA and metrics or reports that your help desk produce to show their adherence to your agreement, you need to take a minute to consider the following:
- Are there any problems with our current help desk service not shown in this report?
- Are the metrics being reported accurately depicting your users’ needs?
- What specific changes need to be made to your agreement to better serve your users?
As I already mentioned, SLAs are living documents. If something is wrong with it, someone needs to fix it! As part of your SLA evaluation process, businesses that optimize how their IT help desk run often seek a 3rd party assessment of their SLA and help desk process. 3rd parties not directly involved in the agreement.
Are you sure the IT help desk service you’re receiving is meeting your expectations? Is your SLA being followed? Are the metrics you’re receiving accurately depicting the experience of your users? Is there room for your help desk to improve? Contact me TODAY for a FREE IT help desk health assessment.