Two clear components of successful relationships are clear expectations and great communication. If we really think about it, this is true of every relationship we hope to foster in our lives and it’s no different in business. In fact, those two principles are the reason for the existence of SLAs and SLA reporting. We can, quite easily, reduce documents like SLAs to contractual documents, but they’re really more than that. The goal of a solidly written SLA and regular timely SLA reports is to help foster and build a relationship between provider and client. For that reason, it’s important to understand how to best use them to further that relationship building goal. Quick Links What does SLA stand for? How is an SLA measured? What are the 3 types of SLA? What is an SLA report? How to choose SLA metrics to report on Make SLA metrics reporting easy with dashboards What does SLA stand for? SLA stands for service level agreement. The SLA outlines the type and level of services one business technology provider will deliver for another business. Not only does it lay out the services as well as the expectations, but it also covers the remediations and consequences should service levels not be achieved. How is an SLA measured? SLAs are typically measured via specific and detailed metrics determined by the type of services being delivered. In other words, in a data center SLA one might expect to see uptime reliability as a reportable SLA metric. If you’re an MSP, one metric you might include is Resolved Tickets. Again, the SLA metrics included in an SLA will depend on the type of service being provided. What are the 3 types of SLA? As noted above, the SLA you provide will depend largely on the client. That said, there are, traditionally, 3 different types of SLA. A customer-based SLA is tailored to a specific client. Typically, this would be used when the client is only using very specific services that may differ from other clients and enables the vendor to keep things simple by utilizing just one SLA. In contrast, a service-based SLA groups customers together based on the one service they contact for. In this case, all customers are using the same service with no deviations. Finally, a multi-level SLA allows a larger organization to define different levels of services, such as across different departments, even if services provided are similar. For example, both a finance and human resource department may need the same umbrella service, but when drilling down into the details, they may need a different level of service based on their organizational and departmental needs. The multi-level SLA allows a vendor to tailor an SLA to meet varying needs within one complex organization. What is an SLA report? Essentially, the SLA report allows a provider to communicate with the client and maintain transparency on the deliverables outlined in the SLA. For example, if the SLA requires that trouble tickets are resolved within 72 hours, the SLA report would include data on whether that metric was met and, if not, how that issue is being addressed. Further, if the SLA includes device management, the report would include data and information on each device, its status, and where the management falls in relation to the metrics outlined in the SLA. While reporting SLAs does have some overlap with reporting performance metrics, there is a key difference between the two types of reporting: key performance indicators (KPIs) focus on business priorities for the service provider, while SLA metrics prioritize the client’s needs. Additionally, SLAs can be notoriously difficult to accurately track—especially when some SLA metrics are dependent on customer responses. How to choose SLA metrics to report Odds are that, as a service provider, you already have a list of SLA metrics to report. However, it's important to ask how relevant those metrics are to your customers. Why are you tracking some metrics and not others? When was the last time you reviewed your service level agreements? Before you start reporting SLAs, it’s important to start addressing these questions. After all, if you’re tracking irrelevant metrics, what good does that do you? Picking SLAs based on adherence to your service contract is a good start because it helps you find metrics that make sense to your clients. However, there is more to tracking SLA metrics than that. When setting new service level agreement metrics to track and report, it can help to look at your current SLAs and how well they: Align with your business’ services; Match with the details of your service contract; Support your customer’s needs/wants; Can be measured; and Can be controlled by you or your team. Taking the time to converse with your customers about what they want, or at least surveying them about their perception of your performance, can further help you refine your list of SLAs to report. Basing SLA metrics on the details of the service contract can help to ensure that you’re satisfying each client’s specific goals. For example, your SLA with one client may specify that you'll respond to support tickets within a day of receiving them. In that case, time to response would be a great SLA metric for your business to track. When creating SLA metrics, it’s also important to consider how factors outside of your control can influence them. For example, time to resolution is a commonly-tracked metric. However, when resolutions are dependent on customer response times, your results can easily become skewed. So, it may be necessary to either modify the metrics you choose for your SLA reports, or to find ways to minimize the impact of outside factors on the SLAs you report—such as “pausing the clock” on time-to-resolution tracking whenever your team has to wait on customer input or tracking total labor time spent on tasks instead. Having well-chosen SLA metrics helps make reporting tasks somewhat easier and more valuable to your customers. How to make SLA metrics reporting easy After finalizing the list of service level agreement metrics you want to track and share with your clients, how can you make reporting SLAs as easy as possible? One method is to use an automated reporting system that can pull the data you want to share from a preset source at the time the report is sent. Take, for example, BrightGauge’s own automated client reporting system. In the BrightGauge client reporting feature, you can select SLAs to share with your clients along with other KPI data. In the reporting feature, simply click on the drag-and-drop interface to choose which KPIs and SLA metrics you want to include, rearrange their order to choose which ones to highlight, and drag-click the box edges to resize them however you want. Once created, these data boxes will automatically populate with the latest information from whichever datasource they’re using. Alternatively, all available data sources in BrightGauge come with default report templates to help you get going right away. Choose a pre-built template, feel free to customize it, and you’re ready to send it off. From there, you can use the client mappings feature to select who you want to receive each report and then select a frequency for how often you want those clients to get a report (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). Once set up, these reports will be automatically generated and sent for each of the clients in your client map whenever you set them to send; all without you having to lift a finger ever again (unless you want to alter the report or change the recipient list). For some BrightGauge users, this automated reporting feature can save between eight and ten hours a week on client reporting. The ability to report SLAs metrics consistently helps to build transparency between your organization and its clients—which helps to earn client trust in the long run. SLAs formalize the relationship between provider and client and enable alignment on expectations in a way that , when SLA metrics are met, helps build trust and long lasting business partnerships. If you’re ready to take your SLA metrics reporting to the next level? Reach out to our team at any time to get started!
Language matters; it’s often nuanced in ways we don’t explore. Further, it’s not important just because it’s how we communicate, but because it has the potential to shape the way we interact and the way we understand our worlds. For that reason, how we frame our interactions with customers matters. For decades we’ve focused on customer service with the implication, based on language, being that there is a clear delineation of roles suggestive of give and take, and often in a way that separates our goals from the goals of our customers. Customer success, however, looks at this relationship quite differently. Service, by definition, means the act of helping or doing something for someone. While there are relationships built on service, the key word here is for. Customer success, on the other hand, changes that word “for” and replaces it with “with.” The concept is one that shifts the focus away from what we can do for you to what we can do with you. And that whole idea changes the way we interact with our customers. When we start to view our success as intricately tied to our customer’s success, we shift a business paradigm in a way that has the potential to grow not only relationships, but also business and revenue. Quick Link What is customer success? What does a customer success team do? When should you start building a customer success team? Using your customer success team to guides your clients What is customer success? Customer success, as a customer relationship management method, ensures your team understands your customers’ goals and actively partners to help them achieve those goals. Your product or service was developed or designed to help your customers achieve specific outcomes or goals, and customer success is the method by which you track the success of your service and support. Essentially, customer success helps foster an aligned relationship that ensures mutual successes. While you’re working to their goals, the successful relationship, continued business, and potential for upsells means your team is also reaching their goals. What does a customer success team do? Currently, most businesses employ customer service teams. Customer service is who businesses call when a product or service isn’t functioning as expected or promised. In contrast, customer success is proactive. It’s an engaged method and a dedicated team that looks at data and performance and is therefore able to identify potential friction points or possible opportunities to improve or expand services. In short, it’s the difference between having a reactive team or a responsive team. Additionally, a dedicated customer success team is empowered to focus on specific clients with the understanding that by focusing on one’s clients, and their successes, a business then is successful as well. Currently, many metrics focus solely on how one’s business is doing, how it’s growing, where it’s generating revenue. Customer success shifts that focus to the customer and whether they’re hitting their targets because when they do, your business wins as well. Some of the structure looks similar to existing customer service team structures. Specifically, however, your customer success team is made up of the following individuals: Account Executive- This is primarily a pre-sale role responsible for prospecting, presenting demos, qualifying prospects, and closing sales. Once the sale is closed, the account/customer is handed off to the account manager. Account Manager- Post-sale, this person acts as the primary point of contact for the customer, managing and overseeing the needs and services provided for the customer. They are, primarily, responsible for nurturing the relationship. Success Specialist- As noted above, one of the goals of customer success teams is to have an individual who is responsible for understanding client goals and digging into customer/client data points to identify needs, proactively address issues or concerns, and ensure they are reaching their goals. Support Technician- Even the most proactive team will incur client issues. The role of the support technician is to handle any issues customers have as they arise, particularly those related to the service desk. The support technician will manage the ticket queue, and help clients solve IT problems. While each person has a distinct role, ensuring each aspect of the account has individual oversight, the overall goal remains to keep alignment with the client’s goals and work to proactively ensure their success. When should you start building a customer success team? Ideally, from the start of the business, establishing the members of a customer success team is best. However, when a business is just starting, the focus will likely be on customer acquisition, product development, and other elements that will help launch the business. However, customer retention is often a much stronger revenue strategy than customer acquisition as it costs less and can, ideally, lead to inbound sales. In fact, a majority of your revenue will come from existing customers, so ensuring they are successful and happy is a key revenue generation strategy. For that reason, it will be clear, once your business has established itself and has clients who will benefit from this level of assistance. These are the clients who have potential to be long term, who have the potential to assist with word of mouth, and whose success will help you build your own success. There is, naturally, a point at which it will seem clear to switch your focus from building product/services out to aligning your products and services with client goals and ensuring the two are symbiotic. Using your customer success team to guides your clients As noted above, customer success is about relationship building. The old customer service model involved a lot of handoffs, staff dedicated to roles and tasks rather than clients, and reactive services rather than responsive support. As your marketing team will tell you, your customer’s journey begins well before they’ve spent any money with you or on your product. The one agreed upon point across all sales is that multiple “touch points” are needed to close a sale. Each and every one of those touch points is an opportunity for your customer success team to begin nurturing the relationship (this is the job of the account executive). It’s an early opportunity to not only differentiate yourself in a competitive marketplace, but it also establishes the foundation upon which you will continue to build this proactive and responsive relationship. One of the key pieces once the sale is closed is a thorough onboarding process where the client has been provided a map and has had clear communications about what work will be done, when, and with whom. This ability to clearly communicate and provide a transparent process enables your business to demonstrate the nature of customer success vs. customer service. You can then continue this type of communication and dedication to their goals and aligning them with the services you provide and offer with a quarterly business review. Customer success teams can be the key difference not just between you and your competition but between churn and retention. Developing your teams, having them align with your clients, digging deep into their goals, and applying the tools and services you offer to help them achieve them is the future of proactive and responsive customer relationships. BrightGauge is no stranger to the MSP market where, among others, this strategy is incredibly valuable, but we employ this method as well. Our own Customer Success Team interacts with partners on a daily basis, using our business intelligence software to ensure success on both ends. Get in touch with us today to talk more!
When it comes to providing exceptional customer service, it is oftentimes the small details that can win a customer over. Making an effort to take something just one step further can result in repeat business for a managed service provider (MSP), which is always the goal. Something as simple as providing customers with a quick way to get an overview of their account details can make a difference in the way an MSP and a customer do business with one another. And that simple account overview is exactly what we are presenting this month. The Client Account Overview dashboard is ideal for lower-touch customers or those customers who don't require detailed visibility into the service provided to them. Essentially, it contains basic MSP information for the customer. Client Account Overview dashboard - view here The Client Account Overview dashboard includes: Useful information like contact details, how to open a ticket, where to pay bills, etc. Currently open tickets Number of workstations and servers A list of all services currently being paid for Modules to insert client logos, images, contextual information, and more This dashboard can truly be customized to include the exact information that would be most useful to an MSP's customer. At the end of the day, it's a way to add a professional touch to an MSP's relationship with their customer. To recreate this dashboard for your own customers, check out the links below: Client Account Overview dashboard (public view link) Client Account Overview Buildout Key We'd love to see how you are using this dashboard with your own customers. Please feel free to reach out to email@example.com with any questions you have!