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How to Use SLAs to Improve Customer Service Satisfaction

Setting and Managing Expectations to Drive Customer Service Satisfaction Using SLAs

Customer expectations can be one of the hardest things to manage. As is the case with many things in life, the difference between expectations and results is often what dictates our level of satisfaction with a service. To that end, effectively setting and managing customers’ expectations is what drives their level of service satisfaction. One terrific way to set and manage expectations is through the use of service-level agreements, or SLAs. You could even argue that SLAs are a necessary component of any successful service strategy. Though there are other ways to drive expectations and measure customer satisfaction, other key performance indicators that you could and should be tracking (these include your overall volume of tickets, your time to respond, your time to resolution, reported customer satisfaction, etc.) the establishment and management of SLAs are just about the best starting point.

What Are SLAs?

What is an SLA? On a base level, it’s a service management system that you can think of as an agreed-upon scope of work that defines mutual expectations between your service desk and your customers. SLAs keep tasks, people, and management in check, but they don’t necessarily provide insight into customer satisfaction – this is where your other metrics come into play. SLAs are all about accountability for level of service, as it is agreed upon by both those providing the service, and those who are using it. In an ideal world, they aren’t terribly complex, but they do codify mutual expectations and how meeting those expectations will be measured. If crafted and managed smartly, SLAs work very well and generally lead to both higher employee and customer satisfaction.

Customer Service Satisfaction (CSAT) Scores and SLAs

As mentioned above, SLAs are not a complete solution to driving customer satisfaction. SLAs need to be combined with other service management-level strategies and metrics to ensure ongoing customer satisfaction. Customer Service Satisfaction scores (CSATs) partner very well with SLAs to help you understand not only how you're performing against your SLAs, but also how satisfied your employees are with their experience of your service. It is important to keep your CSAT score reporting as simple as possible in order to drive participation in reporting, and to follow up with anyone who reports dissatisfaction, so you can understand how to improve moving forward. However, keep in mind that it is counterproductive to approach all reported service issues from the perspective that if you only had more of a budget, these service issues would fix themselves.   Landing a bigger budget or throwing money at issues will often put you in a position to fix things, but there are also other ways to speed up response times, to strengthen communication between the help desk and customers, and to improve customer service satisfaction through automation and other strategies.

Driving Customer Satisfaction With Service Level Agreements

Customer expectations may be one of the most challenging things that you have to manage. But, service level satisfaction is integral to the perception that both your external and internal customers have of your service as a whole. One terrific way of setting and managing expectations to drive service satisfaction is to couple well-crafted SLAs with CSAT scores. Negotiating expectations in advance and measuring your ability to satisfy them will drive the perception of satisfaction for you.
Laura Miller
Laura Miller is the Senior Director of Sales Operations, ITSM at SolarWinds. She works one-on-one with customers ranging from SMB to Fortune 500, providing them…
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