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SLAs May Be Killing Your Service Desk

It's no mystery that everyone's job is dependent on technology. How long can a sales director go without access to the CRM platform? How long can the creative manager survive while locked out of Photoshop? How well can YOU perform when your laptop won't start? Employees need these fixes fast, which is why the service desk team creates service level agreements (SLAs). SLAs help the service desk prioritize tickets and resolve employee issues in a timely manner. The establishment and management of SLAs is a great starting point to ensure expectations are met. However, if not done correctly, SLAs can overwhelm service desk technicians, causing breaches, unresolved tickets, and unhappy customers. This post will explain how to keep it simple and tailor SLAs to best fit your organization.

How to audit current SLAs for common mistakes

What do your SLAs usually contain? How well the agreement holds up most likely depends on its parameters. This is a great place to apply ITIL guiding principles Focus on Value and Start Where You Are. There isn’t much of a need to start from scratch if there is a basic outline of parameters in your SLAs. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when examining them for efficiency:
  1. What service is to be provided, including a detailed description of those applications and/or services?
  2. What is each party (the customer and the service pro) responsible for?
  3. What level of service is to be provided?
  4. What is the duration of said services?
  5. How will the performance of the service be monitored and evaluated, including specific metrics that will be used to track and rate the service?
  6. What exactly will happen if the service pro fails to provide this service, or to provide it as promised?
  7. If there is a disagreement between the customer and vendor, how will the dispute be resolved?
Referring to these questions helps ensure the expected level of service, allowing service providers to work with what they already have rather than completely starting over.

Start with simple rules that are easy to track

Keep it simple and practical. This ITIL guiding principle means using the minimum number of steps necessary to accomplish an objective. The work completed should create results, not more work. To get started with an SLAs, create some rules around comments and resolutions compared with ticket priority. This is where you may have heard the term, “SLA matrix.”
Priority Comment on ticket Resolve ticket
Low  Rule #1  Rule #5
Medium  Rule #2  Rule #6
High  Rule #3  Rule #7
Critical  Rule #4  Rule #8
Create eight basic SLA rules—four for resolutions based on those priorities and four for comments. Setting baselines can help if you have to readjust settings in the future. From here, you can create escalations and notifications to help your team fulfill its agreements. Evaluate success rates to determine if your processes are working.

Automate ticket routing

Automated ticket routing is a great example of “preparation is the key to success.” Designating a certain person or group of people for specific tickets cuts down on time trying to find and assign them to take care of the issue when it arises. Think of some ways that will help your teams meet their SLAs. Are tickets waiting in the queue for assignment? That could cost valuable time between incident creation and comments and/or resolution. After SLA parameters have been structured, they can then be automatically routed to the appropriate people to take care of. For example, if a ticket is submitted because Salesforce is down, it can be routed to the applications team for them to respond that they’ve received the ticket, provide a deadline for when Salesforce should be back up, and notify affected customers when the issue has been resolved.

What if SLAs aren’t being met?

This may be another opportunity for the SLA’s criteria to be reviewed. SLA reviews should be thorough and often since customer needs and workflows change. Depending on the company, there may be penalties when service providers don’t meet performance standards. They may even use those breached SLAs to engage in conversation with service providers, finding ways to boost productivity and tailor SLA parameters to make them more attainable. Problems with SLAs can include any of the following: overwhelmed with unrealistic parameters, doesn’t contain enough information, or well-constructed and efficient. This all depends on how often they’re reviewed, how they’re structured, and how they’re being revised if the SLAs aren’t being met. By ensuring these factors, the overall goals of meeting customers’ expectations, boosting their satisfaction, and maintaining workflows will be met.
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Melody Scheidler
Melody Scheidler is an ITIL 4 certified senior solutions engineer at SolarWinds with expertise in ITSM best practices, service desk integrations and API, and SaaS…
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