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Implementing Service Level Agreements-IT Help Desk

Need help in implementing your Service Level Agreements?

1) Pre-SLA. Before you announce the SLA, practice as if you have an SLA. This includes the following:

a. training the Support Center staff,

b. monitoring response time to ensure SLA compliance,

c. resolving cases in accordance with the SLA,

d. setting customer expectations,

e. managing the work flow within the Support Center and between the second level.

2) Training the rest of the department.

a) Weekly meetings. For the first month it is beneficial to meet regularly to find ways to improve communications and workflow, review Cycle Time Reports and exception reports.

b) Service Group Feedback. Ask other service groups to review their cases for the proper Severity Levels. If they find discrepancies, ask them to provide a list of case types and the appropriate Severity Levels. This will be the basis for Support Center training and documentation.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Benefits of Service Level Agreements for Service Desk

Every day each one of us experiences the setting of expectations. The following are all examples of setting expectations: setting an appointment time, asking for a delivery time and asking for the wait time at a restaurant or car repair shop. Why should your customer service/call center or help desk organization be any different?

The benefits of an SLA are many for the Internal IT help desk or service desk:

· Improves customer service. You will find that cycle times (time to resolve cases) dramatically decrease.

· Facilitates communication. The Support Center staff will be able to set customer expectations in two ways. First, they can refer to the SLA document for definitions on how priorities are set and the maximum time the support organization has to resolve the case. Secondly, they can refer to periodic performance reports to inform customers how the support organization is actually performing. Average time to resolve is usually much less than the maximum time goal.

· Negotiated and mutually accepted. Since internal customers and the support center jointly created the SLA all customers will more easily accept the SLA.

· Documents agreements. With the SLA posted to your Intranet or in customer handouts, it becomes an “official” agreement.

· Defines procedures. Procedures should be defined and followed by both the service groups and customers. When there is a question or disagreement, the SLA can be used as a written reference.

· Sets standards for customer service. This is a powerful tool. It says “Mr./Ms. Customer, this is how I am going to provide support to you and this is what you must do in order to receive my support. I am ready to be measured on how I do and I will provide everyone with a report on my performance.”

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm 

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Needs Assessment Tool-Buying Customer Service Software

Giva radically reduces the complexity of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) buying process by offering a vendor-independent Needs Assessment Tool that allows companies to make a more rigorous and objective comparison of vendors based upon a prioritized list of feature requirements when buying customer service, call center and IT help desk software.

Customer Service departments, Call Centers and IT Help Desk professionals looking to purchase IT help desk software or customer service software encounter a myriad of problems and obstacles in the purchase process.  Giva is offering its new Needs Assessment Tool on a complimentary basis.

Industry Leading Help Desk & Customer Service Software

This vendor-independent tool allows evaluation teams and senior executives making important business decisions to approach the purchase of software in a much more rigorous and analytical manner. The Tool provides the information essential to negotiate a services contract, avoiding the difficult struggle to understand the differences between software products and assess vague claims.

Here is a quote from a company that used the Excel Tool:

"At Patient Care Technology Systems, we used Giva's Tool to document our requirements across multiple work groups to generate a single prioritized list. We shared this list with a number of vendors and were able to make a more rigorous and defendable vendor recommendation to our senior team," said Jim Kline, Vice President of Client Services, Patient Care Technology Systems. "The Needs Assessment Tool provided the objective criteria we needed to evaluate several vendors on an apples-to-apples basis."

Patient Care Technology Systems used this tool in 2005 to sort through their requirements and select a vendor. They have been a very happy Giva customer for three years. Here is a customer case study. A great deal of their satisfaction is due to the fact that Giva is a great fit for their requirements. Do your homework now to document your requirements.  See https://www.givainc.com/case-study/customer-service-pcts.htm for the medical industry success case.

This Giva Needs Assessment Tool can be a starting place and the single document to drive cross-functional consensus of all the departments involved in the purchase of customer service, call center or IT help desk software. We listened to many companies struggle with this process and they asked us for our help. This vendor-independent Tool really helps management teams make an objective comparison of vendors based upon their prioritized list of requirements.

See the following link for free Access to the Needs Assessment Tool at:  https://www.givainc.com/free-needs-assessment/index.htm

How To Get Buy-in-Service Level Agreements

Marketing your SLA

No one likes to be surprised, including your employees. Once you have your project team working on the structure, wording and goals of the Service Level Agreement, it is time to begin telling your employees about the project. You can do this while on the phone with them in the Support Center. Another approach is to email periodic “Progress Updates” that explains the project, benefits and implementation plan. Sending these out every other week will get them prepared. They will be ready to support the Service Level Agreement when it is approved.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

User Buy-in for Service Level Agreements In IT

Obtaining Employee Support

At this stage you should have accurate performance metrics, IT support for the service levels and escalation procedures. Now you are ready to meet with employees to get their feedback. What employees should participate? As a suggestion, your most critical employees might be the best. They are great people to have in your customer task force because they really want to see IT meet their needs. They will not be afraid to give you their opinions. They will certainly question your current response time report. Their memories are long and they remember how hard it is to get the support they need to do their job. They will usually be fair. If you can get them to agree to the SLA, you can get anyone to agree. Also, it is better to get any arguments and concerns out of the way now before you go public with the SLA.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

User Support For Service Level Agreements

I was discussing creating a rough draft of the Service level Agreements and how to get all the departments in your organization on board. It will take time and work to get all the appropriate departments to agree that this is the right approach. Show them "what's in it for me". That's the best way to get cross functional consensus on your service level agreements. No customer service/call center or IT help desk software can do this work for you. Cultivate you allies in the organization. Explain the benefits of having Service Level Agreements from their perspective. Before sitting down with them, ask yourself, "how can Service level Agreements make these other departments succeed?" When you know the answer, run it by a few people to "reality test" it. Will these departments understand and believe the benefits?

If you have measured the actual case resolution times based on approximate severity levels and you have created a straw man SLA including this data, then you are ready to get the rest of your organization involved.

1. Meet with individual managers to explain how their department did on your test of priorities and response time.

2. Explain how the SLA goals will impact how they are already doing.

3. Use your existing allies within other service groups to prepare the way for broad acceptance.

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Creating Service Level Agreements (SLAs)-Part 2

1) Escalation procedures. State the escalation path and time for each severity level.

2) Telephone, Web and Email response times. For example: Phone requests will be answered in less than 20 seconds, Web requests within 30 seconds and email within four hours.

3) First contact resolution by the Support Center. For example: The Support Center will resolve at least 70% of all cases it receives.

4) Reporting methods.

a) Weekly management reports on the Web

b) Monthly performance metrics on the Web

c) Quarterly Customer Satisfaction Surveys results on the Web

5) SLA contract period.

a) When the current draft is effective

b) When it will be reviewed?

c) How to request changes

6) Examples of cases by severity level and case type.

7) Sample of the customer satisfaction survey questions.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Definition of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for IT Help Desk

Here is more on getting your SLA written.

1) Definition of terms. Do not assume that everyone will know what you are talking about. You need to define terms to the lowest common level. Be as specific as possible.

2) Service delivery elements

a) Service coverage times. State clearly what business hours are supported and what is supported after hours. Failure to do this will mean you can be called at any time of the night for the most minor of problems or requests. Be sure to consider the various time zones you cover. Keep consistent and list the time zone you are in (e.g., 7AM – 7PM EST).

b) Environment(s) included. What do you cover? If you only support standard hardware and software, be sure to state it here.

c) Environments excluded. If the Support Center will take cases for non-standard hardware and will charge back costs to the customer, then list that here.

d) Specific applications and network services coverage. List specific applications by name, the times they are supported and the times they are not supported. If there are maintenance windows for databases and servers when they will not be available, then make sure to list these windows.

e) Methods for requesting service. For example, for all level 1 and 2 cases the request for service may be via the phone. For example, for level 3 and 4 cases the request for service shall only be via the Web.

f) Customer responsibilities. Some examples are: How to submit a request, what standards are supported, and when customers should be available for the technician.

g) Service tracking and reporting procedures. Some examples are: IT will log 100% of all requests, phone calls will be randomly recorded for quality and performance metrics will be posted on the web.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Creating Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Customer Service

Creating a rough draft

There are several components to an SLA. It is important that the language is familiar to your environment. Use a straw man to introduce the concept to your organization. This will help the rest of the project team understand the complexity and importance. The following is an example of the categories that should be included in your SLA. However, remember that it must be clear, well written, and easy to read and not very long.

1) Introduction

a) Purpose of the SLA

b) Mission of IT (This is not just between the Support Center and customers)

c) Customers covered under the SLA

d) Locations

e) Owner of the SLA document and communications path

f) Services covered. This is only a high level statement.

2) Service Goal.

a) Overall goal. Example: Resolve 100% of all severity level 1 and 2 cases in the timeframe specified. This is the first place that you are making a statement about what is important. You cannot be a success treating all cases equally. Level 1 and 2 are high severity level cases that directly impact the productivity of a number of customers/locations of the company. You must make sure these get done on time. Getting the others done on time is a bonus.

b) Specific goals. List the severity levels and the time the case should be responded to and the time it should be resolved.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Service Level Management- IT Service Desk

Here are some more reasons why service level agreements may not work. Here are a few lessons to remember as you make progress in your organization.

Gotcha! Service Level Management: Why it fails1

1. No alignment and buy in at all levels of management. It is important that all levels within the organization understand the value of implementing a service level management culture. Without this commitment throughout the organization, it will be difficult for the line staff to understand it, want to participate in it and for the Support Center staff to enforce it.

2. No existing Operational Level Agreements (OLA) within IT. Some organizations believe they can implement customer SLAs without first having established their own internal IT support OLAs. OLAs are basically a service level agreement between each service group. The Support Center should have an OLA between each service department it sends cases to.

3. Underestimating the scope. An organization implementing service level management must understand that this is a company-wide initiative. It will have impacts on staffing, technology, and the company’s culture. This is NOT a project assigned only to the Support Center.

 

1 Original article by Char LaBounty of LaBounty & Associates, Inc.

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm 

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

 

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