Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are an excellent way to show prospective customers that your business is committed to delivering a quality service. However, automating them can enhance your appeal and lead to bigger, better financial opportunities. That’s why we’ve put together this practical guide to cloud service level agreements…
It can be difficult to monitor SLAs efficiently, what with engineers running around completing hundreds of jobs a week: tracking SLAs for each appointment (not to mention everything else associated with a booking) could be stretching you to your limits!
After all, you know just how important it is to keep on top of SLAs to avoid incurring costly fines because of a breach.Oftentimes it seems that preventing a breach could be easier if tracking SLAs wasn’t such a hassle, or if your staff had more warning when a breach was close to occurring.
With that in mind, it’s important that you’re making every effort to improve the way you monitor and record SLAs for each and every job.
So…have you thought about automation as a solution?
With the right tactics, and in particular: software, using automation to monitor and manage SLAs can be an absolute breeze. Automation not only makes it far less likely you’ll experience a breach, but thanks to insightful data, real-time tracking, and automatic notifications, it can also massively increase your business’ appeal to yield lucrative results.
First, let’s take a look at the role automation has to play in enhancing your SLA strategy.
1. Automation’s relationship to SLAs
You might not be entirely familiar with the concept of automation, so let’s quickly break it down. Our CEO, Jason Morjaria, puts it this way:
“Automation creates consistency – if something is automated in your business, it means it’s done every time, without fail. You’re not relying on a person to do something (or forgetting to do something). You also know it’s done in a particular way, every time.”
When you take this and start thinking about SLAs, the benefits should be apparent. After all, an SLA is about setting a standard for your service: it’s effectively a promise to maintain your service and uphold quality. As a result, you need to be consistent to ensure that your business remains compliant, thus upholding the agreement with your customer.
Automation removes much of the guesswork and allows you to accurately monitor the standards you’ve set for every job, every time. Depending on what SLAs you’ve offered and agreed with your customer, you’ll be able to check off your criteria without so much as a second thought, but confident that you’ve met another target.
It’s worth noting that to get the most out of automating your SLAs, it makes sense to invest in good software. However, as a word of warning: some software companies will claim they can improve your SLA management, but the solutions they offer don’t include real SLA tracking capabilities (we’ll cover this in more detail below). It’s wise to check exactly what a company is offering before selecting and implementing their monitoring solution.
2. Benefits of SLA automation.
There’s a lot to be gained from bringing automation into your SLA strategy. We’ve mentioned already that monitoring and keeping track of them is likely occupying time that could be better invested elsewhere.
Fortunately, automating the way in which you track and monitor you SLAs can give you that time back; whether it’s saving engineers from manually check-off arrival times, or helping office staff limit the amount of chasing and confirming they have to do.
Instead, by utilising automation software, you can track and easily obtain useful data which will help your business over all.
Below, let’s take a look at 4 of the key benefits to come about from SLA automation and consider how they’ll help when it comes to tender. In particular, you’ll note their influence on improving efficiency, productivity, and lowering costs:
i. Visual countdowns and timers
In most cases, your SLAs will be time-based. In essence, it means that “Task X needs to be fulfilled in Y amount of time”, so keeping track of time is essential. Just like the countdown on an alarm clock, an integrated, visual aid can appear on an engineers smart device or be monitored on a staff portal back at the office.
These visual timers to help them keep track of each specific SLAs far better than simply checking a watch, or (worse) having “a rough idea” of how long something took to complete. A visual countdown will let you track an SLA to the second, confirming exactly how much time you have left to complete an SLA or warn staff to prevent a breach.
When it comes to tender (especially if it’s your first time going for a bigger contract), it’s useful to keep in mind that a commercial customer may be concerned about working with a less experienced company who may not have handled this type of contract before.
They may not trust that you can be organised enough to manage their needs, especially when it comes to reactive and preventive maintenance. Indicating that you’re able to visually track and monitor timings with automated SLA countdowns and, as we’ll see below, notifications about breaches, will put you in good stead when discussing jobs with constrained SLAs, and show you can fulfil their requirements.
ii. A practical guide to cloud service level agreements: Automatic breach notifications and warnings
Working in tandem with countdowns, we have automated warnings and notifications. These provide engineers with a real-time indication of their progress and let them know if a breach is imminent.
Is an SLA half-way to its breach point? Has an SLA been breached? Either way, an alarm or message will keep them notified. These warnings aren’t there to make staff rush (they still need to focus on doing the job well, after all), but it’s a useful way of keeping track
If the SLA does breach (i.e. the engineer arrived later than 4 hours), your operations manager will want to be notified of this. Automated software will allow for messages to be sent to the relevant staff, letting them know in real-time when this happened, which is useful for contacting customers, or dealing with the issue faster.
iii. A practical guide to cloud service level agreements: Reporting and analytics
Having these countdowns and notifications is all well and good, but even better is being able to collate the data and build a report. These reports will help Operations Managers to understand how well the engineers are performing.
For example, if an SLA asks that engineers arrive within 2 hours to an emergency, your system can automatically record the time-stamp for when the SLA is completed i.e. when the engineer arrived. From there, you could work out an average across a multitude of jobs, whether it be over a day, week, month, or more.
Having specific data like this can be useful when it comes to tender. Similar to above, it means you’ll be able to back up your claims with concrete data and examples of your success. For example, “In a two hour window over the course of a month, it takes an engineer an average of 45 minutes to arrive at a booking,” this would show you’re well within the requested 2 hour window and fulfil a requirement of the tender.
This data can also be used practically in your day-to-day management, then be used in obvious ways, such as improving scheduling, reporting to customers, and more.
iv. Segmentation and customisation
Segmentation is a great example of a customisation that improves user experience and helps you tailor SLA monitoring for your business. Not every job you do for a client will receive the same SLA, and some jobs may have no SLA at all.
With segmentation, your system could automatically control which jobs are assigned to which SLAs, for example: only jobs marked ‘High Priority’, or just jobs with the description ‘Fire alarm emergency call out’.
If you’ve organised your database well, when integrated together, it makes the whole process of booking an appointment far, far easier, even helping to ensure that you’re able to match an appropriate engineer when a job is created and so increasing the likelihood your response time will meet the contracted and agreed upon timings.
In addition, the SLA will be applied without the team having to manually check and add it themselves and, as mentioned, notify the client as well. In this way, it appeals to customers during tender even more so, not only by indicating you’re capable of prioritising your workload, responding to emergencies, but also keeping them very much in the know.
3. Appealing to Tender Applications with Automated SLAs
When it comes to tendering, you need to be able to show the buyer hard facts about what your business can achieve. Being able to present accurate reports and in-depth analytics is one way of doing this and, as mentioned above, through automating you SLAs, you’ll be able to put together an aggregated, comprehensive report.
One particularly wonderful thing is being able to figure out and then present your SLA compliance rate. This can give you a huge advantage over competitors who don’t have this information, so you’ll want it to hand when it comes to facing off the competition at tender.
If you can demonstrate that your business has a history of completing SLAs consistently, with a solid track record indicating as few breaches as possible (ideally 0), you’re far more likely to impress, and win more contracts. Automation makes a strong case for helping you obtain this data, particularly if you’re using software that enables you to digitally track and monitor them on a job-by-job basis.
Now, for every job you complete where SLAs are in use, they’ll be automatically logged (completed or breached), and added to the over information in your database. From there, you can access accurate information about your business’ SLA compliance for each metric you’re measuring. You can then download and review these stats to build reports that cover days, weeks, months, years, or more. The more accurate you can be, the better you’ll appear in tender.
It’s not all about the statistics of SLA completion though, by conforming to the promises in your SLA, you’ll be able to better argue your case and indicate positive outcomes elsewhere:
Do you have responsive engineers? ✅
Do you resolve emergency request promptly? ✅
Are engineers arriving to appointments within the scheduled time frames? ✅
Do you confirm jobs and assign engineers swiftly? ✅
Ultimately, it’s another way to ensure that your company is doing the great work it’s meant to be doing, and showing that you do it well. This way, as an Operations Manager, you’ll be able to better monitor what’s working well, or perhaps what might need more attention, but also demonstrate these points when it comes to tender.
The takeaway on our practical guide to cloud service level agreements
Remember, staying on top of your SLAs is the most important thing, so alongside doing great work to meet those targets, you need to implement a system to keep track.
While job management software with SLA tracking is certainly the best way to go, you may wish to get started with a simpler solution, especially if you’re just getting started. So, to help you out, we’ve prepared a free spreadsheet and helpful guide that you can download to track and monitor SLA completion: click below to get yours today!
I'm eager to share great stories, advice, and tips that can help inspire and motivate field service businesses to find success. It's that, or I'm hunting down the best bagel recipe I can get my hands on!