Manage XLA service expectations not SLA assumptions!!

How does it feel when you work so hard to meet all the terms of your SLA’s – BUT the customer is still unhappy!

Historically many Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) were written by IT, for IT, in order to measure their ability to deliver the expected levels of response, resolution, availability and performance of systems and services. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and metrics were created so that they could be recorded, monitored and reported on, within the vast range of ITSM tools available on the market, and many were (and still are) included in contracts that have no bearing on the reality of the service experience – from the customers perspective.

When everything is changing and transforming at ever increasing speed – we have to constantly ask (Continuous Service Improvement (CSI)) whether the people, processes and tools being used by IT are still equipped to manage the expectations of todays employee demands for productivity.

There is increasing coverage of XLA’s – (Experience Level Agreements) – replacing the traditional SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). The original purpose of SLA’s from an ITIL® perspective was to help move the IT function from a purely technical capability to one which organised its systems and technology into business services supporting the organisations goals. This was and still is a valid effort – because for every organisation that has matured in service delivery terms there are still those who ‘talk’ service – but deliver technology – in silos.

The rise in the number of frameworks designed to address IT and business issues is a clear indicator that there is no simple solution to a very complex set of variables. However, if we simplify the issues into the three core pillars of people, process and technology – we can begin to review whether they are fit for purpose and how far on the maturity journey SLA’s can take a service.

What has to happen to better manage customers’ expectations and experience into the future?

Defining the customer experience requirements – from the customers perspective – will always be very subjective – but you have to put a stake in the ground. Start somewhere. The power of a positive experience is the best marketing tool you have. Ask the customer, speak to them (in their language), what is most important to them. Don’t make assumptions about what they need and more importantly when they need it, manage expectations about what is realistic and achievable then plan how to surpass the basic levels of service delivery and commit those into the design of the services.

During our series of roadshow events this year which explores this topic in detail we have been asked a lot of questions about HOW to transition, where to start, is there a framework, a method, a defined step by step approach we can take? One of the key considerations is about how you move from being a reactive service provider to a proactive one. Consider the fundamental difference between the following statements:

• We fixed 90% incidents within SLA
• We fixed 90% of incidents before the user was affected

This requires a complete shift in culture and operations with regards to HOW we set and manage expectations and to not make assumptions about what the customer wants – which many SLA’s are guilty of.

This is clearly demonstrated by the following examples of the distinction between the approaches:

• Oracle financials was available 90% of the time
• We enabled the invoicing/payment process when finance needed it

This is where XLA’s are gaining prominence and increased attention. It is all about the customers perception and experience. Many ITSM professionals have been saying this for years – but how has IT now evolved to a point where this can actually be delivered as a reality in the digital age?

Moving from reactive to proactive operations means that the culture of the organisation needs to change from one where ‘the revered firefighting hero needs to be replaced with the fire prevention officer’.

With proactivity comes increased productivity, but you need the right tools to facilitate the change in approach, for the people, the processes and the technology!

To find out more about the service maturity journey and how to formalise XLA’s to benefit your organisation – join us in Edinburgh for the last roadshow of 2019, dates for 2020 in London and Birmingham being announced soon. Alternatively, drop us a line info@brighthorse.co.uk or give us a call 07785 540171.

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