The Service Level Agreement has long been the yardstick used to judge an MSPs performance. In order to do this a conventional SLA focuses on uptime and availability. However the usual MSP promise of 99.99% availability isn’t delivering all of what a customer wants.
And what does a customer want? Quite simply, they want their end users to have the best experience possible.
As businesses have come to rely more heavily on third parties to deliver their IT, and as solutions have become more complex ‘good service’ can’t simply be reduced to the pure metrics of service availability. Availability is just one of the factors that contributes to end user experience and MSPs need to do more to understand the real needs of their customers.
A provider might be meeting the levels of uptime specified by their SLA, but this will be of little solace to the CEO or FD who can’t access their emails fast enough, or the online retailer missing out on sales because of slow page-loads. In the case of accessibility problems senior execs are likely to point fingers at the IT team.
These sorts of performance-based issues have proven to be something of a bugbear for the service provider industry; a grey area that falls beyond the remit of the traditional SLA, but remains key to the overall customer experience. It is only by working together with the customer’s IT team, as partners, that these sorts of issues can be understood and ironed out.
Of course having high availability is a necessary starting point but there are other performance based issues to consider. By looking at those things that actually matter to the business – the actual experience of a user, the speed and performance of an application or the MSPs speed in responding to customer demands – MSPs and their customers can look to build much more realistic SLAs and contracts that improve the way they work together.
It is also important to consider that businesses change with time and so do their needs. The best MSPs understand this and establish strong channels of communication from the start of a contract right the way through the relationship, keeping abreast of changes to their customer’s business and adapting their deliverables accordingly.