Everyone in the Managed IT industry, in fact almost any industry, will be very familiar with the acronym SLA. This Service Level Agreement between two parties, typically a supplier and customer, represents the commitment that they have made to each other in terms of the level of service that will be upheld. This can include components ranging from the type of service provided, the required performance level, response and issue resolution times, and any repercussions should the terms of the agreement not be met. This is all pretty standard but, as the industry continues to evolve, there is now a significant move to providing an Experience Level Agreement (XLA) when working with customers too.
What is an XLA?
So, what does this mean exactly? Essentially an XLA will look to dig deeper into the relationship between the supplier and customer and put the spotlight firmly on the customer experience. Afterall, just because you’ve hit all your SLAs, done what you said you would as per the contract and everything seems to be ticking over as it should, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer is happy.
There is always a risk that they could have been unimpressed with something that was said or didn’t feel like an issue was dealt with in the most impactful way, but because everything is working again as it should, that could be overlooked. Not only does this create customer dissatisfaction, but it also means that they could be counting down the days until their contract ends, won’t renew the service with you and are even less likely to recommend you to their peers; and this is a problem that could hit your bottom line.
A good way to look at the premise of an XLA is that it’s akin to how we as consumers view our own experiences at places like restaurants. You may have been given the food and drinks that you ordered, but if you had a rude and inattentive member of waiting staff and had to wait longer than anticipated with no explanation as to why, then the chances are that you won’t be heading there again, right? As consumers we expect a certain level of customer experience and there is no reason why this shouldn’t be expected in the business world too.
You want the customer to see you as more than just a supplier. You want them to view you as a partner and extension of their team who truly understands their business and is a trusted source of knowledge and guidance that they can call upon.
What should be included in an XLA?
There is no magic formula for how to successfully measure someone’s experience of a service, nor can there be a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Each customer will have their own nuances and areas of focus, so the key here is to be adaptable, set expectations jointly and really listen to what is important to the customer.
One of the things we hear regularly from our own customers is how much they value the support and expertise of our team, and that is what makes the real difference in setting us apart from other suppliers in the market. We believe in an open channel of communication and encourage our customers to draw upon the teams’ knowledge as we support them in achieving their business goals and objectives.
Unlike with an SLA, an XLA is slightly more challenging when it comes to setting metrics. Afterall, an experience is often something that a person feels, not a standard ‘yes’ or ‘no’ tick box activity. But that doesn’t mean that it is completely impossible to assess.
One great measure to implement is actually asking the employees for their opinion. Regular customer surveys can be one sure-fire way to get immediate feedback. Providing a series of questions, ideally with a sliding scale of 1-10 where they can rate how they feel and/or interpret certain elements, will give you a baseline to work from. For example, if suddenly you saw that people were only responding with a five or six to a question such as ‘Do you feel like you are kept updated on service issues in a timely manner?’ then you know that is an area that you need to focus on. Ideally, you’d then review the regularity of the client comms and the type of information shared so that, over time, that rating rises up to eight and above. This kind of actionable intelligence can turn a negative into a positive very quickly and lead to a much happier customer.
Director of Operations
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