The Time Is Now To Shift From Service Level To Experience Level Agreements
Internal IT teams and managed service providers delivering outsourced IT support tend to measure performance based on quantitative standards such as whether they answer a call within a certain timeframe. But end users – whether they are company employees or customers in need of IT assistance – often don’t care whether it takes 30 or 31 seconds for IT to answer their call.
What end users tend to care about more is their end-to-end experience. This includes what they need to do to reach their desired outcomes and how they feel about it during and after that process.
Customers and employees are accustomed to great consumer experiences. They are likely to expect that same level of experience in their daily business lives. This means that IT has to deliver the same level of quality that today’s leading consumer companies provide. Businesses that fail to provide the right experiences risk losing their most valuable customers and employees.
That’s why many modern businesses are shifting from service level agreements (SLAs) to experience level agreements (XLAs). Here’s how you can shift your focus to experience, too.
Stop Measuring The Wrong Things
IT pats itself on the back for meeting a long list of metrics. But the actual service underneath can be awful because IT is measuring things that don’t tell the whole story. SLA metrics alone don’t work.
Imagine a person who is German using a chat tool to communicate with an IT agent in the Philippines. The agent doesn’t speak German, so he uses a tool for automatic translation.
In an effort to measure the interaction, the company providing the IT service might ask the end user in the chat for their opinion about the quality of the chat translation. The problem is that the translation quality likely won’t reflect the user’s experience of the overall conversation.
Focus Instead On The Experience
Experience tools can monitor the health and performance of user devices, telling IT teams when a machine’s fan is running, for example. After aggregating hundreds of data points about the device, the tool spits out a score. The health of your machine might be an eight out of 10.
What companies then look to do is shift that metric to a higher score. The higher the score, the less likely you’ll have problems with the machine and the better the end-user experience.
Now the operation of the device you’ve been given isn’t an inhibitor to the user’s work. Users can be more productive. This, in turn, can help the company make more money because the users have more hours in the day that they don’t have to spend contacting IT for support and waiting for a technician to service a faulty device or send a new one.
Don’t Let People Suffer In Silence
Traditionally, IT has worked to address problems only after somebody reported an issue.
But imagine what a user would think if you alerted them that their PC fan had been running for three days, so you ran a script and resolved that issue, or if you noticed a user was having Zoom issues and you contacted the user with a solution. Now that’s a great user experience.
Such actions show users that somebody cared enough to look at an issue and do something about it. The alternative is waiting for users to get frustrated or letting them suffer in silence.
Give End Users More Control
My teenage kids asked me what I do in my job. I explained to them the purpose of a service desk. They looked at me quizzically and asked why people don’t just fix things themselves.
These kids all use iPads. When they enter the workforce, they’re going to not be thinking of how we have all consumed IT support over the last 20 to 25 years. When they need to fix something, they will either go into the Apple store, fix it themselves or upgrade their iOS.
Many people today are happy to turn on a new device or fix an existing one with three or four clicks. Yes, you’ve got to do a few things. But users don’t have to read a 97-page PDF and spend hours figuring things out. Ease of use and control provide users with better experiences.
Strike The Right Balance Between Price And Experience
All of us make choices about price and cost every day. One airline or grocery store might provide a better experience than another, and some consumers are willing to pay for that.
I could go to Walmart and buy the same goods I can buy at Whole Foods. But I might choose to go to Whole Foods because it has some additional nice things and the experience is more fun.
Think about what kind of experience you want your in-house IT team – or your managed service provider – to deliver. Understand that investing in quality IT experiences can help you attract and keep customers and recruit and retain the best employees in the war for talent.
Use This Opportunity To Make The Shift
Before Covid-19, many people did conference calls without the video. That all changed during the pandemic. Although some people will be returning to the office in the coming weeks and months, not everybody is going back to the office, at least not in a 9-to-5 capacity.
Our research with IDC revealed that 64% of business leaders indicated that their organization plans to adopt a different operating model than it had before the pandemic. Clearly, many companies are doing things differently. Use this opportunity to shift from SLAs to XLAs.
As employees adjust to the new world of hybrid work, people both at home and in the office will want to retain the face-to-face interactions they have had over the last year. As The Washington Post recently reported (paywall) about videoconferencing, “When the technology works, it can lead to genuine connection.” Now experiences related to these interactions will be more important than ever.