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The problem with the SLA and NPS

Published: 11 January 2019

Reliance on Service Level Agreements (SLA) is typically another step on the road to developing poor MSP to customer relationships. Yes, the SLA sets the boundaries and expectations for what level of service the customer is promised, but it also means that the provider only delivers the minimum to meet this agreement, usually at the lowest cost to themselves.

The SLA is a by-product of providers failing to deliver an adequate service and is built upon penalties and fines if the contracted services underperform. Customers are not interested in monitoring and chasing their service provider, they just want a good service that enables their business to run efficiently.

As services are dynamic, guaranteeing 99.999% availability is meaningless when specific objectives haven’t been set and the end user’s actual experience isn’t considered. The ‘Five Nines’ statistic implies that over the span of a year, there will only be 5.26 minutes of total downtime; either planned or unplanned. MSPs need to be moving away from having this as their sole focus; it’s a technical objective and doesn’t consider user experience and taking a proactive approach to prevent infrastructure failure. The customer needs to see their provider as a strategic partner that isn’t driven by SLA discussions but rather those that focus on enriching a customer’s service and providing continuous guidance and knowledge on business activities.

A bad word goes a long way…

“Bad experiences kill loyalty, brand reputation and erode revenue.”

Word of mouth recommendations are effective, but for people to actively recommend their provider to others, the MSP must be delivering something remarkably unique.

Similarly, to the SLA, Net Promoter Score (NPS) is another statistic which is very commonly used, but it is not always a true reflection of service levels experienced. Several MSPs use NPS as a selling point to attract prospects, with the thought that as long as the service looks enticing on the service that’s all that matters and not the underlying issues existing within current customers.

While a low NPS score is a cause for concern, a high score isn’t necessarily good news either, because customer satisfaction doesn’t always equal customer retention. Customers can be satisfied with a service without having positive feelings about it, and those who fill in NPS survey forms are often not the ones who have experienced the service for themselves. Thus, it is not always a true reflection.

This is a part two of a three-part blog series. Read part one here.