MSP SLAs Vs. CX

MSP SLAs

In managed service provider (MSP) contracts and many internal IT service provider arrangements, service level agreements (SLAs) are integral to the contract between the supplier and the customer. For years, SLAs have played a significant role in measuring the services provided (by the service provider) and have made the supplier accountable for each service they provide. In addition to the contractual standpoint, an MSP SLA might include service fees, penalties, at-risk amounts, performance bonuses, etc.

If you work in the service industry, you likely know what an SLA is. Plus, how it’s measured and delivered. However, when SLAs are green and targets are achieved, are all customers happy/satisfied? And do they receive the expected quality of service/value? Does the SLA address how the customer experiences the service provided? Arguably the answer is “no.”

This @ITSM_tools article explain how to implement CX in MSP engagements, especially in infrastructure and business process services. #ITSM #MSP Click To Tweet

This is where the customer experience (CX) concept comes into play. The following sections will explain how to implement CX in MSP engagements, especially in infrastructure and business process services. The guidance is also applicable with tweaks to internal IT service providers.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is the customer’s holistic perception of their experience with your service. In other words, it’s the result of every interaction the customer has with your business, from the time a service is explored, by navigating your website or talking with sales/customer service representatives, to after receiving the service they bought from you.

The customer experience concept is mature in product-based organizations. However, in my experience, in MSPs, it’s still relatively new. It’s high time we started implementing these CX concepts in MSP engagements to keep customers satisfied and loyal.

Some of the objectives of customer experience include:

  • Creating an emotional connection
  • Gaining “voice of customer” input
  • Preventing service dissatisfaction
  • Creating a partnership that improves customer experience.
'It’s high time we started implementing these #CX concepts in #MSP engagements to keep customers satisfied and loyal.' This article via @ITSM_tools looks at how. #ITSM Click To Tweet

A high-level CX approach

The following CX approach was derived from real-world engagements and is tailor-made to align with service-based organizations. It, therefore, might not be an appropriate CX approach for a product-based organization. 

Understand phase:

  • Interaction with the client in weekly or ad-hoc meetings
  • Capture customer vision/expectation/experience
  • Real-time feedback capture
  • Usage of tools and methods through design-thinking concepts

Design/re-design:

  • Identify target service areas and prioritize for design/re-design
  • Design or re-design the target service area based on the feedback shared by the customer
  • Define the key experience indicators (KEIs)
  • Detail the outcome/value delivered to the customer

Implement:

  • Implement the newly designed/re-designed solution for the target service area
  • Bring in awareness/training on new service design within the organization or group

Measure:

  • Measure the service through defined KEIs
  • Improve the service through feedback shared to target areas in periodic intervals

Evolve:

  • Evaluate the strategy and improvements implemented
  • Review KEIs semi-annually based on the performance of each service area and periodic feedback received from customers
Understand, design/redesign, implement, measure & evolve. A guide to adopting #CX practices in #MSP environments via @ITSM_tools. #ITSM Click To Tweet

Customer Experience Inputs and Outputs

PhasesInputActivitiesOutput
Understand • Customer engagement questionnaire
• Usage of a few design-thinking tools and methods such as empathy map, journey map, and target audience and question ladder
• Identify target service areas and prioritize for design/re-design
• Design or re-design the target service area based on the feedback shared by the customer
• Define the KEI
• Detail the outcome/value delivered to the customer
• Data about how services are performing
• Customer voice
• CX improvement opportunities
Design/Re-design• Analyzed CX data on service lines
• Techniques such as MoSCoW prioritization, six thinking hats, and action brainstorming
• Identify target areas and prioritize for design/re-design
• Design or re-design the target areas based on the feedback shared by the customer
• Define the KEI
• Detail the outcome/value delivered to the customer
• New approach/ways of handling the existing service area
• A defined set of KEIs
Implement• Timeline for implementation
• New design/re-design service lines/areas
• Creation of training material
• Implement the newly designed/re-designed solution for the target service area
• Bring in awareness/training on new service design within team and external groups
• Improved customer experience
• Progressively services are performing at expected CX levels
Measure • Data collection on restructured service lines/area performance • Measure the service through defined KEIs
• Measure and track the progress of metrics through a digital board
• Improve the service through feedback shared on target areas in periodic intervals
• Quantifiable service lines/areas performance data through defined KEIs
Evolve• Periodic service lines/area performance data review • Evaluate the strategy and improvements implemented
• Review KEIs every six months
• Continual improvement on CX and value delivered

CX benefits and value

The service provider focus on CX:

  • Increases cooperation and collaboration with end-users/customers
  • Builds confidence and trust among end-users/customers
  • Provides greater transparency on service performance and outcomes it creates
  • Motivates operational teams based on the feedback shared by end-users/customers
'The service provider focus on #CX increases cooperation & collaboration, & provides greater transparency on service performance & outcomes it creates'. More benefits explained here. #MSP Click To Tweet

It’s time for MSP organizations to review their strategies

MSPs must include customer experience concepts and methods from delivery to sales and solutions. This approach will help MSPs to build customer loyalty, trust, and confidence. Moving from traditional SLA targets to KEIs will be a game changer, especially when customers focus more on end-user experience, quality of services, and value-based outcomes.

Most large organizations are moving toward setting up experience management as part of their organizational vision and objectives. To meet the related demands and requirements, MSPs must set up and adopt customer experience strategies, methods, and tools and techniques to build a human-centric culture for service delivery.

Rahavendran RS
Service Delivery Manager at Tata Consultancy Services

Rahavendran is an ITSM thought leader and Agile practitioner, ITIL® V3 Expert, ITIL 4 Foundation and Cloud Credential Certified ( PCSM ) professional with strong experience in providing quality ITSM solutions to customers from various business verticals.

Has vast experience in architecture of service management solutions, has lead team of process and tool consultants in designing and deploying ITSM processes at all layers from strategy to operational, defining governance models, continual improvement initiatives and corresponding tools for various clients across the globe.

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