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What Is a Service-Level Agreement?
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a provider and the end user that states the level of service that the customer should expect from that service provider. That said, they also serve a company's internal operations as well. They're frequently used when a company is signing up new customers for a service.
In the event that the service-level agreement is between the marketing and sales departments, the SLA will detail the company's sales and marketing goals, such as the number of leads it intends to generate monthly and the action that the sales department will take to support the marketing department's efforts.
Why Service-Level Agreements Are Important?
A service-level agreement is important because it:
- Protects both parties: The SLA sets standards for the service, ensuring both the service provider and end user are on the same page with expectations. By creating clear, measurable guidelines, the end user knows exactly what to expect and what the responsibilities are for everyone involved.
- Provides recourse for unmet expectations: The SLA provides specific consequences for what will happen if a service provider fails to meet its obligations to the end user. Without the SLA, it's unclear what will happen if one or both parties fail to meet expectations. With a service-level agreement in place, there is transparency about what the targets are for each of the service levels and what will happen if they're unmet.
- Gives peace of mind: The SLA gives the end user peace of mind knowing they can hold their service provider accountable for the service they committed to at the time of the agreement.
Types of Service-Level Agreements
There are three basic types of service-level agreements:
Customer Service-Level Agreement
This type of SLA is between a business and a customer. It's also referred to as an external service agreement. It includes:
- Specifics of the service the customer will receive
- Conditions of the service availability
- Standards for the time windows of each service level, if applicable
- Responsibilities of each of the parties
- Escalation procedures
- Cancellation terms
Internal Service-Level Agreement
This is when a company has a service-level agreement in place internally, between its marketing and sales departments. For example, the sales team may have a goal of earning $10,000 in sales per month. If they know that each sale is worth $500 and they know that they have a closing rate of 20%, then they know they need to receive at least 100 qualified leads per month from the marketing department.
The two departments could put an SLA in place where the marketing department commits to delivering a minimum of 100 leads each month by a certain date. Part of the agreement could include sending weekly reports to the sales department to ensure the teams are on pace to hit their monthly goals.
Multi-Level Service-Level Agreement
This type of SLA outlines what's expected of the different parties when there is more than just one end user or one service provider. You could use this as a way to support customers or as part of an operations strategy. For example, your marketing and sales departments could also include the customer service team as part of the SLA to incorporate customer retention into the agreement.
What Is Included in a Service-Level Agreement?
Here is a look at the different information that goes into a service-level agreement:
- Summary of agreement : Your SLA typically contains a summary of the service, who is receiving the service, and how the success of the service is going to be measured.
- Goals of the parties: For an external SLA between a business and customer, the goals that are included in the agreement will typically be those of the customer. Your company should include measurable goals that it can regularly attain for its customer. If the SLA is internal, then the goals for all parties should be outlined.
- Description of what's needed to reach goals: The SLA should include descriptions of what each of the parties in the agreement need to achieve their goals. This could include things like technical maintenance, consulting, or reporting. If you're putting together an internal SLA, it should describe what the different departments need from one another to reach their goals.
- Reporting procedure: The SLA should include how and to whom any problems should be reported and what the reporting process should be.
- Consequences: The SLA should always state what the consequence will be if the specified goal isn't met. As an example, your company could issue service credits or other forms of compensation.
- Termination circumstances: Finally, the SLA should contain formal conditions for which the parties could terminate the agreement in pursuit of a better one. This could happen to an internal SLA, for example, if the SLA you put together isn't getting the buy-in you need from all parties involved or if you're frequently missing those goals.
Image via Unsplash by chrisliverani
Service-Level Agreement vs. Key Performance Indicator
A key performance indicator (KPI) is a tool for measuring how well a business is performing in light of its strategic goals. A KPI can help a business identify areas where the organization is veering off track from its primary objectives.
The SLA outlines what the customer will receive and what they should expect from their service provider. It does, however, include measurements for evaluating the service provider's performance, which is where there can be overlaps between KPIs and SLAs. A service-level agreement defines KPIs in order to measure service performance. This means that, in the end, the metrics provided by the SLA become KPIs that the business will monitor and report on as measurements of success.
Choosing Metrics for a Service-Level Agreement
It can be challenging to choose metrics that are fair for all parties involved. However, it's best to choose performance metrics that:
- Are within the control of the service provider.
- Can be collected easily and accurately.
- Can be collected automatically, if possible.
It's also important to specify a reasonable baseline for the metrics, or a number that the company commits to hitting at the very least. This baseline can be shifted as more data is collected, and the service provider better understands what's possible for the client.
Service-Level Agreement Templates
Here are some service-level agreement templates that you can use to define the service you will offer end users:
- Small business service-level agreement
- Business analysis service-level agreement
- Business cloud service-level agreement
- HR business service-level agreement
- PandaDoc service-level agreement
A service-level agreement is essential for protecting a company and ensuring it maintains a good relationship with end users. By reaching a clear understanding of what standards are important and what the consequences will be if those standards aren't met, you can ensure that the relationship will be positive for all parties involved.
It's also a good idea to review your SLA as your business changes and grows, as the SLA should reflect its evolving needs and capabilities. If you need help creating a service-level agreement or would like to revisit one that you currently have in place, Contracts Counsel can help. We are happy to connect you with a fully-vetted lawyer who can help you create or review your service-level agreement. Contact us today to get started.
Meet some of our Service Level Agreement Lawyers
Pura Rodriguez, JD, MBA is the President and Managing Partner of A Physician’s Firm, based in Miami. She represents healthcare providers from different specialties in a broad range of issues, including contract review, business planning and transactions, mergers and acquisitions, vendor and contract disputes, risk management, fraud and abuse compliance (Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark), HIPAA compliance, medical staff credentialing, employment law, and federal and state regulations. She also assists providers in planning their estates, protecting their assets, and work visa requirements.
Jaclyn is an experienced intellectual property and transactional attorney residing and working in NYC, and serving clients throughout the United States and internationally. She brings a targeted breadth of knowledge in intellectual property law, having years of experience working within the media, theater, PR and communications industries, and having represented clients in the music, entertainment, fashion, event production, digital media, tech, food/beverage, consumer goods, and beauty industries. She is an expert in trademark, copyright, and complex media and entertainment law matters. Jaclyn also taught as an Adjunct Professor at Cardozo School of Law, having developed and instructed the school’s first Trademark Practicum course for international students. In her spare time, Jaclyn’s passion for theater and love for NYC keeps her exploring the boundless creativity in the world’s greatest city!
A bilingual attorney graduated from J.D. with a C.P.A. license, an M.B.A. degree, and nearly ten years of experience in the cross-border tax field.
Experienced and business-oriented attorney with a great depth of contract experience including vendor contracts, service contracts, employment, licenses, operating agreements and other corporate compliance documents.
With over 21 years of practice, Chet uses his vast experiences to assist his clients in the most efficient manner possible. Chet is a magna cum laude graduate of University of Miami School of Law with an extensive background in Business Law, Commercial Real Estate, Corporate Law, Leasing Law and Telecommunications Law. Chet's prior experience includes 5 years at two of the top law firms in Georgia and 16 years of operating his own private practice.
Steve Clark has been practicing law in DFW since 1980. He is licensed in both Texas and Louisiana state and federal courts. He concentrates his practice on business clients and their needs. He has been a SuperLawyer in Texas since 2011, and is Lead Counsel rated in Business Law. He is also a Bet the Company litigator in Texas.
I am a top-performing bi-lingual legal services professional with a proven record of success. Reputation of assessing and evaluating client’s needs and providing individualized solutions in line with those needs while efficiently handling multiple tasks simultaneously. Able to create a collaborative work environment ensuring business objectives are consistently met. Seeking an attorney role within a legal setting to apply skills in critical thinking, executive communications, and client advocacy.