Why Service Level Agreements (SLA's) Suck

It is a fairly common practice for IT service providers to offer an SLA.

A Service Level Agreement or SLA for short is a contractual promise to live up to an expectation.

But what happens when that expectation goes unmet?

Typically when an SLA commitment is not met the client is entitled to some recompense.

Typically in the form of an invoice credit.

The catch is this...

Most SLAs out there will only provide you a recompense if you ask for it.

So let’s say that some new hot shot IT provider tells you that they have a 30 minute SLA on service issues.

So you sign up with them.

And off you go.

Later on…

You email them and open a ticket.

You wait an hour and nobody calls back.

So you pick up the phone and call to complain about poor service.

You explain that their SLA has not been met.

You then have to request a credit.

Then they issue you a credit on your next month’s invoice.

If they remember to.

The reality check here is this…

The few pennies you receive for negligence ain’t worth it.

The experience of asking for money when you are let down does not engender trust.

It’s just a reminder that you may have chosen the wrong provider.

As I have said in the past.

Service-level agreements that are dependent on people‘s ability to respond are just promises waiting to be broken.

It doesn’t matter the size of the provider.

For example, even Comcast doesn’t consistently provide credits for service outages.

So the next time you’re trying to decide between one tech service provider and another…

Remember that SLAs aren’t all that they are touted to be.

More often than not you will be disappointed.

The point here is that SLAs, at least to me—don’t mean all that much.

I would rather sign up with a provider that’s responsive to emails and answers the phone.

The only way to know that is through social and direct proof.

A.K.A. References.

Having a monetary guarantee on failing expectations is just a contractual excuse.

It doesn’t strengthen the relationship between client and service provider.

It doesn’t put as some providers say…

Skin in the game.

It doesn’t keep your vendor honest.

It’s just a false sense of security.

The proof is in the overall service experience.

Sure providers make mistakes.

It’s really about how they recover from their mistakes.

And hopefully that they keep the mistakes to a minimum.