How to Build a Proper SLA Contract for a Helpdesk: Insights from Jason Cohen, CEO/Founder of Mission Control NOC and Helpdesk

July 13, 2023

Service Level Agreements (SLA) are vital in managing and maintaining the relationship between a service provider and its customer. In the realm of helpdesk services, a well-structured SLA contract clearly delineates roles, responsibilities, and expectations. This fosters seamless operations and effective communication.

To craft an effective SLA contract, you need a firm understanding of its key components, common pitfalls to avoid, and the processes involved in setting realistic targets. In this post, we discuss insights from Jason Cohen, CEO and founder of Mission Control NOC and Helpdesk, on how to build a proper SLA contract for a helpdesk.

Key Elements of a Helpdesk SLA Contract

An SLA contract should set clear expectations for all involved parties. It should also define each party’s responsibilities. This helps everyone understand what to do to keep operations running smoothly.

Cohen emphasizes that an SLA contract should be solution-focused rather than consequence-focused. This shifts the focus towards problem-solving and away from penalties, which improves the optics of and the overall relationship between the service provider and the customer.

A crucial element of an SLA is the clearly defined scope. It delineates the extent of the service provider’s responsibilities and prevents any misunderstandings that could arise from ambiguities.

Common Mistakes in Drafting a Helpdesk SLA Contract

Cohen highlights two common mistakes: poorly defined scope and unrealistic expectations. An SLA with a vaguely defined scope leaves too much room for misinterpretation, which will potentially lead to disputes.

Also, setting expectations at 100% is unrealistic. As Cohen rightly points out, there are no guarantees in life. A better approach is to set the SLA to cover the majority of situations, roughly 80%, 90% or more, depending on scope and requirements and what you feel can be achieved regularly and comfortably.

Benefits of a Well-Structured SLA Contract

A well-structured SLA contract benefits both the service provider and the customer by establishing a mutual understanding of roles and expectations. It fosters effective communication, eliminating or significantly reducing miscommunication.

Setting Appropriate Service Level Targets

The process of setting service level targets is often business-dependent. The service provider and the customer must identify their non-negotiable requirements which are typically harder targets, and their business preferences, which may be softer. Cohen adds that a provider should always consider their stress levels, aiming to keep the team busy but not overworked.

Revising the Helpdesk SLA

Cohen recommends that a Helpdesk SLA should be reviewed or revised annually at the minimum. They should also be reviewed if any large changes occur in either party’s businesses.  These reviews should focus on whether the targets are being met and whether the SLA’s goals are still realistic. Any changes in business requirements should also trigger a review of the SLA’s expectations and targets.

Setting Realistic Expectations

In setting realistic and achievable expectations, Cohen advises that within Mission Control NOC and HelpDesk, using his own company as an example, SLAs are based on the ticket’s priority. For instance, a server down situation should be given more priority than the setup of a new computer for a new user. This approach allows the teams to react appropriately.

Penalties for Not Meeting Service Level Targets

While penalties or consequences are not the primary focus of an SLA, they can serve as a deterrent to ensure that everyone behaves as expected. If service level targets are missed, a meeting between the vendor and client should be scheduled to review the situation and make necessary corrections.

The Role of KPIs in a Helpdesk SLA Contract

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) serve as the targets in a Helpdesk SLA contract. For example, answering the phone within five minutes 80% of the time throughout the month.

Resolving SLA Disputes

Cohen stresses that disputes or disagreements regarding the SLA should always be solution-focused. The goal should be to identify why expectations were missed and define how they will be agreed upon and achievable moving forward.

Building a proper SLA contract for a helpdesk is a task that requires clear communication, realistic expectations, and an ongoing commitment to review and adapt as necessary. Following Cohen’s insights can help your organization navigate this crucial aspect of customer service more effectively.