Are you experiencing issues with your ITSM tool? Whether it’s poorly configured due to a lack of requirements definition or workflow design, no self-service capability, incorrectly labelled fields… the chances are you are not able to deliver a great experience. Rather than effective automation, you end up with massive inefficiencies and a host of manual workarounds – in order for support to attempt to get the job done.
When the support teams are unable to effectively manage and view their workload, tickets, queues, and escalations, it makes efficiencies impossible. Most agents, team leaders and the manager will spend hours in labour intensive, manual administrative tasks. They’d try to figure out what the support ‘landscape’ looks like with the inability to measure what it ‘feels’ like to the customers.
Individuals may work very hard to deliver great service for customers and users as they call on support. However, their ability to process support tickets may be sorely impacted by the workflow design (or lack thereof), before even getting to resolve the issues at hand.
People waste hours manually exporting data in spreadsheets before being imported into a presentation format for further editing. Hours and hours of management time are spent creating these reports which have lagging data. The value of this information to the business is lost in time.
So alongside great people and a well-defined process, whether you have the right tool or not is a key question. What makes the tool right? There are lots to choose from in the ITSM space. Whether you are scaling from start-up to enterprise-class there is a product and pricing structure to suit. It is important to decide what you want the tool to do, map how it should do it, then map those requirements to the tools’ abilities. Many come out of the box with ITIL-based process flows embedded in them.
But NONE of them come ready to service your individual organisation! ITIL gives you the what – you need to determine the how. Treat this as a core stream of an improvement project. You will get the efficiency gains and benefits of automation.
However, what if all of this is still the wrong approach?
At Bright Horse, we are advocates of challenging traditional ways of thinking. We have partnered with thought leaders like Nexthink and Citrus Collab to demonstrate how IT needs to change from being a reactive support function to a proactive service enabling productivity.
The concept of Experience Level Agreements or XLAs is gaining traction and there is a growing interest in the subject. We also want to continue to add value to our clients. Therefore, we’re keen to help you understand what it means and how it can be effectively implemented in your organisation to ensure satisfied employees and increased productivity in 2021.
Understand Service Level Agreements (SLAs) Before Experience Level Agreements (XLAs)
In order to get to XLAs, one first needs to understand what Service Level Agreements or SLAs are. According to the latest version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library or ITIL4, an SLA is:
“A documented agreement between a service provider and a customer that identifies both services required and the expected level of service.”
What this means is that an SLA is a contractual understanding between the IT service provider and the customer about what the two parties can expect out of a particular service. As suggested by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, there are three basic parameters to create an SLA which are basically a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a means to measure the success or failure of these KPIs, and the possible penalties that might come into play if the contractual SLA is violated by either of the two sides.
Even though these three parameters seem to be good enough to give the assumption of creating a logical contract between the service provider and the customer, in reality, the ‘Watermelon Effect’ takes place between the two sides. This leads to unhappy customers and eventually loss of business to the competition.
In most SLAs, the reports of the service appear green (like the outer skin of the watermelon). Even then, the customer remains red (like the inside of the watermelon) – dissatisfied and angry because the so-called green reports did not help him or his business achieve the goal he had initially expected to while paying for the service.
Therefore, the two major problems with SLAs are: they are very IT service-oriented (ticket response times, recovery times, availability), however, they don’t share much information on how nicely or poorly they performed for the user. Also, most of the metrics used to measure the SLAs are often done at a low level which doesn’t ensure a high-quality experience for the user.
As the IT Service Management (ITSM) industry becomes more and more user-centric, simply working on the Quality of Service (QoS) would have to be supplemented with Quality of Experience. In other words, a QoE-driven SLA can be referred to as an Experience Level Agreement (XLA).
Therefore, while talking about XLAs in line with SLAs, they can be defined as a special variety of SLA specifically altered to set up a common understanding about the kind of quality levels the customers will experience while using the services. It is important that this understanding is written in clear terms for both sides to relate correctly.
How Do XLAs Work?
As mentioned before, XLAs needed to be written clearly in a contractual form, which means experience levels are needed to be measured before categorising them for the customers to choose from. This could be done using the various aspects of the customers’ expectations. For instance, the outcomes or benefits they wish for while using the service.
Such an assessment would allow the users to choose which level of experience quality would they wish to avail themselves of while buying a service. Such segregation would also impact the various prices, and deals that the service providers would have to offer.
Why Focus On Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) in 2021?
In today’s highly competitive market of service providers, when a customer reaches out to use a service, they expect that the service will be operated with utmost reliability and for an affordable price. Therefore, from the perspective of the service providers, two parameters have reached their competitive saturation:
Customers can rest assured that they will receive the best service the providers can give.
The price for the service will remain similar across the market, regardless of which provides the customer chooses to go ahead with.
In order to get ahead of such a highly saturated market, the providers who
Such a lack of experience for the customer results in a market gap for IT service providers. They can get a competitive advantage in the industry and increase their customer loyalty, reputation and revenue by offering their customers a certain level of experience based on the contract the provider and the customer sign. These are Experience Level Agreements (XLAs).
XLAs are therefore ideal for conveying the kind of expectations a customer can look forward to while using the services of the provider on the basis of employee experience.
XLA Failures That Can Harm End-User Experience
According to Bright Horse Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer Neil Keating, there are four bad XLA practices that can be counter-productive.
Uncontrolled IT Service Management Structure: When a company wishes to hop into XLAs while their basic ITSM structure isn’t stable.
Wrong KPIs: When the company focuses on the incorrect KPIs to measure an employee’s success or failure. For example, enforcing a 15-minute time limit on a service desk agent to resolve a user’s problem. Instead, allow him the time to solve the problem thoroughly and without any rush.
Depending Too Much On ITSM Tools: While ITSM tools are helpful in determining where the problem lies, they will not be able to solve everything. See what the tools have to say and then analyse what you are doing to do about the tool’s diagnosis.
Ignoring The Experience Management Office (XMO): A company needs to show that the Experience Management Office is at a senior level for it to be taken seriously. If the experience management office is too low down on organization, it will just become a data repository.
Learn More About Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) With Bright Horse
Our partners, Nexthink have demonstrated how their tool takes the users’ perspective in, rather than the IT perspective outwards. They combine hard metrics with user sentiment. This is a huge step for many IT functions, moving from a reactive position to a more proactive stance.
User sentiment is hard to capture. Service is consumed at the point of the experience, it’s about how you make someone feel. Another huge part of delivering service effectively is to actively manage expectations.
If you feel you need to explore we would be delighted to help you on your service journey. We call it From Service To Experience, and you can still book to attend. If you can’t make this one but are interested in future dates and locations then please do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.