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Everything that you need to know about customer service SLAs!

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Author: Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Let us begin by defining what an SLA is.

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a written agreement that defines support standards– a service level guarantee. This could refer to the quality, availability, timelines, and penalty for service breaches.

My first exposure to an SLA was when I ordered Pizza from a particular restaurant because they promised delivery within 30 minutes or the Pizza was free. It’s a promise to provide a baseline of service, and they also give the penalty for the breach. Since then, I have had exposure to multiple levels of SLAs.

I have helped draft SLAs for our offerings to our customers, internal SLAs between functions, and multi-level SLAs between various functions and the customers.

Let us focus on customer service SLAs in this article.

What are the critical components of customer service SLAs?

A good SLA clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of the service provider and the client, even before an event happens. As a client, you would know what to expect of your service provider. As a service provider, you would see the service guarantees you must adhere to for a particular category of customers.

The SLA summary would state the parties who are involved and a brief of the services provided. Besides, it would have the following details:

  • Service description – specify the services that your support agents would provide your customers in detail
  • Availability of service – specify how your customers can reach your customer service representatives during the business and the non-business hours. This can include live agents, AI-powered chatbots, self-service options, email, text, and the likes.
  • Issue definition – define the level of issues the customers might face and the response and resolution times for different issues in alignment with industry standards
  • Performance metrics – measure support quality by tracking specific metrics like resolution times, first touch resolutions, first response time, hold time, and CSAT scores
    • ○ Resolution time – the time it takes to resolve an issue after you open the ticket
    • ○ First touch resolutions – the number of issues you address positively during the first interaction itself
    • ○ First response time – the amount of time it takes for you to respond to a support request
    • ○ Hold time – the amount of time a customer waits on any of your channels before they are addressed by the customer service or support
    • ○ CSAT scores – how satisfied are your customers with the level of support that you provide

Organizations have gone on to become creative with their definition of SLAs. The best part is that they are being done to keep the customers happy and delighted with the experience.

Look at these:

Interaction SLAs – when you talk to the customer, look at whether you can understand, respond, and resolve their queries.
Accessibility SLAs – what are the possible ways your customers can reach you at different times of the day – business and non-business hours.
Multi-level SLAs – some queries might be so complex that a first call resolution may not be possible. It may require multiple departments or functions to work together to resolve. That’s when these multi-level SLAs make sense, which can be invoked by the representative handling the query.

Now that we have understood what SLAs mean, let us look at what it takes to delight our customers.

Customers don’t care how complex their query is – they want a resolution. It doesn’t matter how many teams internally will collaborate to provide a solution, and you have to commit to a resolution. Let us assume that you, as a customer service representative, have provided six hours as the resolution time, then six hours it is.

Earlier, resolving an SLA meant a lot of coordination between functions, but today, it is being handled with technology.

Let us look at an example of a multi-brand outlet. They promise an SLA. Say you buy a Television from them, the SLA is that the TV gets delivered within 24 hours, and the installation happens within the next 24 hours. The person delivering the TV is from the supply chain department of the retail outlet, and the person demonstrating and installing the TV is from the service department of the OEM. However, as a multi-brand outlet, you manage this SLA, where you don’t have too much control.

Imagine doing this without the aid of technology.


It is about a combination of technology, integrations, visibility, transparency, empowerment, coordination, and proactive communication that will allow you to manage the complex world of SLAs.


About the Author: Uthaman Bakthikrishnan


Uthaman believes in the power of creation - it gives him a high to grow something from scratch and make it sustainable. Uthaman is the Executive Vice President and helps set the strategic direction and roadmap for ClearTouch, a pioneering provider of a cloud-based call center platform for enterprises, contact centers, BPOs, and financial services companies in India.