IT service provider performance has long been measured by service level agreements (SLAs) that set quantifiable standards for many aspects of a sourcing arrangement. These standards range from how quickly customer support is provided and an incident is resolved to application uptime and availability, and beyond.
A different type of standard that is gaining attention is the success of the user experience, known as experience level agreements (XLAs). Not only are the quantitative results considered when performance is measured, but also the qualitative results, which contribute to the productivity levels of end users. Qualitative measurements vary widely, and include person-to-person experiences in customer service to how well machines and devices function, all which contribute towards enhancing the user experience. Another aspect of an increased user experience is proactive problem solving, where a service provider anticipates a user’s issue and resolves it before it becomes a problem.
Experience level agreements can set IT service providers apart from their peers and offer users dependable and enjoyable service experiences that maintain that user’s business. Especially in the past couple of years through the pandemic, users’ dependency on IT solutions has increased, which produces an opportunity for IT service providers to ensure an easier and more productive user experience, as well as create incentives for service providers to prioritize the user experience in order to acquire and retain business.
Utilizing XLAs in tandem with SLAs can help organizations serve their customers by informing them where the services can improve, even if they are meeting or exceeding operational standards. Under the traditional SLA format, gaps in a user experience may go unnoticed if incidents are still being resolved and applications are running as expected and agreed. This is where a commitment to XLAs can be a distinguisher for a service provider.
There are, however, inevitable challenges that can accompany the installation of XLAs, the most obvious being the subjectivity of the user experience. Service providers can combat this by seeking a steady stream of feedback and installing robust and routine procedures to collect information about how their users perceived the interaction.
XLAs can be a useful tool for IT service providers that aim to keep up with users’ evolving expectations that their needs are met at both a quantitative level and a qualitative level.