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6 ways to upgrade your Service Level Agreement to an Experience Level Agreement

Written by Lanware

Monday, 23 October, 2023

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People don’t buy service, people buy feelings

The world is moving more and more towards consuming services, whether that be at home streaming your favourite shows, the way you bank, or how you interact with your internal and external providers at work. The most successful providers within this “as-a-service economy” understand one important thing. How they make their customers FEEL is more important than how good their product or service is. Apple has been perhaps the greatest example of this over the last twenty years. This is because their customers feel a complete sense of belonging and devotedly follow the brand not just because of the innovative products, but because of how they make them feel.

Defining ‘The Customer Experience’

At Lanware we’re not just in the technology business, we’re not just in the service business, but increasingly we are in the feeling business. We ask ourselves what feeling do our clients walk away with when they interact with Lanware?

This is known as The Customer Experience. A grand term which is commonly banded around by businesses, but in order to really deliver great customer experience, it requires focusing on two key issues:

  1. How you define your “customer experience”
  2. How you guarantee your customer they will receive it…. consistently!

Trying to define the customer experience is a challenge in itself. It requires the ability to gather a complete understanding of the customer’s viewpoint and map out their entire journey down to every interaction they have with your business, what they can expect, and how it will make them feel.

If you understand this, then your focus can be on how to guarantee you’ll deliver it and what you can promise to your customers that they will receive their experience.

Meeting SLA targets doesn’t equal happy customers

At this point, many providers rely too much on the old way to use just a “service level agreement” (SLA). Putting this into the context of our own business, providing IT support to business users in financial services firms, when a business user calls our IT Service Desk, SLAs provide contractually binding expected response times (how quickly we respond to the issue raised by the customer) and resolution time (how quickly we fix that issue).

Problem! If you think about what constitutes a great “experience” for the customer, these are only two metrics which form a very small part of the customer experience. Also, over the years, SLAs have gained a very bad reputation as the provider can easily achieve the targets, yet the customer is still walking away with a bad experience. There is nothing worse than telling the customer you’ve hit all your SLAs but they’re still unhappy. Customers don’t care about metrics, they just want a great experience!

Upgrade to an Experience Level Agreement (XLA) to guarantee a great customer experience

So where do we go from here…… how do we guarantee “the experience”? The answer is to “upgrade” your Service Level Agreement (SLA) to an Experience Level Agreement (XLA). SLAs measure the process, and XLAs measure the outcomes and value.

To provide some examples within the context of IT services, here are 6 key areas you might want to build your XLA around:

  1. Convenience: Could the customer access the service through their chosen channel (voice, email, web or chat) at a time of their choosing and was their request answered in the right time frame?
  2. Expectation management: Did the customer receive the right number of updates on their request/issue based on the priority of the ticket?
  3. Efficiency: When the customer contacted, did we know who they were, where they were calling from and about their business? If they needed assistance, what was the “speed to access the customer desktop” to support them, was it completed without needing to ask for information
  4. Consistency: If their ticket was passed between engineers, or to a different department, was the handover smooth and managed, was all the information passed on and history available, and no need for the customer to re-explain.
  5. Service additions: Did a customer new hire get equipped with a new device, software, and access on day one in line with the service catalogue?
  6. Customer happiness: Asking your customer to rate how their request was dealt with using a simple smiley face gold, green, amber and red. The Happiness Factor would be the % of the gold + green out of the total number of responses received in a month.

In summary, as the world shifts to an as-a-service economy, high-growth companies are creating high-value and unique experiences for their customers. This is backed up by an Experience Level Agreement (XLA) which ensures they focus on the perceived quality of IT services and how it made the customer feel!



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