Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) are a relatively new approach to service level agreements in which the priority is the customer, or employee, experience and business impact. This approach is unlike traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which focus on metrics such as response time and availability. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on creating effective XLAs – beginning with why this type of agreement is important.
What Is an Experience Level Agreement?
While SLAs measure a specific process or activity, XLAs measure the overall impact customer-facing activities have on the end-user or their business or both. SLAs measure how well an action is done against a goal, not how the end user or business was affected. Though customer satisfaction scores can also shed light on the customer experience, these scores typically show the opinion of a diverse, but often small, group of end users, and therefore they do not always answer the question of whether the user’s productivity was enhanced, or experience improved.
But despite the potential that XLAs have to benefit the end-user, the concept of implementing them often results in a few concerns. These include an overall aversion to change to more practical concerns, like how this type of agreement might impact the penalties companies could be experience. Still, as challenging as change can be, the switch from SLAs to XLAs may be well worth it for many companies – but this change will require discipline on both the part of the Managed Services Provider (MSP) and the client.
For MSPs like Stefanini Group, our flexibility and agility aid in making the change to XLAs, but it is not our effort alone. The creation of XLAs requires the client to have a clear understanding of the needs of their end users – and this understanding must consider the unique needs of diverse groups of end users, also known as user personas. A persona-based support model is the basis of how many MSPs deliver services today, providing the best platform to deliver different XLAs to different audiences.
How to Create an Experience Level Agreement in 10 Steps
So, how are XLAs created? The key is for the client team to evaluate what factors maintain or improve end-user productivity and experience. With this information, the client identifies what the key XLAs are. From there, MSPs partner collaboratively with the client, leveraging employee experience tools to evaluate user experience. These tools identify issues proactively and predictively – before they affect the end-user.
To aid in the measurement of success, Stefanini has created a system capable of summarizing several areas that impact the end-user, combining them into a single number that we can track, trend, analyze and act upon, per persona, to maintain or improve productivity and experience.
To simplify the process of creating XLAs, consider breaking the process down into the following steps.
Step 1: Define Clear Objectives
Before creating an XLA, companies need to establish clear objectives that align with the organization’s main goals. Understanding the key outcomes you want to achieve and how they contribute to improving the customer experience is critical to success. For example, objectives could include reducing resolution time, increasing first-call resolution rates or enhancing self-service capabilities.
Step 2: Identify Key Customer Touchpoints
Once you understand your XLA objectives, it’s time to identify the touchpoints where customers interact with your products or services. This could include interactions with customer support, online platforms, applications or any other touchpoint that may be relevant to your business. Mapping the customer journey will help you understand the critical moments that impact the overall experience.
Step 3: Define Measurable Metrics
Unlike traditional SLAs, which focus on operational metrics, XLAs should define metrics that directly measure the customer experience. Consider using metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer effort score (CES) or other relevant indicators. These metrics provide a holistic view of customer sentiments across multiple personas and allow you to track any improvements over time.
Step 4: Establish Baseline Performance
To effectively measure improvements, begin by leveraging current customer experience data to establish a baseline. This will serve as a benchmark against which you can measure future performance. Conduct surveys, analyze historical data, and gather customer feedback to understand the existing level of customer satisfaction and identify areas that could use improvement.
Step 5: Collaborate with Stakeholders
Creating effective XLAs requires collaboration between different teams and stakeholders. Involve representatives from customer support, product development, IT and other relevant departments. Collaborative discussions will help ensure that all parties are aligned and committed to taking steps to improve the customer experience.
Step 6: Set Attainable Targets
Based on your baseline performance and desired objectives, set realistic targets for each identified metric. Consider industry benchmarks, customer expectations, and organizational capabilities when defining these targets. Striking a balance between setting ambitious goals and remaining realistic about their attainability is crucial.
Step 7: Design Rewards and Consequences:
To drive accountability and motivation, consider designing a rewards and consequences system tied to the achievement of XLAs. Recognize and reward teams and individuals who consistently meet or exceed the defined targets. Similarly, establish consequences or corrective actions for consistently failing to meet the agreed-upon XLAs. This will create a culture of continuous improvement and foster a customer-centric mindset.
Step 8: Monitor and Measure Progress
Regularly monitor and measure progress against the defined XLAs. Leverage analytics tools, surveys, customer feedback, and other data sources to track performance. Use real-time reporting and dashboards to visualize your progress and continuously analyze data to identify trends, patterns and areas for improvement.
Step 9: Continuously Improve
XLAs should never be static documents. Just as customer needs evolve over time, so should an XLA. Regularly review and refine XLAs based on feedback, customer pain points, and shifting organizational priorities.
Step 10: Communicate and Educate
Transparent communication is key for the successful implementation of XLAs. Share the XLAs with all relevant stakeholders, including employees, customers and partners like MSPs. Clearly communicate the objectives, metrics, and targets and educate employees about the importance of XLAs – and how they can contribute to delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Experience Level Agreements shift the measurement of success from operational metrics to the customer experience and business impact, driving organizations to focus on improving how their business operates. By following the best practices outlined in this article, businesses can create effective XLAs that improve the end-user experience and foster a customer-centric culture. Remember: the key is to continuously measure, analyze and adapt XLAs so you can successfully meet evolving customer expectations and business needs.
As previously mentioned, change can be hard, but for MSPs like Stefanini Group, our customer-driven focus allows us to navigate periods of change with ease. In our partnerships, we view our role as transferring IT complexity from our clients to ourselves and we build teams, systems and processes to aid in the journey. So, while we may not own every step of the process, we are positioned to play a key role a team that focuses on improving customer experiences – and it all begins with XLAs.