Writing SLAs - response and resolution times

Scott Calonico

Defining acceptable response and resolution times is a key task in the production of IT service level agreements (SLAs). It is sensible to give these timings some serious thought, rather than plucking figures from the air. After all, these targets are something your MSP business will need to continually reach and be judged on.

SLA response times

SLA response times usually refer to how quickly you will respond to a technical issue being raised via phone, email or other methods.

Telephone response targets are sometimes measured in number of rings. Alternatively, and perhaps more relevant to the smaller MSP, response times may refer to how quickly you pledge to reply to an email, or call back to respond to a voicemail message.

When agreeing suitable response times, it is important to clearly define working hours and ensure clients know that only these working hours are included in a response time.

For example, if operating hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and a call is logged at 4.55pm on a Friday evening, then a response to this at 9.05am on the following Monday morning is a 10-minute response time – rather than three days – because it's based around your business hours.

The kind of response you can offer really depends on the nature of your MSP business. The higher your staffing levels, the more likely it is that you can promise an answer within “x” rings or minutes.

SLA resolution times

A resolution time refers to how long it takes from the time an issue is logged until it is fully resolved.

The usual practice is to establish a range of job priorities and assign a target resolution time to each. For example, a new user setup for a staff member commencing employment in three weeks is far less pressing than a “server-down” issue preventing an entire team from working.

As with response times, it is important to ensure that resolution times are only calculated based on agreed working hours. It is also wise to stipulate that a resolution time only begins from the point that a call is correctly logged in an agreed method.

As an example, you may agree with a client that an urgent, server-down issue will be rectified within four hours, a medium priority issue affecting a single user will be fixed within eight hours and that low priority, routine tasks will be completed within 48 hours.

The most important thing is to agree targets that are achievable. For example, if you intend to agree a four-hour fix time for urgent server issues, you must have adequate staffing, hardware service contracts and system redundancy to make this possible. If your customer does not have a sufficiently solid infrastructure to facilitate this, then it is unwise to agree to an unrealistic target.

Setting SLA targets provides you with a valuable opportunity to manage your customer’s expectations and protect your business. Telling a customer that you cannot agree to a four-hour resolution because their servers don’t have enough resilience features may even prompt them to upgrade their infrastructure! Most importantly, however, it gives you a chance to present a realistic view of what can be expected of you.

Looking for more information on SLAs? Check out these blogs:

Are you managing your customers’ expectations on response times

Managed Services Templates – SLAs