IT departments are increasingly waking up to the fact that experience level agreements (XLAs) are the difference between good and great IT service management (ITSM) and the business results this brings. Done well, they can increase both (internal) customer and end-user satisfaction and improve relationships with key business stakeholders.
If your organization is currently looking at the potential of XLAs to improve its IT operations and outcomes, then this blog is for you – because it offers up simple ways to use them effectively.
Focus on addressing business pain points
Introducing something new is always difficult and the key to success is demonstrating the associated improvements as quickly as possible. Plus, where possible, ensuring that those improvements resonate with key business stakeholders. The same is true with XLAs, especially when the same service level targets, as part of long-held service level agreements (SLAs), have always been held up as proof of operational success.
However, you’ve probably already heard of the “watermelon effect” where the SLA is green, but all the underlying indicators are red – perhaps only in the eyes of the customer. XLAs can be a way to prevent this from happening. While SLAs keep the service on track, having XLAs in place will deliver a holistic view of the service and the experience of those who consume it.
So, while an SLA will tell you that the service was up when it should have been, an XLA can tell you that yes, the service was up but it was too painfully slow to use and when end users reported this to the IT service desk there wasn’t a consistent response. As such, XLAs can help your organization catch user-felt issues such as poor service performance or training issues (which can relate to the user or those providing support). All of which will cause real pain if left unchecked.
Build on existing SLAs where appropriate
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. XLAs don’t need to replace SLAs, they can enhance them. A good SLA, agreed on by all sides, is a commitment from everyone on how the service will be provided and under what conditions. A good XLA can then add a user-experience context to give a more customer-centric view of how a service has performed, which in turn can form part of a service improvement plan.
Plan for XLA success
“One does not simply introduce XLAs.” Instead, before introducing XLAs, get everyone on a call or in an online meeting so you can talk about what’s needed. Agree on your success criteria.
For example, when does the service need to be strong experience-wise? The most important voice to listen to is that of your customer because this gives the IT organization feedback on how the customer or user experiences the IT service. It makes sense that the only person who can truly give this feedback is someone who uses the IT service day-to-day.
By including all your stakeholders and asking for input and feedback, you can look at what’s working, capture any opportunities for improvement, and ensure that any gaps or issues are addressed.
You can start simply
The introduction of XLAs doesn’t need to be complicated. A low-stakes way of introducing them gradually is to add an Amazon-style star rating or an IKEA-style smiley face rating to your customer satisfaction survey.
It’s quick, easy to understand, and most customers will recognize and engage with it. By introducing a rating system, you make it easy for the customer or end user to give you a quick, easy snapshot of their experience.
Use data to get closer to the required experience
A simple star rating, as mentioned above, will give you a baseline of experience that can be built on. Then take things to the next level by collecting more information about IT services/resources and how they impact employee productivity.
This practice is known as digital experience monitoring/management, or DEM, and it can be used to build a picture of how business colleagues experience using IT services. Things to measure here include:
- How easy it was to get help
- The overall service desk approach
- The consistency of service quality across all service desk platforms and channels
- Professionalism of communication
- Satisfaction with response times
- Customer satisfaction with equipment
- Knowledge level of support teams.
Be transparent with your experience measures and results
When you have experience-related data, share it! Your experience data should be shared with all stakeholders. By opening up the feedback and issues to everyone it makes everyone accountable and more likely to work as one team towards shared goals.
Build relationships related to experience management
If you don’t have regular service-review meetings with your business colleagues, then use the introduction of XLAs to drive this – with employee or user experience as an agenda item when reviewing IT performance.
By including XLAs in your service offering, you’re demonstrating a commitment to understanding your customers and consumers better, and stating that you care about the end-to-end service. Use this perspective in meetings to build better relationships and as a starting point for service improvement.
That’s our take on using XLAs effectively. What would you add to this? Please let us know in the comments.