How Service Level Agreements Ensure Exceptional Performance

By: Mark Hagan, Director of Operations, Trade Services

When embarking on a new business partnership, it’s vitally important to institute a few ground rules to ensure both parties understand what their responsibilities are, and how they tie to overall performance. Whether you’re providing services or receiving them, establishing these “rules of engagement” in writing at the outset will mitigate the potential for friction and unmet expectations down the road.

Defining Service Level Agreements

Many industries, including facilities and construction management, use service level agreements (SLAs) to track performance measures and provide a mechanism for accountability. These formal agreements contain terms that both the client and provider must mutually agree on before work can begin.

Every facilities management (FM) provider is different, but most adhere to similar benchmarks when working with a client to craft an SLA. For example, one of the chief purposes of an SLA is to guarantee that tasks, maintenance requests and work orders get completed on time. Because timing is so critical when it comes to FM, especially in emergency situations, many SLAs dictate how long certain types of repairs must take: a business owner may want emergency repairs completed within four hours, for instance, while less urgent, routine requests might take up to 24 hours to fulfill.

Defining the terms of your agreement up front will provide a foundation for everyone to solidify their roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, and promote effective communication for the duration of the working relationship.

Aligning Expectations

Getting buy-in from all parties—business owners, FM vendors and service providers—is crucial to an engagement’s ultimate success. Without consensus, service will suffer and penalties may even become necessary if issues remain unresolved or work orders incomplete.

SLAs should be designed to hold the proper entity responsible when mistakes are made, but they should also be flexible. Even the most reputable FM partner or service provider can’t perform every task perfectly 100 percent of the time. Retailers understand this, but they also still expect high-quality work. In order to achieve optimal results without making goals unreachable, the retailer in this scenario may choose to request 95 percent compliance in meeting particular SLA standards.

When expectations are aligned, and the standards to which all providers are held remain reasonable, SLAs can be quite useful in boosting FM performance.

Improving Sales, Safety and Security

Obviously, business owners of all stripes rely on sales to stay afloat. The only way to keep the cash flowing is to care for consumers by prioritizing their safety and security. This goes for employees, too—workers need to feel safe in their working environment, and it’s a business owner’s job to uphold their end of the bargain.

When tethered to the right targets and metrics, SLAs can benefit service providers, too. They help improve customer satisfaction and can also earn them additional contracts. When service providers who are part of a larger network perform well and meet their SLAs, they are more likely to be rewarded with work in the future.

In the end, SLAs allow everyone to operate at the top of their game: Service providers are empowered to do great work, FM providers manage the end-to-end process and business owners are free to focus on improving sales and providing a safe, secure atmosphere for all who enter their facilities.