Service-level agreements (SLAs) are critical for the success of any outsourcing initiative as they set expectations for both parties – the outsourcer and the customer. Many vendors have service-level agreements and you can ask your vendor for theirs, as a starting point. Keep in mind that an outsourcer's service-level agreement will prioritize their needs over yours. Use this as a service-level agreement template:
• Operating days and hours
• Definition of work
• Processes and procedures
• Agent quality
• Agent coaching
• Agent training
• Escalation procedures
• Uptime requirements and performance
• Backup and contingency
• Transaction handling
The best service-level agreements are very detailed and address every aspect of your relationship with your outsourcer, including rewards and penalties for good and bad performance. They also include how to handle transitions when relationships end. I recently published a book called The Real-Time Contact Center. Chapter 12 includes a detailed description of the categories and activities that should be addressed in any service-level agreement, whether you are working with a domestic of offshore outsourcer.
One word of caution. Since negotiating a service-level agreement can be a relatively lengthy and involved process, many outsourcers will push you to sign a contract before you finalize your service-level agreement. While it may seem like a good idea in the short term – the outsourcer will try to convince you that doing otherwise would unnecessarily hold up the deal – it will hurt you in the long run. Once you sign a contract, you lose a great deal of negotiating power.
This was first published in April 2007