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Choosing a phone system isn’t like shopping for jeans. If a phone system is awkwardly tight around your calves, you can’t just return it with the tag still on. You may be stuck wearing that ill-fitting phone system until your contract runs out.
This is why your service level agreement is important. It’s an official document that clarifies what your provider is committed to delivering and what happens when they don’t.
A document like this keeps your phone provider accountable when responding to support requests, fixing bugs, and keeping your service running 24/7.
While service level agreements vary in scope, these are some points to keep in mind when committing to your next phone system.
Prioritizing Call Quality in Your Service Level Agreement
Obviously, you’ll want every call to be clear and intelligible. After all, phone communication is about speaking and being heard.
However, quality assurances should be in writing. VOIP call quality is always top of mind for customers and phone suppliers since every call goes through multiple potential breakpoints. Endpoint hardware, endpoint computer settings, local area networks, router settings, internet connections, multiple telecommunication carriers and mobile phone devices all must work in conjunction for a call to be flawless.
While your phone provider can’t control every aspect of that chain, they can take measures to ensure the best quality possible. For example, suppliers can work with multiple carriers and switch your calls to another provider if one service experiences outages. Also, Quality of Service (QoS) parameters can be specified on your router so every call has enough bandwidth to be crystal clear.
Your phone system SLA may also include policies call quality troubleshooting. For example, many phone systems will collect data on every call to resolve issues quickly. Additionally, email or in-app notifications are commonplace, alerting users and admins of any issues and a timeline for repairs.
SLA Uptime Commitments
We’re living in the digital era. Internet omnipresence means your customers are going to be shopping, purchasing, and requesting support at their discretion. If your business is unreachable, your customers very well may want to take their business elsewhere.
Plus, the phone is still consumers’ number-one tool to contact businesses for urgent matters.
This is why your phone system’s uptime numbers should be as close to 100% as humanly (and computerly) possible.
In order to prevent against sustained periods of downtime, you’ll want to see in a service level agreement that your phone system is doing all they can to stay online. Are backup systems in place? Does your phone system work with multiple carriers to ensure there’s a backup if one goes down?
Depending on the system you choose, you may be entitled to some form of compensation for lost call time. An SLA determines these qualifying metrics.
Technical Support Obligations
If you need phone system support, it’s probably something that can’t wait until next week. In order to keep your provider honest in terms of availability, many service level agreements will stipulate just how long is too long to wait for a response.
In many cases, a wait time of longer than a single business day will merit some sort of compensation. It’s also common for phone systems to give approximate predictions regarding support response times. Your expectations and corresponding penalties can be detailed in an SLA.
All technology-oriented companies should continually try to drive innovation. These changes enhance the product’s functionality and strive to improve the overall customer experience.
However, part of this growth is the occasional glitch or bug. All updates should be routinely tested, but sometimes small problems can’t be identified until a feature has been widely released.
In this case, your service level agreement can indicate an expected timeline for fixing reported bugs. If you’re using a cloud-based solution, it’s common for all users to get an in-app notification when a bug has been found, and how the phone provider plans to remedy the situation.
While this isn’t a problem for softphones and other cloud-based solutions, hardware will occasionally break. Phone systems that require external devices should have an SLA that stipulates what to do if things break or malfunction.
Oftentimes, your provider will define an exchange or return policy on specific devices, but on-site maintenance may also be required.
In any case, we don’t want you stuck with a bill when your cords become frayed over time!
Legal Stipulations and your Service Level Agreement (GDPR, HIPAA, ETC.)
Your phone system’s service level agreement may include information related to standard industry compliances. For example, any industry conducting business in the EU must (as of May 2018) comply with GDPR to protect consumer interests.
If you operate in an industry with unique or specific compliances, you’ll want to check beforehand if your future phone system can accommodate these needs.
Closely related to the SLA is the RFP (Request for Proposal). The RFP is your best way to vet any service for specific features, compliances, and policies. Once you find a phone system that can accommodate your company’s needs, put them in writing with a service level agreement.
A Final Note on SLAs
To recap, the service level agreement is a binding document between your company and a service provider that ensures your relationship will be beneficial and go as planned.
However, it’s important to know how you — and the service provider — are going to monitor specific metrics. That is to say, how are you going to measure whether the service is maintaining a satisfactory level?
If possible, learn these methods explicitly. Some benchmarks will be easily measurable (e.g. support response time), but others may be self-reported, like if your system is experiencing downtime.
Know what to expect regarding:
If all goes well, your service level agreement can lead to a strong partnership and reliable service.