You’re a busy support leader with a team to manage and KPIs to meet. Up and to the right is a series that focuses on simple, actionable tips you can use right now to meet your goals.

The ongoing relationship between a business and its customers is largely based on reliability and consistency. Customers expect a certain level of transparency when they submit questions, but for growing a company, providing reliable and consistent service can be difficult.

Let’s say you have an increasing flow of both customers and tickets. Your existing customers expect the same level of service as before, or even better since they’re loyal to your brand. And your new customers are deciding whether or not you’re a brand they want to continue to with moving forward. With clients waiting and key stakeholders watching, you need a solution for keeping tabs on time-sensitive tickets so your agents can focus on the actual customer communication.

And that’s where service level agreements, or SLAs, come into play. This post will explain how SLAs in Zendesk Support help your team build and maintain trust with your customers by providing reliable and consistent support.

A quick primer on SLAs

As the name implies, service level agreements are offered by a business to its customers as a way of measuring how efficiently they’re able to provide support. This agreed upon measure of service is typically based on the average response and resolution times but can include other handle-time metrics as well.

In some situations, SLAs are in place as a blanket policy across many or all support tickets. Other times, these policies are only offered to VIP customers under contractual agreements.

The functionality is simple yet impactful. If a ticket meets the conditions of an SLA, a countdown automatically begins and that timer makes agents more aware of critical tickets throughout their busy days.

How to get started

As an admin, you’re able to create any number of SLA policies from within your Zendesk Support settings. You’ll first outline the conditions that must be met before an SLA is applied to the ticket. Those conditions are wide-ranging and can be based on customer or ticket attributes.

Once the conditions are set, you then outline the target times for each metric and priority level. For example, VIP clients might receive 4-hour reply time on “high” priority tickets, but a shorter 2-hour reply time for tickets marked with an “urgent” priority.

Of course, your team’s level of support will likely change from year to year as products, customer count, employee count and business initiatives continue to evolve, and you can easily add, remove and edit your SLAs as you go.

Surface the highest priority tickets for your agents

Gone are the days of *trying* to keep an eye on key tickets and customers. With your SLA policies in place, you can now effortlessly sort your tickets based on the time remaining until the next breach- making prioritization a breeze.

Your agents will now see a countdown badge both from their ticket views and while in the ticket itself-allowing them to quickly see the minutes, hours and days remaining until the next breach.

Lastly, you could further help the team out by creating an automation that notifies agents of an impending breach when only an hour remains.

Then they’ll be able to take a ticket or loop in some help with time to spare instead of rushing to send out a reply before the clock strikes zero.

Preserving the bottom line

By implementing SLAs, you’re creating an environment with a more intentional focus on providing a consistently efficient customer experience. That consistency builds a stronger line of trust between your business and your customers and that trust can play an important role in customer decisions- whether that means larger contracts or higher renewal rates.

With your team’s performance potentially taking on a larger role in sales and account management discussions, it’ll be important for you as a support leader to keep an eye on your production against the SLAs and showcase your success.

Your reporting dashboard includes a quick summary as well as a more granular analysis of the performance behind the statistics.

When looking at the customer journey, you can filter the reports to look at a select policy or perhaps just a single customer. When looking for levers you can pull to improve performance, you’re able to see the days and times that lead to the highest percentage of breaches- potentially highlighting an opportunity to adjust staffing.

Of course, you can create custom SLA reports too.

Once you’ve gathered a complete picture, you can then share your findings more broadly across the company with other key stakeholders who are looking closely at how you’re preserving the bottomline.

Intrigued but not ready to commit?

By now, some of you might be thinking: “This all sounds great, but we’ve never offered SLAs to our customers before and we’re not ready to make the leap just yet.” That’s completely understandable!

Leveraging the SLA functionality internally as a step towards the real deal can be a great way of seeing whether or not you’re ready to commit. And you don’t have to create conditions for every ticket type, rather start by applying them to specific groups or ticket types.

Customers can’t see if a policy is being tracked on tickets they’ve submitted, so feel free to leverage the framework internally as a way of measuring your progress towards SLA goals before approaching your customers with these offers.

Lastly, displaying the SLA countdown badge on tickets can help to remind agents to work efficiently throughout the day. This doesn’t mean that they should rush through their work, simply that they should use their time wisely while keeping the customer experience in mind.