#XLA - The Benefits of Experience Level Agreements

XLAs are a storming topic of the IT industry. We explain the top 5 benefits on why you need to be using Experience Level Agreements.

SLAs are a thing of the past, with Employee Experience a big trend for 2020 as well as a key driver for CIOs to prove value in IT departments. Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) are a great way to measure outcomes and experiences, leading to a better service, increased happiness and productivity and essentially, replacing outdated SLA metrics. 

Find out what XLAs are here.

The top 5 benefits of XLAs and why you need to be using them in your IT services:

  1. XLAs measure the business value of the Service Desk
  2. XLA measurement increases co-operation
  3. Motivating for Service Desk teams
  4. Driving business value
  5. Moving target in a positive way, never settle

XLAs measure the value of the Service Desk from the perspective of the business
When doing this, it removes one of the most common pain points of Service Management that is being seen as a relevant function from business perspective. With XLAs you are measuring what matters, not what happens in Service Desk.

For example, instead of saying this month we have solved 10,000 tickets the question should really be, why did we have 10,000 tickets this month? Not only does this example show a transition from SLAs to XLAs, but it also suggests that the service provider or owner should be focusing on the reasons behind the tickets and what part of the employee experience needs improving to reduce the amount of tickets.

Fixing these problems or pain points that end-users are creating tickets about then leads to a higher number of end-users reporting how happy they where with the service they have received or there increase in efficiency compared to last month.

That is where the business will begin to listen and realise the change and impact that IT can have on the business value.

Less tickets, more efficient employees, better service experience.

XLA measurement boosts co-operation
When you have thousands of end-users feedback and comments, you have data that you can trust. End-users honestly tell everybody from Service Desk and Service Management what works and what doesn’t. Everybody is able to focus on the right problems and not be reliant on giving priority to whoever is shouting the loudest.

Sharing data and being transparent with this data is the ultimate key to building co-operation. With XLAs you measure the experiences that your end-users are already having and work in co-operation with your Service Desk to create a better experience for them.

A more motivated Service Desk team
Not the first thing maybe in your mind, but it's much more motivating to be measured on how you have helped people, rather than being measured on how many tickets you have closed.

Instead of Service Desk personnel being measured on how many tickets they can close per hour, which could lead to rushing cases/possibly not solving cases, and not delivering a great service experience to the end-user, Service Desk Personnel now have the opportunity to deliver a great experience, find the heart of the end-users problem and measured on essentially how they have improved someones day.

Let's face it, you'd rather be getting good feedback on how you have actually helped people each day, rather than being told to close more cases and be quicker with your service.

This short animation illustrates how XLAs can benefit both the Service Desk and End-Users.

Driving business value 
When understanding end-users better we can create real value for the business. Happier end-users means they are able to provide a better experience to their customers, and not have to work overtime due to IT problems having made it impossible to work during 'office hours'.

The business value of Service Management is helping employees to do their job and essentially focusing on the things that matter for the business. 

Through implementing HappySignals measurement, CIOs can now begin to measure the experience employees are having and then justify which areas need to retain focus and be developed.

An example of this is our customer Reckitt Benckiser CIO was receiving very negative comments about IT from other management members on how IT was not functioning properly. After implementing HappySignals, he was able to justify that IT was doing well, however also showing the areas that needed to be focused on. This made a big difference for them, as the CIO didn't have to rely on his gut feeling on what was possibly wrong in IT and he was able to show the value that IT in fact brings.

In short - better business outcomes are delivered.

Moving target – in a positive way
At HappySignals, we believe XLA targets should change after about 6 months. It’s not enough anymore to set targets that last for years. 

Also, we should always be able to continue to develop services. For us, agreements set should be ways of working, rather than targets with sanctions. The best results are always reached through co-operation.

Some of our customers have already started to use XLAs, for example Orbis Partnership has decided to let go of the "So What Metrics" and put in XLAs instead.

Pasi Nikkanen: Welcome to Happy Today podcast. This is a podcast for those who want to improve service experience of internal services. If you use ServiceNow or other enterprise service management system, then this is for you. In this episode #XLA, today we're going to talk about the benefits of XLAs.

Hey, welcome again to Happy Today podcast. This is part of our #XLA series. So today we're going to talk about the benefits of XLAs. XLA comes from the words experience level agreement. Sami wrote an article recently on our website about the top five benefits, so let's go through those one by one and have a little chat about it. So the first one, XLAs measure the business value of Service Desk.

Sami Kallio: Yeah, I think it's totally different thing compared to the traditional SLAs, that now we are forced on the outcomes, what we are bringing to the end-users, to the business, the customer of ours. I think that's the key, key benefit. Why it's the benefit of course from the perspective, that if you are the one responsible of the Service Desk, and you are going into the business and say, "We resolved 10,000 tickets this month," the question is, "Why did you have 10,000 tickets?" It's not about that, that would be your merit, it's nothing.

It is a problem that you have 10,000 tickets. But if you go there telling them how happy you made the end user, how well they received your service, and how much more efficient they felt this month that they did last month, then the business will be listening to you and seeing that, okay, this is what you are bringing on the table. This is why this unit exists. This is why you are having ServiceNow running there, and so on.

Pasi Nikkanen: All right, makes sense. Then the second one is XLA measurement increases cooperation. Cooperation of what? How can and agreement increase cooperation?

Sami Kallio: I think actually agreement can kill cooperation from my perspective, but what I mean by this is that, now when you are having those hundreds and maybe thousands of feedbacks from your end-users. End-users are always saying their perception, they have no reason to lie about their experience. It can be a good, it can be bad, but now when you have, let's say outsourced Service Desk provider maybe, you have different teams in IT. You have managers, you have somebody shouting, it doesn't matter anymore if you have enough of that data. You can do decisions together, and focus on those areas that have a better value for the end-users.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah.

Sami Kallio: So it's not... It's starts changes the focus, so that this more easy to do decisions together, and that's very, very key. What's happens after you really take XLAs in use-

Pasi Nikkanen: True.

Sami Kallio:... and in the right way. Of course, this also means that you have to share, be transparent to all those people. Not only that it's owned me because I'm the XLA manager. No way. That's all I would be afraid.

Pasi Nikkanen: Exactly. Yeah, I totally agree on the transparency. It really boosts the cooperation, only if you share the results, share the experiences. Because there again, this is what we always say is that the employees already had the experiences. Unless you measure, unless you know them and share them, it's nobody knows what they are. They are still there. Happy or unhappy. So all right. Number three, motivating for service teams. So how can XLAs increase the motivation of Service Desk team members?

Sami Kallio: I think this has been something that we know this from the really early stage, when we always operate like four years back, let's now think about it. You are a Service Desk agent, and you are measured how many tickets you are resolving per hour, per day.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah.

Sami Kallio: Think about it, you're going to work, somebody calls you in pain asking you, "Help," and you try to close a ticket as soon as possible. That compared to the situation that you go to work helping people. You are measured by how you made somebody else life easier today, and you get that feedback instantly. I think again here, transparency and sharing data, sharing that feedback to the agent. Not being afraid that sometimes they will get bad feedback. They will, and they can then learn. But I think we have said, [crosstalk 00:04:31] many times, 75% of all feedback is positive.

Pasi Nikkanen: True.

Sami Kallio: So that has a bigger influence on that. Yeah. Instant loop of feedback.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah, and it really has to be that it doesn't come as that as the kind of penalty board of the agents, that now you are having these bad experience. People are having bad experience when you are closing the tickets. It always about the service, unless they are specifically saying that it was the attitude of the person. Otherwise, it's the service, it's the technology, not teaching the employees. So really understanding that this well, that XLAs should never be a penalty for the agent. It should be the motivation of why you are here, what is your purpose in this company. It is about making your colleague productive, so that they can actually get the work done.

Sami Kallio: It just is so much more motivating. I think one tester from Region Midt, told us that when they have been measuring now both, the agents experience and the end user experience, they have noticed that the agents experience is going up just because they are getting that feedback, and that's a hugely important, and easy, and kind of a direct tool to change how people feel at work.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah. I guess there's also this old graphic from MetricNet, that shows the correlation between agent satisfaction and the customer satisfaction, so they just correlate. Yeah. I think for the show notes we need to link our very, very old video. The first one we did before we went to Knowledge in Las Vegas, into that pyramid hotel, in our room with that animation video, where the services guys start just closing the tickets, and in the end it says fail. So I think it's more relevant than ever.

Sami Kallio: It's from even before the pink times.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yes. So I'll ask the producer to find it, and link it on the show notes, and then also in the article we have on the website because it's just yeah, you have to see it. All right, let's go to the fourth one. Now we start talking more about what the C-level might be talking, and the directors might be a little bit talking. So driving business value.

Sami Kallio: Yeah. I think this is a bit overly with maybe the first one, but just wanted in this article to underline it, that really the business value of service management is helping those people, and focusing on the things that matter for the business. Now when business understands that they can really kind of also help you guys in service management and Service Desk, to be more, bringing more and more value. I think that's the kind of the key thing there. I think there was one CIO once that was saying to me and asking that he had a problem, the tables in the lunch table quite often, and discussing with the business and somebody was angry about the Service Desk, and he had no way of defining for them what is the value, and how we were doing and so on.

I think these kind of discussions in the beginning of this company where the reason why we selected NPS like scoring, because now when that CIO now goes to the same table, that same company is measuring, meet their consumer word with NPS. Now when they're using the same metrics, he can sold it, in fact my customers for the Service Desk are more satisfied than yours. Okay. It's not a competition-

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah, exactly.

Sami Kallio:... but kind of then the business guys kind of said okay, it's not true that IT Service Desk would be so bad. In fact, on average we are doing very well. But...

Pasi Nikkanen: Another good customer example is the RB, Reckitt Benckiser. So they were there, the CIO was going to the management team meetings. He was getting really unpleasant comments from the other management guys that IT is so bad, and IT is always bad. It's never make good and so on. Then they actually implemented our measurement and our analytics, and they actually put those queries in saying that, actually IT is doing pretty good, but these are the places where we are not focusing. Here are our problems. It wasn't any more like a gut feeling. He told it that the whole way the management team then reacted to IT, totally changed. So he was able to show the business value of what they actually bring.

Sami Kallio: It's kind of a, and it's maybe sometimes hard to believe what we are now talking about because it's so simple.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yes.

Sami Kallio: In a way, just measuring and sharing that data, and that will change the culture in the communication between the business, communication between the buyer and seller, let's say if you have outer service desk. It changes how the agents are feeling. So in all layers it just changed to be more outcome focused, and more kind of a... I think this comes to our slogan.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yes. More smiles, less time wasted.

Sami Kallio: I think that goes to all of these layers.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah okay, the final one. So moving target, but in a positive way.

Sami Kallio: Yeah. What I mean by this is that, I think with XLAs you could do the same mistakes that typically is done with SLAs. That you just set the target level and you never change it. That kills development. You should be kind of updating that. I think about half a year is a good time, that you set a target, you make the decision that these are the areas we are going to improve now. You reach the target. You make a decision on the next level where you want to. Maybe you select that you going to make your portal better for the end-users. You set a target for that. You don't set a target only on the overall happiness of end-users. You set a specific target, what you want to change now, because there is no silver bullet that would change the experience everywhere if you just do something differently.

Pasi Nikkanen: All right, so that's it. At least five benefits. At least those five benefits. I think there probably much more. Shoot us a message in the social media if you think that we missed something. So we're happy to update the article, and those good ones. And yeah, thank you Sami. It was again, nice talking with you. And yeah, stay happy.

Sami Kallio: Yeah.

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