How to Beat Your SLA Response Time With No New Staff

Posted by Directly

A service level agreement (SLA) is a formal contract between a service provider and a customer specifying the level of services provided. Of all the items that companies specify in SLAs, perhaps none affect customer perception more than the response time promised when there’s an issue. Knowing whether their issue will be handled in 2, 12 or 24 hours (for example) is critical for most customers.

“All service providers care about response time because it has a huge impact on customer satisfaction,” says Dan Stern, head of professional services at Directly in San Francisco. “With business-to-business technology, the service provider often supports customers' core business processes so both the provider and the customer want a formal SLA to set achievable expectations.”

Online mediums, such as email and ticketing systems, can speed up the process of requesting help by avoiding phone hold times and providing written information that helps route queries more effectively. The same tools can make it easier to categorize problems so support engineers can concentrate on the urgent and complex issues first. Unfortunately, online tools also can mean that non-urgent, less complex queries can get pushed to the back burner, with response times that exceed SLA-levels occurring more and more frequently.

How can you improve response time?

Hiring more support engineers is an option, but it’s only an option until you can’t hire any more. And time and cost of getting an outsourced call center up to speed on complex products has made outsourcing increasingly unpopular. Only 57 percent of its member companies outsource today compared to 70 percent in 2010, according to the Technology Services Industry Association in response to an email inquiry.*

A great alternative may be right in front of you: your customers and partners. With the help of on-demand customer service apps, you can send categories of helpdesk tickets to your expert users on their mobile devices, where they resolve them for a reward.

MobileIron, provider of enterprise mobility management software, faces the challenge of having a highly-technical product, a fast-growing customer base, and an increasing support case volume. The company also has made a big investment in training customers and partners on its platform and saw a big opportunity to address its support challenge with its educated partner and user base.

On demand support in 6 minutes

MobileIron rolled out Directly’s on-demand customer service apps to 105 authorized experts who completed MobileIron training courses. A few months into the program, experts have an average first-response rate of 6 minutes and they are resolving roughly 70 percent of the cases directed to them — typically the less urgent, less complex questions — for a reward of $28.50 per ticket, which is a large saving over resolving the ticket in house. (Note that this reward is higher than average for consumers that use Directly because the cost and value of MobileIron' tickets are higher.) The 6 minute response time compares to hours, even days prior to rolling out the expert program with Directly.

“The impact on our SLA’s has been great. The program works and helps because the experts are able to respond to most cases much faster than we can,” says Dave Carlson, technical support operations and quality manager at MobileIron in Mountain View, Calif.

The upshot is that by resolving the lower-level cases, the on-demand experts quickly resolve categories of tickets that weren’t getting top priority, and frees up the in-house engineers to focus on the higher-level cases. Both factors improve response times stipulated by SLAs .

An added advantage is that the experts typically have experience using the MobileIron platform in the field, so they have real-world context.

“Even if the case is escalated back to support, by having an expert ask some of the basic questions up front, it not only helps us make our SLA’s, but hopefully gives the support engineer the answers to those basic questions. That saves them time as they don’t have to start from scratch with the customer,” Carlson says.

Do you have a base of expert users who can help improve response time? Find out more about running a proof-of-concept test at

* MobileIron's Dave Carlson will be presenting a session about crowdsourcing technical support at the TSW 2015 Service Transformations conference in Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 11:30am.