Over the last few years, SLAs have assumed an increasingly important role in the telecommunications marketplace. In the days when most telecom providers were monopolies, SLAs tended to be lengthy, legalistic documents elaborating what the provider could not, rather than could, be held responsible for. Today, by contrast, SLAs set specific parameters for the quality of service.
These new SLAs have increasingly raised the bar for provider performance and have been negotiated on a case-by-case basis with customers as part of normal contract negotiations. As SLAs have evolved into more practical, user-friendly documents, customers have come to view them as significant differentiators between suppliers - in some cases as significant as price comparisons. In response, telecom providers have increasingly used SLAs as key marketing tools in a highly competitive industry.
The benefits of SLAs are indisputable. By signing a contract, customers not only receive the required solution but also gain an efficient tool in case they witness a degradation in service quality. Customers worldwide can receive contractual commitments that their telecoms services provider will deliver specified services by a promised date, will have optimal network availability, and, if a problem occurs, will restore service within a specified period of time.
Individual guarantees usually refer to three stages of service provision: delivery, availability and restoration.
Delivery: The provider commits to specific time intervals to complete a customer's service installation and post-installation change management. Of course, timeframes for installation and change management vary by country and by product due to different business environments and specific procedures applied in individual countries.
Availability: This is the ratio of the total time a functional unit (i.e. data or voice system) is capable of being used during a given interval. A commitment of up to 99.75% in standard, end-to-end network availability for the top group of countries is especially impressive, since it includes the local loop, not just the redundant backbone network components.
Restoration: This is the interval required to restore functional service in the event of disruption. There exist two approaches: the industry standard Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) and a much more aggressive Guaranteed Time To Restore (GTTR) requiring the provider to meet the objective every time, not just achieve a mean number over time.
If these commitments are not met, the customer is usually compensated in the form of a service credit. This credit may be in the form of a percentage or a specific amount, depending on the product or service involved. Any guarantee programme is an important demonstration of the provider's focus on customer care and commitment to deliver top service.
Peter Belčák is Accounts Manager at Global One Communications s.r.o. Comments can sent to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org