Fire and Security Service Level Agreements: 5 SLA Best Practices
In the field service industry, fire and security service level agreements are the norm.
You’ll see SLAs coming up for plumbing & heating or HVAC too, of course, but they’re a real priority for fire and security contractors who have to deal mostly with commercial clients and can be responsible in life or death situations. For a company that’s growing and learning how to deal with these customers, it’s vital that they’re aware of best practices when it comes to SLAs. This is why we’ve put together these 5 easy-to-follow recommendations. Read on to find out more!
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What is an SLA?
If you’re reading this you probably know what an SLA is, but just to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s run through an easy SLA definition: An SLA is part of a contract between a service provider (that’s the fire and security company) and a customer (an office building’s management team, for example), where the provider agrees to a certain level of service or standard. They often come with financial penalties in case of non-compliance so they’re definitely no joke, especially for a growing company. If the fire and security company has agreed that the downtime on an asset will not exceed 12 hours, then they must comply and send a tech to fix it within the allotted time.
Why do you need an SLA?
Simply put, you need a fire and security service level agreement as an additional part to a contract because both parties need to agree on a standard of what “quality service” means. Some customers will expect 24/7 availability when they sign a contract, while others will only expect you to pick up the phone during the week.
In addition to this, an SLA can be revised with less administrative effort than a contract. While contracts are usually renewed after a year or more, you can revise an SLA on a quarterly basis, depending on performance or a previous agreement between the two parties.
Who writes an SLA?
The service provider is the one that writes and proposes an SLA in the initial negotiation phase. Some fire and security companies might even have different SLAs with tiered prices, where 24/7 availability, for example, means an increase in the cost of their services; in turn, they also have to agree to more severe penalties in case of a breach. It’s up to the fire and security company to make sure that they can uphold the agreement.
Fire and security service level agreements are a necessity in a world of demanding customers and rabid competition. The basic principle should be “don’t bite off more than you can chew”. Under-promise and over-deliver, if you’d like a more professional way of putting it. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. To ensure compliance and make the most out of your SLAs, keep the following best practices in mind:
The metrics refer to the measurable characteristics of the service your fire and security company has to provide according to the SLA. One of the main metrics is how often the service provider is required to schedule asset inspections. Don’t promise you can do a monthly or quarterly check-up then forget to schedule a technician. That’s a breached SLA and a fine.
You need to make sure the number of downtime hours on an asset are manageable and that you can realistically schedule a tech, fix an issue, and send a confirmation all within the number of hours you’ve agreed on in your SLA. If you don’t offer 24/7 availability, you can’t state that you’ll manage any problem in 2 hours, regardless of the time of day.
Prevention is better than cure. This means that instead of only making a plan to deal with eventual breaches (what would that be? Send the customer flowers and beg for forgiveness?), you should plan to prevent any disasters down the line. That’s why prevention protocols exist.
When it comes to fire and security service level agreements, the easiest way is to use a software that has visual countdowns and timers to aid your operations manager. A dedicated SLA tab is ideal because it offers them the option of seeing at a glance how much time they have until a breach. Additionally, you should have the option to schedule a tech and notify him immediately with an automated workflow.
This is how Commusoft’s countdowns look like! Click to learn more about our Service Level Agreements feature.
If you’re tackling large commercial contracts that come with SLA requirements, you’re most likely already using some digital solution. But if that software doesn’t cover fire and security service level agreements, it’s likely that it lacks the prevention tools necessary to avoid breaches and, ultimately, unhappy customers.
Sometimes, winning a big contract is the easiest part. Complying and impressing your clients is the real challenge. This is why you should invest in resources that can help you manage compliance. These resources can be additional technicians (we’ve mentioned before that hiring more admin staff is not the best way to increase profits), more advanced tools for them to use, and software to support your new growth. By investing in tech, you can build a support network for your existing staff. This will help with their satisfaction level too. New challenges and the opportunity to learn new skills will ensure that everything runs smoothly behind the scenes.
This being said, not all software is made equal. Make sure your choice has SLA-specific features like the aforementioned notifications, reporting and analytics (we’ll explain in a second where these come into play!), segmentation options so that the system can differentiate between customers with SLAs and those without, as well have a receptive team working behind it that will look into customizing features for you.
Investing in new resources like technicians, tools, and software can seem daunting. It’s normal to think that once you’ve won a commercial contract, you’re set to laugh all the way to the bank. But that sweet advance pay you’re too busy counting can easily be absorbed by the costs of not being able to comply with SLAs. This is also why you shouldn’t make claims that are too lofty when tendering for contracts, aside from, you know, a basic sense of honesty.
If you want to get an idea of how much breached fire and security service level agreements can cost, just imagine a situation where you were due to service an alarm but forgot about it and there wasn’t anything there to notify you. Not only will your customer terminate your contract if a fire starts and that alarm doesn’t trigger, but they will also sue you for a lot more than the few hundred dollars you would’ve had to invest in improving your resources.
This might be an extreme situation, but every breach comes with a penalty. Often, it’s the cost of downtime that the customer suffers. For example, if employees can’t enter a building for a day because the security scan system can’t open the doors, the customer will incur a couple thousands in business losses, maybe more depending on their size and industry. If your SLA promised downtime no longer than 5 hours for every asset, then your fire and security company will weather the losses.
Winning a single contract shouldn’t be your only goal. After all, you know the old saying: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What happens if that one customer goes bust? This means that you must always be ready to tender for your next project. Your SLA compliance rate is one of your biggest advantages over the competition. If you can demonstrate a good history of high standards when it comes to service, and a good track record with a minimum number of breaches, you’ll win more contracts.
In this case, reports and analytics will be your best friends. Your software is vital for this part since it’s nigh impossible for a person to keep track of hundreds of work orders and technicians then aggregate the information to produce a comprehensive report. Add to this the fact that a service provider and a customer have different priorities, different KPIs, and, therefore, different metrics to measure success. You can see whys a good operations manager won’t solve the problem. Before you invest in new software for fire and security service level agreements, take your time to analyze how good their reporting tool is. There is an incredible marketing potential in presenting these analytics to prospective customers. Your work is the best business recommendation of all.
Fire and Security Service Level Agreements: The Takeaway
All in all, these best practices should serve to guide you through the difficult process of understanding fire and security service level agreements. They’re vital to your field service company and represent an asset when you’re tendering for bigger commercial contract. If you’d like to learn even more about how automation software can help your fire and security business, click below for a free eBook!