Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) aren’t just another trending service concept with a cool acronym. It is something we really should be taking into consideration if we want to understand if we have designed our services to best help our customers. We need to understand where our customers are coming from so we can better serve their needs, and the best way to do this is to focus our processes around them. It makes sense, right? If our only performance metric is how many tickets we solve within what time, or how many knowledge items we create – is anyone actually assessing the quality of what we produce? I want to provide a quick example to illustrate exactly how this is important. But first some quick background:

How XLAs fit into your Service Delivery

Before you say anything. No, we’re not forgoing SLAs in favour of purely XLAs. This shouldn’t be an ‘either or’. If you focus purely on XLAs, you may conversely find yourself incredibly proud about the service you provided the last quarter – on the 10 tickets you solved!


SLA stats are useful to analyse the classic stuff: For example if our response times or closure rates are consistently high, this may indicate a number of things. That we are understaffed or that we could empower the first line team, or the end user themselves to address their own issues for example. Equally, we could look at stats of a 5 minute average response time and 8 hour closure rate and think this sounds fantastic.

5 SLA best practices for better business outcomes


But SLA stats miss something: letting performance be dictated by the one person who feels it the most: the customer. Because you’re not here to just track processes. Ultimately you want to help people and make your customers happy too. That’s where XLAs come into the picture. To illustrate this. Say I was ordering clothes from an online shop.  (The below actually happened, by the way, it’s not a hypothetical example.)

SLAs from the Service Desk perspective

A while back, I was gearing up to go on holiday and – as you do – went online to buy some new clothes for the occasion. The problem showed up when the clothes didn’t fit! I went to Customer Services and they let me know I’d have to return the clothes to the retailer, and expect a reply within 24 hours. So I did! And… they did hit all SLAs they had outlined to me! This is not the story of an inefficient Service Desk. They responded promptly and they solved my issue. So why was I left unsatisfied? Because, clearly, their process was not designed with customer experience in mind.

On the Service Desk's end, here’s what happened:

They received a ticket from me on March 23rd with the questions I had. They replied to me on March 24th informing that the return would be sent to a warehouse in Belgium, and inquired about two options for re-delivery. I would either have to pay for delivery or weigh my parcel so they could send me a delivery note sticker. Here, I replied asking for additional information, like for example where to send the parcel. They reply within 24 hours. They supplied the return address and asked for a proof of postage and tracking number in a new ticket. Happy with having met their SLAs, they closed the ticket.

Now, there are some positives here:

  • The ticket was closed within 3 days (start date to closure date)
  • All emails replied within 24 hours
  • The information to resolve my issues was supplied
  • Professional and polite replies

Here’s how the Service Desk saw it:

But there are some interesting lessons on the negative side of things:

SLAs from the Customer perspective

On my end, I received the clothes late in the first place and they didn’t fit. So I began the search for info of how to send them back. Unfortunately, there was no info in the parcel, the email or the website, other than log a ticket, but I found a generic free text form that I filled out. I got a reply saying the return will be sent back to a Warehouse in Belgium (abroad?! that’s new info.) and it turns out I either have to pay for postage or supply accurate weight to get a pre-paid sticker, but they didn’t actually supply the return address or stickers for me in the email. Frustrated, I replied back asking for all the information that was missing.  I get told that when I send the package back I need to raise a new ticket with proof of postage and tracking number.

You get the picture.

Because of a badly designed service process, I had to:

• Search for how to log a ticket myself
• Fill out a generic form, not knowing what information they needed
• Get emails back that just asked more questions instead of answering mine
• Supply additional information

Frustrating. Here’s how I experienced the very same process:

Some quick wins here would have been an easily accessible link to support and clear forms, and – honestly – just a little more time spent on the request to make sure I was happy. Or just, generally, a customer centric approach to the whole situation! Less frustrated Service Desk customers means a lot to the overall performance of your Service Desk.

Read more on XLAs

If you want some more information on XLAs, read this article. And, if you want some tips on how to put the customer in focus, this blog series on Customer Journeys is a great starting point!