MSP SLA Guidance

Do you have a MSP SLA or MSP SLO? Learn how to use it as a differentiator.

Written by Ian Richardson

May 20, 2024

MSP SLA Guidance

By Ian Richardson, Managing Partner, Fox & Crow Group

Differentiation in the MSP space is tough to do. Most clients don’t understand technology. Even less enjoy it. One of the most common items to come up is response time.

“How fast will you respond to my calls?”

“My current MSP never answers the phone.”

“We need a SLA.”

Some variety of validation and verification of client experience will come up. There’s no way to dodge this conversation. You’ll be in the weeds on it. Talking about tactics and things that don’t provide value.

But what if you didn’t have to?

MSP SLA versus SLO

I’ll start off with a couple of definitions, and an opinion.

Service Level Agreements are contractual language that set targets for a service team. This “service level” is then backed by some sort of punitive measure. Measures range from the ability to dissolve the contract to financial credits or refunds. Regardless of what the method is, the result is the same.

Adversarial relationships.

You’re setting the bar with a promise to perform. You’re baking in a reason to disagree with your client.

Service Level Objectives are a goal setting mechanism. You’re stating a goal for your service team. They are not backed by contractual guarantees. Failure to meet goals create a conversation and planning session. There are no punitive measures attached to the failure. They tend to invite collaboration on the goals themselves.

I’m certain you can see where I’m going with this.

Put SLOs in place instead of SLAs for your service team. In Small Business, relationships are key. You don’t have boards and multiple layers of management or divisions. Set yourself up for a collaborative approach to service deliver with your clients.

You can thank me later.

MSP SLA Creation Process

Regardless of the path you choose, you should have a MSP Service Level target. Ensuring that your measuring performance and taking action to improve it is important. You’re after all a service company – good service is what you sell.

I worked with a client the other day on a SLO. They were a call center vs. a MSP, but the process is the same.

  1. Pull down data from your ticketing system.
    1. Use the past 6 completed months’ worth of ticketing data.
    2. Include all “standard” MSP clients. Exclude those bizarre / one-off organizations that could skew figures.
  2. Analyze the data and answer the following three questions:
    1. What was the first call resolution percentage?
    2. What was response time?
    3. What was the first day resolution percentage?
  3. Define the metrics and why they matter.
    1. First Call is elimination at first point of contact. MSPs should call this “1-touch close.” My client is a call center; The word “call” is important to highlight.
    2. Response time is something your clients will relate to. Explain what “good” response looks like. Define the word as meaning “work has been started” versus “automated ticket replies.”
    3. First day resolution percentage is a measurement of efficacy. It presents how good your escalation and service management teams are. It paints the rest of the picture past the level 1 staff.
  4. Set expectations via your historical data.
    1. These are goals with a 95% target against the current performance figure.
  5. Present your goals to your prospect.
    1. Use trend lines to show the historical data.
    2. Be clear in the targets. For example: “We aim for a 15-minute response time on 95% of all inbound requests during business hours.”
  6. Set an agenda item at your “annual review” on goal adjustment.
    1. Sit with the client and show them a year’s worth of their data versus all data.
    2. State the new goal based on average performance on their account.
    3. If they are below average performance – bring recommendations on how to solve.
    4. Show them how to set the goal with the first target. Demonstrate the math.
    5. Invite them to help set the goals for the second and third target.

MSP SLA Differentiation

I don’t know if you caught it, but you differentiated yourself. Did you see it?

The way you’re different is that your client actively sets the target for their service experience. Every year they participate in setting the goal. The goal is based off their data. You compare them to everyone else. You’re providing transparent benchmarking.

They are now discussing your service strategically with you.

Your competitor isn’t doing that. At least not yet.

Now you made a table-stakes item into a differentiation topic.

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If you want help developing a SLO for your MSP, or working on strategy and sales in general, love to chat. Head over to and grab 30 minutes. We’re looking forward to connecting with you.

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