How are XLAs Similar to Love?
We talk about how to have a meaningful, long-lasting relationship with IT service and support clients by utilizing this important metric.
What are XLAs? Experience Level Agreement, or XLA, is simply an experience metric that measures the gap between the experience you are delivering now to your employees or clients and the experience you want to be delivering.
Now go and explain this concept to someone who doesn’t work in our industry. Not that easy, trust me. When a good friend of mine asked me to simply break it down to a component level, I struggled to avoid the usual jargon of the “experience shift” and “progression from the traditional KPIs and SLAs to experience focused XLAs”.
But really, what is a better analogy to a concept of an XLA than love? Falling in love, starting a relationship, being in a relationship, loving someone and being loved, there are a lot of similarities.
Let me try and explain the 5 core components shared by both love and XLAs:
- One size definitely does not fit all
- Constant evolution
- “Je ne sais quoi” factor
Sentiment may feel a bit squishy as a concept, but we cannot ignore it.
In IT we often are afraid of sentiment when we compare it to something tangible like First Contact Resolution rate. Sentiment is 1) hard to measure 2) subjective 3) not constant.
Is it an opinion? A feeling? It can make or break a brand; it can make or break a relationship. Whether it’s a romantic or a nostalgic feeling about the person, product, or service, it’s omnipresent and it cannot and certainly should never be ignored.
We all know that client experience positively impacts employee engagement and that, in turn, happier employees lead to happy clients. The same is true in love - there is no way you can make another person truly happy and drive a positive sentiment without accepting yourself and being happy with who you are.
If you ask to score the success of a support incident at the end of an interaction or assess a completion and the success of a project at the end assessment stages, you might hear that someone is indeed satisfied with the goods delivered. You also may hear that something is massively delayed, 5 times over budget and that the outcome does not resemble the initial design.
Why wouldn’t we focus on whether the client was happy at various stages? Have we hit a millstone we wanted to hit? What did it take to hit that milestone? How difficult or easy was it? Are we happy with that attainment?
This is where the XLAs can really help as an interim measure on a multi-component level rather than at a very definitive and very restricted concept of an SLA, looking purely at the end result of an activity, completely missing the opportunity to improve something mid-flight.
Just like in a relationship, you wouldn’t allow the work to progress as is if you weren’t happy with how things were progressing along the way. You could have hit milestones such as a 1-year anniversary, for example, but if that year was not a collective of multiple moments taking your breath away, you’d probably realize that perhaps the relationship is not hitting the mark.
One size definitely does not fit all. Whatever the industry, don’t forget who you are serving and why you are serving them. Meaningful measurement, assessing what actually matters to our clients and employees rather than what we have measured for the last 10 years but no one really knows why, is vital.
If the metrics we aim to attain have little to do with value, sentiment and the overall happiness, we will forever keep falling in the watermelon effect trap. Yes, the numbers may look pretty green on the outside, but that may not be the service recipient’s assessment and feedback at all.
Nothing is ever black and white, SLAs alone are just not sufficient to measure what is important. XLAs however have a multidimensional, hyper-personified structure which looks at a number of components, such as device overall status and health, core KPIs sentiment, and collaboration metrics based on individual needs of each of the personas (rather than the collective).
Things constantly change in our personal lives, in love, and in business. Why would we allow an SLA metric alone to define how well (or not) we have done for that month, quarter. or even a year?
This is where XLAs constantly evolve and use frequent sentiment analysis to give us a much more holistic view of whatever it is we are measuring. There certainly might be red SLAs days where perhaps we took a little longer to support the business, but equally, these could be our highest CSAT score days with high sentiment based on the appreciation of the extra help provided when it mattered to the business the most.
And finally, the secret sauce that ties it all together? In the context of experience management, it’s not just about collating a ton of data and waiting for the next client service review to present charts. To drive desired business outcomes on the back of the device, sentiment, and ticket data, we need some human intelligence to point out the “so what” relevant to the client environment, their business goals, needs, and priorities. A team of advanced business analysts with strong client relationship skills (the human touch = the secret sauce) can help and drive the tangible, proactive, preventative improvements, measure and manage experience, and ultimately tie it all together with the gravitas and intelligence it deserves.