We’ve been having a lot of problems with e-mail for a few months.  We use MS Outlook and a 3rd party email host and every time we tried to troubleshoot the problems we’d get bounced back and forth between Microsoft and the host service provider.  They both pointed the finger at each other but meanwhile our problems persisted, and we were losing time and productivity.  Since it’s easier to switch hosts than to stop using Outlook, we just switched providers and, so far, couldn’t be happier.

This got me thinking about how many times we’ve all experienced similar situations with our telecom providers and about how to prevent them. Delayed or failed implementations, service outages, account team support and billing issues are all problems that frequently cause finger pointing and tend to drive us crazy! 

According to AOTMP’s research, only half of enterprise telecom carrier contracts contain service level agreements (SLAs) addressing customer care, with 50% containing SLAs addressing customer service response times and 49% containing SLAs addressing customer service issue resolution timeframes. Although billing accuracy was noted as a top frustration for enterprises, only 31% of the enterprises surveyed had SLAs addressing billing accuracy in their telecom carrier contracts….and that an alarming 11% of enterprises reported not having any SLAs in their telecom carrier contracts.

How do you prevent or minimize these situations? Not surprisingly, the standard carrier contract language does little to address, avoid or resolve potential conflicts and the language that does exist is heavily slanted in the carrier’s favor i.e. there’s no “teeth” in them. We’ve found that putting effective customized SLA’s and language into carrier contracts will go a long way toward reducing frustration by providing a real incentive to fix the problem (versus pointing the finger somewhere else) and spelling out real remedies if the problem is not fixed. We have been very successful in getting effective, customized SLA’s inserted into agreements and have seen them pay off time and time again.

One of my favorite stories concerning these situations happened a few years ago at a large global enterprise. There was a recurring problem at a major site. The Local telco and the Long Distance provider had their fingers pointed straight at each other and the problem remained unsolved. After reaching his wit’s end, the enterprise Director responsible for telecom resorted to a creative and somewhat draconian solution. He asked both company’s representatives to join him in the PBX equipment room and to check to see if their cellphones worked. Once they did, he left the room, locked them in and called to tell them that he would let them out when the problem was fixed! They got on their phones to their respective companies and, miraculously, the problem was fixed within an hour!

While the story may be amusing, had there been effective and customized SLA’s in place, the problem likely would have been fixed much sooner and the Director would not have had to incarcerate those poor carrier employees! 

Let us know if you’d like to discuss how to get effective SLA’s into your carrier agreements or if you also have an amusing SLA related war story to tell.