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Experience Level Agreements

What do Google, Facebook and Apple have in common?

Each one of these successful organisations has invested in customer experience in recent years. And this both in managing the experiences of their end customers and those of their internal employees. By streamlining the experiences and expectations of service providers and their customers, the right conditions are created for a positive and motivating work environment. This will encourage them to bring out the best of themselves. After all, an optimal internal service provision does not only enable employees to perform their work effectively and efficiently, it also motivates and empowers them. In that sense, a good customer experience makes a difference for your employees who, in turn, can make a difference for your organisation.

Experience Level Agreements

One of several initiatives that originated from the Customer Experience philosophy is the development of Experience Level Agreements (XLA*, ELA). Internal service providers, often IT, have been working with Service Level Agreements for years. Unlike the SLA that focuses on technology, the XLA® focuses on the human factor, the emotions. The XLA® does not replace the SLA, but is an add-on that focuses on the user’s experience of the delivered services. As with all new trends and concepts, there is an endless amount of information on the Internet about XLAs®. But look before you leap. Launching Experience Level Agreements without careful consideration can turn out badly…

In tegenstelling tot de SLA die gericht is op technologie, focust de XLA® op de menselijke factor, de emoties. De XLA vervangt de SLA niet. Het is een aanvulling die zich richt op de ervaring van de gebruiker van de geleverde diensten. Zoals dat gaat met de nieuwe trends en concepten, is er op het internet eindeloos veel informatie te vinden over XLA®’s. Maar bezin voor u eraan begint. Onvoorbereid starten met Experience Level Agreements kan slecht aflopen…

* Giarte is the originator of the Xperience Level Agreement (XLA®)

Ready to start with Experience Level Agreements?

An important question and an absolute starting point for anyone considering XLAs®. Simply launching a survey isn’t a good idea. After all, by beginning to measure experiences, expectations are created. If these expectations are not fulfilled or responded to, the willingness to participate in such initiatives decreases and people simply disengage.

Let’s look at 3 prerequisites to start with Experience Level Agreements:

Internal services are often self-focused. Their internal processes and procedures prevail over the requests and requirements of their customers. For employees, it is quite a challenge to find out where exactly they can go with their request or problem. And often, the services provided are not in line with the customer’s needs and consequently, the user seeks an alternative solution (e.g. shadow IT). In that case, it is necessary to make a cultural change to a customer-oriented organisation. This requires an adaptive response from both the service provider and its customer.

A customer-oriented service that delivers value for the organisation requires co-creation (ITIL 4) between the service provider and the consumer. According to ITIL 4, the user experience is as valuable as the outcome when consuming a service. Therefore it’s important to understand how the customer feels when using a service. The relationship between the parties involved must be strengthened by creating more understanding of mutual expectations, by developing more empathy and by engaging in dialogue with each other.

Even though the concept of business IT alignment was first introduced in the 1990s, the virtual wall between IT and the rest of the organisation often remains. More than once, IT determines the services it delivers on its own, preferably without interference from the users. When IT scrupulously hides SLAs from their users, the step to ELAs is a bridge too far. If IT is not involved with the “board” and there is no proper IT Governance, a lot of work still needs to be done before a more experience-oriented service can be implemented.

Improving customer experience will lead to reduced costs and increased revenues in the long run, but requires the necessary budgets in the short run. Mapping out the customer journey, setting up a baseline, implementing improvements, etc., should not be one-off, isolated initiatives. When starting with XLAs®, a strategic approach is needed in combination with continuous investment. The organisation must therefore be prepared to take action based on subjective experiences and to continue investing in improvement initiatives.

The keyword Experience Level Agreement produces more than 1.3 billion search results in Google’s search engine. Plenty of inspiration, that’s for sure. However, if you don’t see the wood for the trees anymore or if you’ re looking for more detailed roadmaps and practical recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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