Over the last year I’ve posted a lot of blog articles about SatManage and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and I have had many discussions about SLAs with Service Providers and their end customers: it seems more and more SLAs are being utilized. Why? VSAT is used more frequently to support business-critical applications. One example of this is in the maritime vertical where VSAT originally would be used to deliver crew welfare services, Internet, and telephone, but now is used for a range of business applications. The shipping industry is even asking for SLAs … at a recent GVF event, a shipping captain had quite a lot to say:
“Kuba Szymanski of Intermanager wrapped up the conference with a very feisty presentation, hurling questions about the shipping industry to participants to demonstrate that the service providers didn’t know enough about the market they were selling into and complaining that VSATs had been sold on the basis of being as reliable as L-Band, but without providing any Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to support this. Orange Business Services is one company that has already responded to this complaint and is offering a 99.95% end-to-end SLA for its system to the maritime industry. However, as would be expected, this is a high-end solution and is likely to be out of range of many of the ship operators.”
With the recent launch of SatManage 5.2, the software offers many valuable features including an automated SLA Manager for easier reporting and management. It also includes Web Service APIs for easier integration with existing business systems and also is now compliant with Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) requirements, which enables government customers to leverage the benefits of SatManage.
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) Manager feature is a tool that allows Network Operators to automatically generate reports specific to custom SLAs they have with their customers. The SLA Manager provides Network Operators with detailed information about their ability to meet service level commitments made to customers.
It allows customers to understand what their availability is for the network, or parts of the network. It works through templates, masks and a renderer engine. A user can build templates pretty quickly.
Once built, the templates can be run either manually or automatically:
- ‘Manually’ means that the user selects date range, network element and other report details – and the system will compute the availability based on the pre-configured masks.
- ‘Automatically’ involves the usage of schedules, configurable from admin.
Reactive vs. Proactive Support
Here’s how I see it. You can have Reactive Support, which means waiting for customers to call and tell you there is a problem. Or you can have Proactive Support, which means fixing customers’ problems before they notify you. This could be extended to fixing problems through automation, which SatManage was built to do.
Why automation? Simple: to attract more customers and higher value customers, such as those in the verticals Oil and Gas, Maritime, Governments – all who want and need quick availability and reliability.
To back this up, you need to offer SLAs.
SatManage streamlines SLA compliance by automatically generating intelligent reports on SLA performance tailored to each specific customer’s agreement thus greatly simplifying end-of-month SLA reconciliation.
- Provides fully customized, automatic SLA Reporting down to the client level
- Provides flexible calculations for different services levels
- Automatically excludes external factors from the availability calculation
- Simplifies SLA reporting by reducing time spent calculating monthly SLA reports
- Facilitates SLA negotiations and eases reporting compliance
- Makes it easy to extend terrestrial SLAs to satellite networks
Below you’ll find links to previous articles I’ve written about the importance of having an SLA.
We talked about the importance of SLAs, and how these can help retain customers:
Right now, iDirect customers offer SLAs as an assurance that once a VSAT application is launched, end customers can be certain that their IT applications, like VoIP, VPN, streaming media, Internet access or data backup, will function with enough bandwidth, lower latency, decreased jitter, and constant connectivity, ensuring that it’s there when you need it. In short, services can be offered with confidence.
Then I showed you some reports that can be generated and discussed the tool that is coming:
And how an automated tool can help take some of the “emotions” out of SLA negotiations:
iDirect makes negotiating a bit easier for you with SatManage. There is an “SLA Negotiation Tool,” which helps our Network Operators and Service Providers negotiate the SLA portion of the contract with the End Customer (VSAT Service User). The SLA Manager, a rules-based system that is tailored to a specific customer agreement, gives service providers and customers a uniform view into the same data points and methodology pre-determined in an SLA.
…There is an abundance of data, but the critical thing is to present data that is interesting to a customer. And how a single version of the truth help you quickly resolve commercial or technical issues, and come to agreements with your customers.
Communicating with your customers:
An SLA report could be generated monthly and sent via email, but maybe it would be better to let end customer generate their own reports as they need them. Then customers can access the data they need when they need it.
The customer portal in some markets is an important point of differentiation between providers that customers will seek in their selection criteria. In other markets providers need to offer customer portal features to remain competitive and offer differentiation within the marketplace.
Does your competition offer customer portals?
You can even automate your responses to customers, and start to react faster to customers’ demands:
1) Offer SLAs
2) Generate useful reports
3) Automated negotiation
4) Present a Single view of the truth
5) Allow customer to create their own reports
6) Automate trouble tickets and common responses
The result? A support organization unburdened by firefighting and focused on scheduled, preventive, and corrective maintenance activities. Give the data sights and tools needed.
For it is only when you have achieved a stable support operation that you can reach your goals of offering high level of service and attracting valuable customers in high ARPU vertical markets.
Why would you not offer SLAs if end customers are asking for them?