Experience level agreements help measure what traditional metrics, like CSAT scores, might miss. The beauty of XLAs is they measure how well your IT service desk is meeting business and employee needs and outcomes, instead of just measuring what has been agreed upon for service.

by Sami Kallio
Date Published August 17, 2021 - Last Updated January 20, 2023

As an IT service desk manager, XLAs – eXperience level agreements – are probably something that you’re hearing in more discussions. This blog explains why XLAs and experience-related targets should be used as a key indicator of how well your IT service desk is meeting business and employee needs and outcomes.

Shortcomings of Traditional Metrics

How often do you get told – either directly or indirectly – about people’s IT support horror stories? Things don’t always add up, because your IT service desk’s performance metrics consistently show that the agreed on service-level targets are being met, and often exceeded.

To understand this discrepancy, there’s a need to appreciate what’s currently being measured and how. For example, do your IT service desk performance metrics measure how well things are being done operationally rather than assessing the outcomes for, and the experiences of, the employees being served? This is why there’s a gap – which can be called a perceptions gap, expectations gap, experience gap – between the IT service desk’s own measurement of its performance and what end users think or perceive it to be.

Measuring performance simply to show that agreed-on service targets have been met misunderstands a key purpose of metrics – to enable the improvement of both operations and outcomes.

People might think that customer satisfaction (CSAT) is sufficient to measure what employees think about the service and support they received from their IT service desk. As with the other IT service desk KPIs that are consistently “showing green,” however, your CSAT score might not be a great indicator of what employees feel about the service and support they receive. This is especially true when the CSAT questionnaires ask questions related to the “mechanics” of IT support rather than the end-user experience.

Plus, the level of employee feedback is likely low due to a variety of factors:

  • Timeliness of the request for feedback
  • Employee-relevance of the questions posed
  • Ease of feedback completion
  • Lack of visible improvement.

This means that the feedback is skewed – likely based on the receipt of great and poor service – at best. The corporate IT service desk faces similar issues to the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies that have moved from traditional CSAT questionnaires to measuring net promoter score (NPS) over the last decade.

Why Use XLAs Instead

XLAs allow the service provider to better understand how well business and employee needs are being met. If used correctly, XLAs can be used to drive the right improvements to close the gap between the demand-side and supply-side views of performance. XLAs measure from an experience and outcomes perspective, such that you can then align your improvement activities to what matters most (to your organization and its employees).

With the use of XLAs and experience-based metrics, IT service providers are able to better understand what’s happening – both good, neutral, and bad – at key employee touchpoints. This means that their investments in improvement – to IT support operations, services, and outcomes – will be made in the right places, especially in addressing the underlying root causes of the issues rather than the more obvious symptoms.

XLAs hopefully provide more data-driven insight – especially the poor-experience factors – that makes you wonder about how well your IT service desk is really doing and what traditional service desk metrics mask in terms of the employee experience.

Sami Kallio is CEO and co-founder of HappySignals. Before starting HappySignals, he worked as the CEO of Palmu.exe, a service design company. Before that, he was responsible for the service design unit at Tieto Corporation. He believes happiness and productivity are the keys to transforming business IT culture for the better.

Tag(s): supportworld, service quality, service management, best practice, metrics and measurements, methodology


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