An agency owner asked me: “A prospective client is asking for our ‘standard Service Level Agreement.’ We don’t have an agency SLA; should we?”
A key question—should you even agree to an SLA? What service(s) would you be providing under the agency Service Level Agreement (SLA)? SLA’s typically refer to 24/7 services like web and email hosting, where service downtime is disruptive.
SLA’s are less common for ongoing marketing services, but you still have options, especially if it’s a prospect you want to close.
Let’s explore a few sample clauses—especially around the client service experience. Creating a client service SLA can help your agency stand out from the competition.
Things you might guarantee in an SLA
When agencies have SLA’s, they tend to be more informal—more about response time and deliverables at certain stages. For instance:
1) “Your contact at <AgencyName> will send a post-meeting recap within 1 business day.”
2) “We seek to acknowledge all new client requests within 2 business days when submitted via Basecamp. Resolving the requests may take longer, depending on scope and budget.”
3) “We cannot guarantee response time when clients submit requests via email, voicemail, or text message.”
4) “If clients need faster turnaround, they should submit via [agency’s escalation channel], where we’ll respond within 3 business hours; a minimum fee of $500 (including a rush surcharge of 100%) will apply.”
5) “Clients will provide feedback to <AgencyName> within 3 business days. If a client needs longer turnaround on a specific round of feedback, they should request this within 1 business day, so that <AgencyName> can adjust the project schedule.”
What are the problems your agency keeps running into? Those might be a fit for an SLA.
Sample agency Service Level Agreement (SLA) docs
I don’t have a generic agency Service Level Agreement template, but here are some samples online—typically from agencies in the UK:
- SLA from designinc
- SLA from Click Consult (PDF, with mix of SLA and other items)
- SLA from Reach Digital (PDF, 2014)
- SLA from Taylor Made E-Marketing (PDF)
- Econsultancy on sections to include (2009)
To avoid getting sucked into a client’s internal drama, your client’s marketing team will ideally have an internal SLA between them and their sales team. Here’s how they can do that.
Remember, most agencies don’t have a formal SLA beyond what’s in their contract or Master Services Agreement—don’t complicate things for yourself unless you benefit, too.
Three additional items to consider:
- I wrote a Client Bill of Rights (archived) in 2010 as an agency’s Director of Client Services; it’s a mix of SLA and client policies. It helped me and my team better-define our relationships with clients, which fixed or prevented many challenges.
- Advice on creating a good SLA (from Cella, a consulting firm for in-house teams)
- A contrarian take on SLAs at agencies (from 2008):
Enlist others to help
Be sure to discuss your agency SLA with your attorney and your PM team. After all, you don’t want to make commitments you can’t keep, or that will get you in trouble later. And if you’re going to commit to clients, be sure they make commitments to you (about turnaround and other responsibilities)—good agency-client relationships are a two-way street.
Question: Do you have an agency Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your clients?