SLA: Counter-productiveness

I was in Sydney a couple of weeks back at the (excellent) AWS Summit and was lucky enough to get the heavy Amazon customer obsession treatment via the exec track. Now each to their own, but I double down on the If we do the right thing for our customers, we will succeed as an outcome of that, and that’s a barrow well peddled by JB et al. 

Clearly the opposite is true too, which leads to what really resonates with me: the ? email speaks of no SLA context, it speaks of perception and expectation which is customer first. You with me? 

I thought I’d share.

If you’re not familiar, the ? email has been getting some great air recently, it’s the email you really don’t want to receive at Amazon. In my own words: What have we done to let our customer down? And from what I gauge, I blatantly over indulge by 34 letters. Sometimes less really is more.

Now I know that there probably isn’t actually an SLA around everything that Amazon does, but I also don’t think that really matters. For me, intent is where it’s at. What I think really matters was whether the (our) customer was let down or not, based on their perceptions and expectations.

Where am I going with this? In my mind the SLA is pretty much counter-productive, as in internet definition counter-productive: 




having the opposite of the desired effect.

“child experts fear the Executive’s plans may prove counterproductive”

To me, the SLA actually defines the worst possible service a company can provide to their customer whilst getting off the hook. Sound good? Not so much for me.

I’m thinking that the SLA is actually the yes we had an outage, yes we impacted on your brand and reputation, your customers brand and reputation, and in turn their customers experience and expectations, but look sorry about that, we met the SLA. 

I’m thinking the SLA is the: we’re all good right?  Nope, actually we aren’t all good. 

I’m thinking the SLA is the warranty of the used car, the warranty that the salesman tells you you’re never Going to need…Surely it is the caveat for the worse case scenario. Problem it’s there because it probably needs to be, because that worst case scenario is often a when not if, well known by the ’service’ provider. The SLA could very well be where we fall back to when some nasty red, yellow & blue concoction has hit something consisting of a rotating arrangement of vanes which act on the air. 

I’m a customer and I have customers and I’m personally really against drawing upon the wisdom of the SLA (like really really against, so please don’t do it to me either), instead we (and you) should probably be asking a single question, did we let our customer down? That question is productive, lets aim to avoid the counter. It might be subjective, but then again, maybe it should be, because it’s our customer calling.

I’m looking to making sure I don’t let my customer down, regardless of whether that falls within the SLA. You with me?

Note: I originally posted this as the counter-productiveness of the SLA on LinkedIn in May 2018 and slightly tweaked for this post.

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