Several weeks ago I filed a request for an account credit with a strategic partner due to violations with our service level agreement (SLA). During the previous months, this partner had failed to deliver its contracted service at levels noted in the SLA for availability. My team and I had access to a website with information, but the information was not updated in a timely manner. We use the data from the partner for research and reporting that give us a basis for decision making. The penalty for SLA violations, as is common, is financial in nature and specifies a percentage-off our monthly contracted price for the service.
After reviewing my request for credit, the legal group of the partner organization indicated that they were not in violation of the agreement by the written terms in the SLA. Essentially they ruled that the SLA stated they were to provide an accessible web site to my company regardless if it contained updated data. After trying to offer me credit for future services they decided to “compromise” and offer me one month of the service penalty instead of the two I had requested.
Now, I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed with their answer. My response to them was not in anger however. Instead I referenced the mission statement of their organization. I reminded them that my company contracted with them to provide a valuable service that helps us to understand our customers better. By interpreting the SLA as a simple on/off matter they had undervalued their service to the market. You see, if I just needed a company to host a web server and storage I could pick from hundreds of web hosting companies. Their interpretation of the SLA had essentially put their service on par with a web hosting company and their service is much more valuable than that. So I politely told them they should reconsider their response as it didn’t align with the stated objectives of their business.
In the end, I’m happy to write that they agreed with my logic. They will issue a credit in the full requested amount. The bigger lesson here is not about placing blame or finding fault. It’s about not undervaluing your service or products in the Marketplace. It’s about maintaining customer focus above all else. That’s a great business lesson for all us.