Barnaby Smith and Rob Rudd discuss the value of Mediafleet’s ‘Service Level Agreement’ in the fleet graphics market.
Death and Taxes…
As the old saying goes, ‘death and taxes’ are the only things you can be certain of in-life. But in life, we are all programmed to predict events and, wherever possible, remove life’s uncertainties and improve the outcome of detrimental occurrences. Some very rich individuals are even trying to end the ageing process, thereby removing ‘Death’ from the above statement altogether. Over Christmas I was reading a book by Yuval Noah Harari where he states that Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, is investing a fortune in ‘Life Extension’ technology in an attempt to achieve immortality. CNBC's Zack Guzman reported in 2016 that "thousands of people around the world have put their trust, lives and fortunes into the promise of cryonics”. Apparently, you can pay $200,000 dollars to have your whole body frozen using cryonics so you can be ‘reinvented’ years from now. (Or $80,000 for just your head!)
But there is an easier way to increase your chances that, in business at least, certain events will happen when they are supposed to and in-line with your expectations – by making sure you have a ‘Service Level Agreement’ in place…alongside your warranty agreement.
A brief history…
‘Service Level Agreements’ (SLA), in the current format, originated back in the 1980’s by telephony providers offering important, hi-tech communications services to high profile organisations. These organisations (the customer) needed to be sure that, in the event of service/product failure, communications would be re-instated within an acceptable time frame and against known costs (if any). As IT became more prevalent and intricate, SLA’s became the norm. These days I doubt there are many organisations that don’t have an SLA of one form or another covering their essential IT service provision.
At Mediafleet, we believe that, regardless of the service being provided, a clear understanding of the relationship obligations by all parties leads to a more secure and profitable relationship for all – and this is achieved by the ‘Service Level Agreement’.
As a buyer of Mediafleet’s services you are immediately increasing the certainty that events will happen when you expect, to the standard you demand and at a price that is agreed.
Are ‘Service Level Agreements’ difficult to establish and agree?
It’s easy to understand why the lawyers placed themselves at a table one day and said that IT is a pivotal service requirement and we should formalise the support mechanisms. A worthwhile business necessity plus, they can make a small fortune devising and administering complex documents – happy days! But SLA’s do not need to be complex. A successful service level agreement in the vehicle graphics supply chain is founded on a clear understanding of the outcomes the business requires. These outcomes are the result of managers discussing and agreeing the different aspects of supply and tailoring the associated services to fit around them. Since inception in 2002, the Mediafleet reputation for service has been based on this process. Our customers know what will happen when anything needs to be done concerning the supply and fit of vehicle graphics.
Our new SLA now formalises this approach and we are happy to put our name on the agreement because we have the processes and procedures to deliver.
What is included in an SLA?
Whether the agreement is generated by the supplier or the consumer, the contents are largely the same. In brief:
The scope of the agreement – which services are covered.
The goal of the agreement – a description of the benefits of the agreement
Responsibilities of service provider and customer
Timings for all service/product delivery
Costs for service/product delivery
Issue resolution time
Procedures for service delivery
Dispute resolution policy
Does the vehicle graphics supply industry need ‘Service Level Agreements’?
Let’s agree something before we answer this. Your business brand is the most important asset your business owns. Everything your business is known and stands for is nicely packaged in your brand. Any ‘distortion’ or ‘corruption’ of your brand could be hugely detrimental.
All commercial vehicles are likely to be branded, the consequence of which is that just like your IT services, they need to be supported. That support needs to be formalised so that graphics supply and in-fleet management is agreed against acceptable turnaround times and costs. Most vehicle graphics providers will provide a graphics warranty for the life of the vehicle. This warranty no doubt backed by the vinyl manufacturer themselves. But this only tells half the story. If a problem occurs with your vehicle graphics, you need to know more than the fact that it will be repaired ‘free of charge’. You need to know amongst other things, that it will be repaired within timescales and costs that are acceptable to you!
Most of Mediafleet’s new business comes from organisations who have been let down by ‘poor service’. I suspect that, in these cases, the services and the quality of the services required for successful supply and in life management have not been considered and agreed in advance - so dissatisfaction has occurred. The outcome of certain incidents (from graphics supply to in-life care) have rendered the relationship untenable.
Formalising your supply chain relationships.
This is a simple process. Ask your graphics supplier to furnish you with a copy of their template SLA. Or, ask them to sign up to a support agreement that you have devised. This document can then be discussed and agreed. Ultimately - this allows you to measure the performance of your supplier and the performance of your own processes and procedures.
The rules of the game…
The best way to view a SLA is as a rule book by which the relationship between supplier and customer is governed. It removes ambiguity. The rules should be discussed at length so that all eventualities are covered. At this point, as a fleet or procurement manager you can feel confident that you have done your upmost to manage the relationship to the best of your ability and to the advantage of your business.
If you have any comments/questions or would like to know more, then please get in touch.