• Michael Intravartolo

Standard and Enhanced SLAs in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015: How To Maximize Your Usage



Service level agreements (SLAs) are designed to set clear expectations for a company and its customers when service or support is required. When a customer service team tracks its work in the context of SLAs, there are often a range of complex rules and processes that must be defined and managed to ensure all involved parties are giving and getting what they should.

Starting with CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been releasing an improved set of SLA tools. While the improvements have been broadly welcomed, they also introduce new challenges related to measuring business performance, monitoring customers, managing processes, and, ultimately, verifying compliance with SLA rules.

An SLA managed in Dynamics CRM 2015 can depend on such factors such as attribute of the customer, e.g., premium or high-value customers get one type of service level, while lower value customers get another type. Or the SLA can be based on an attribute of the case, e.g., a high-priority case gets a certain type of service level that's different from the service level provided to a lower-priority case.

There are two types of service level agreements in Dynamics CRM 2015: standard and enhanced.

Standard SLAs were introduced with the spring release of Dynamics CRM 2013. The standard SLA lets you take actions if "First Response By" and "Case Resolved By" values are not met. You can also set up Dynamics CRM to send warnings if the thresholds for these fields are approaching. In the standard SLA, you have to add a timer on the form manually. But you can't pause the timer functionality when a case is on hold.

The enhanced SLA in Dynamics CRM 2015 lets users take more nuanced actions like pausing an SLA when a case is on hold, add success actions to an SLA, and track SLA status and time right on the case form via the SLA KPI Instance record type (more on that later).

For more details on the difference between standard and enhanced, Microsoft MVP Steve Foster offers a tabular view of each type on his blog.

"When it comes down to which SLA is more appropriate for you to use, it comes down to the type of information you're tracking," said a presenter at a recent CRMUG online event. "If you're utilizing CRM 2015, my first response would be to say use the enhanced SLA because you're going to see a lot of benefit from that in terms of being able to create your own KPIs, having multiple time controls on your form, and being able to have the pause and resume capabilities."

KPIs in CRM 2015 are managed by a new entity, an SLA KPI Instance. Instances of this entity are auto-generated and updated for cases that use CRM 2015's enhanced SLAs. For a detailed look at setting up KPI measures, Steven Foster offers readers an example on his blog. And the Inogic blog offers a closer look at the timer capabilities of SLAs in CRM 2015

A KPI can also be used to govern rules about when to escalate a case. For example, a KPI could dictate that a case may not remain at Tier One for no more than four hours.

Another benefits of using an SLA is the reporting capability so you can see where you failed in meeting certain conditions, according to the CRMUG presenter. And an SLA gives you the capability to perform actions when you fail to meet those criteria and if you fail to resolve the case within a certain amount of time.

Before a failure occurs, you can also set warning actions to the let the case owner know that the time to resolve an issue is almost up so that person can do what it takes to get the job done.

"We want to keep a standard level of service that our customers can expect from us," said the CRMUG presenter. "And service level agreements help provide that timeline or framework for users to be able to follow."

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