Like a lot of small consultancies, Comley pulled his SLA together out of other similar documents he’s seen from suppliers. By contrast, the 85-person network support and maintenance consultancy Networks First not only wrote two of its own — one for partner suppliers and the other for the customers it serves — but rewrote them to earn the Plain English Campaign’s Crystal mark.

Read more: what is an SLA?

Networks First sends out a checklist with the contract plus an explanation of the escalation process. Managing director Peter Titmus says, “The main thing we say is to try and get the contract as explicit as possible about what you’re trying to do. It can make them quite wordy.”

It’s all, he says, part of an ongoing communications programme. “The biggest problem we have is that what we maintain doesn’t go wrong very often — but when it does the repercussions can be huge.” Therefore the goal is to ensure that customers understand clearly what both sides are obliged to provide. “For example,” he says, “the liability is on them to have backups in place so that when the supplier attends the backup is ready to run. We treat the contract as a manual for the relationship, and that’s done us a lot of favours.”

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