A Service Level Agreement, or SLA, is an agreed upon measure of the response and resolution times that your support team delivers to your customers. Providing support based on service levels ensures that you're delivering measured and predictable service. It also provides greater visibility when problems arise.
You can define SLA service targets in Zendesk Support so that you and your agents can monitor your service level performance and meet your service level goals. Zendesk Support highlights tickets that fail to meet service level targets so that you can promptly identify and address problems.
- A set of conditions that a ticket must satisfy in order for the SLA policy to be applied
- The target time for each desired metric and priority value
- One or more metrics that you choose to measure
- Whether targets will be measured in business or calendar hours by priority value
For more information about viewing SLAs as an agent, see Viewing and understanding SLA policies.
To learn about setting up multiple versions of policies, see Versioning your SLA policies.
Fine tuning: Learn how you can make the most out of your SLAs with Sam Chandler's Fine tuning: succeeding with SLAs--why, when, and how!.
Understanding how SLA policies are applied to tickets
When a ticket is created or updated, it runs through all of your normal triggers you’ve already set up in your Zendesk Support instance. After the triggers have been applied, we run that ticket through the SLA system.
Starting at the top of your list of policies and moving down, we compare the conditions on that policy to the ticket. The first policy we find whose conditions are satisfied by the ticket is applied to the ticket. For details about how policies are ordered, see Ordering SLA policies. To review which policies have been applied to a ticket and in what order, see Viewing which SLA policies have been applied to a ticket
In most cases when a ticket is updated, the ticket will match the exact same policy that’s already applied and nothing will change. If your ticket has changed in priority but you haven’t modified your SLA policies since that ticket was last updated, the targets on the ticket will be updated to reflect the priority.
There are, of course, some exceptions. If you’ve created a new, more restrictive policy since that ticket was last updated, it’s possible that the ticket will receive that new policy that didn’t exist before. Or, alternatively, you may have updated the targets for the policy that’s already been applied. In both of those cases, the ticket will receive the new information.
When you merge an older ticket with an SLA into a new ticket, the older ticket’s SLA state is frozen, whether achieved or missed. The newer ticket proceeds with its own SLA. The merge action appears as an internal update on the newer ticket, which doesn’t meet or change any SLAs
Tickets set to Solved immediately fulfill all active SLA targets.
Understanding what metrics you can measure
You can define SLA service targets for five different metrics: first reply time, next reply time, periodic update time, requester wait time, and agent work time. The first three metrics measure reply time, while the second two measure resolution time.
Reply time metrics
The following metrics measure reply time:
- First reply time is the time between ticket creation and the first public comment from an agent, displayed in minutes. Some qualifications include:
Requester Ticket comment Result The requester is an end user. The ticket is created with a public end-user comment. The SLA first reply time target starts at their comment and runs through the next public agent comment. This is the most common workflow and typical behavior. The ticket is created with a public agent comment. The SLA first reply time target is immediately satisfied. It does not activate or record an achievement. The ticket is created with a private comment. See Creating a private ticket for an end-user. The SLA first reply time target starts at the first public comment by an end-user after the ticket is made public. This means the first reply can start after a public agent comment. It still runs until the next public agent comment after the end-user. The requester is a light agent. The ticket is created with a public agent comment. The SLA first reply time target is immediately satisfied. It does not activate or record an achievement. The ticket is created with a private comment by the agent requester. The SLA first reply time target starts at ticket creation. It still must be fulfilled with a public agent comment after that. The ticket is created with a private comment by a different agent: The SLA first reply time target does not activate.
- Next reply time is the time between the oldest unanswered customer comment and the next public comment from an agent, displayed in minutes.
- Periodic update time is the time between each public comment from agents, displayed in minutes. The SLA is still active on Pending. If a user reopens a ticket, the periodic update time will not start until an agent makes another comment.
- Pausable update is the time between each public comment from agents when the tickets is in the New, Open, and On-hold statuses, pausing when the ticket is put into Pending.
The First reply time and Next reply time metrics typically use an end-user comment as starting point, and a public agent response as an end point. The following graphic shows how these metrics fit in with the lifecycle of a ticket.
The Periodic update time uses the agent's public comment as a starting point and resets after each published comment. For example if you have a periodic update time of 30 minutes, your agent will need to add a new public comment every 30 minutes.
The Pausable update metric uses the agent's public comment on a new or existing ticket as a starting point, only if that ticket is not in the pending status. If a ticket is contains a public comment and is marked as pending in the same event, the metric will not be applied to the ticket until the ticket is first submitted in an open status and set back to pending. Once a comment is present, the metric pauses in the pending status and resumes in a non-pending status with either no comment or a private comment from an agent.
Resolution time metrics
The following metrics measure resolution time:
- Requester wait time is the combined total time spent in the New, Open, and On-hold statuses. The SLA will pause on Pending.
- Agent work time is the combined total time spent in the New and Open statuses. The SLA will pause on Pending and On-hold.
Note that you should only choose one resolution time metric.
Resolution metrics always use the status of the ticket for starting, pausing, and stopping, as opposed to comments. The following graphic shows how the resolution time metrics fit in with the lifecycle of a ticket.
- First Reply Time, Next Reply Time: If a ticket is reopened with an end user comment and all conditions are met, the relevant Reply Time metric is restarted.
- Periodic Update, Pausable Update: If a ticket is reopened with an end user comment, nothing will happen. If a ticket is reopened with an agent comment, the relevant Update metric is restarted.
- Agent Work Time, Requester Wait Time: These metrics activate only with the appropriate ticket status, including if the ticket is reopened.
Setting up SLA policies
To set up SLA policies, you combine the metrics described above with conditions and targets.
Conditions for SLA policies are similar to the conditions you use to set up triggers. Like conditions for triggers, they have both All and Any conditions, and the conditions can be based on ticket fields, user fields, or organization fields. However, there are fewer options than in triggers. For example, you can't create a condition based on the ticket’s status or priority, because those pieces of information are already built into the SLA policy model.
A target is the goal within which a particular time-based metric should fall. If, for example, you want all urgent tickets in a given policy to have a first reply time that is less than or equal to 15 minutes, you would set a target of 15 minutes. You can define individual targets for each combination of metric and priority per policy. You can also set hours of operation, whether in Business or Calendar hours, for each priority and policy.
To set up an SLA policy
- Click the Admin icon () in the sidebar, then select Business Rules > Service Level Agreements.
- Click Add policy.
- Enter a name in the Policy Name field.
- Optionally, enter a description in the Description field.
- In the Conditions section, select the conditions for this policy. Start typing the condition to autocomplete or select an option from the drop-down menu.
- In the Targets section, enter a time target for each metric and ticket priority. You can enter hours, minutes, or both. Remember that you should use only one of the two resolution time metrics.
- For each priority, select either Calendar hours or Business hours for Hours of operation.
- Click Save.
Community tip! Mat Cropper shows how to set up SLAs so the correct policy is always applied in Running triggers, automations, and reporting based on ticket SLAs. And Mark Powell shows how to set up SLAs for time zones in Using SLAs with different time zones, contracts, and business hours.
- Click the Admin icon () in the sidebar, then select Business Rules > Service Level Agreements.
- Click on the SLA policy you want to edit.
- Edit the policy as necessary and click Save.
Ordering SLA policies
It's possible to create logically overlapping policies, but at any given time a single ticket can only have one policy applied to it. When you have multiple policies that match a ticket, we’ll use the order of the policies to break any ties. For details about how the order of policies affects tickets, see Understanding how SLA policies are applied to tickets. To review which policies have been applied to a ticket and in what order, see Viewing which SLA policies have been applied to a ticket
To make your policies most effective, you should roughly order your policies with the most restrictive policies at the top, and your least restrictive policies at the bottom.
To order your SLA policies
- Click the Admin icon () in the sidebar, then selecting Business Rules > Service Level Agreements.
- Hover your mouse over the left of the SLA policy name you want to reorder until the grabber is highlighted.
- Click and drag the policy to the new position.
Adding SLAs to views
Similar to ticket statuses, SLA targets have different statuses on a ticket. Agents can see these statuses in tickets or in views in the Next SLA breach column. The Next SLA breach column displays the calendar time left before the next target on any given ticket will be breached.
Currently, there's no way to send notifications to agents based on SLA breaches.
To add SLAs to a view
- Click the Views icon () in the sidebar, then select a view.
- Click the View options menu in the upper right.
- Click Edit.
- Scroll down to the Formatting options section.
- Under Columns not included in table, click Next SLA breach.
- Drag Next SLA breach into the Columns included in table column.
- To make sure the tickets whose targets are most breached or are closest to breaching will get attention first, select Order by > Next SLA breach in Ascending order.
- Click Submit.
Using SLA breaches in automations
You can set up automations based on SLA breach status using two conditions, Hours since last SLA breach and Hours until next SLA breach. For information about creating automations, see Streamlining workflows with time-based events and automations.
Currently, you can't create triggers based on SLA breach status.
Reporting on SLAs
You can now view how well you are meeting your SLA policies with the SLA reporting dashboard. This dashboard gives you relevant information for each SLA metric you measure. The reports enable you to pinpoint areas where you might need to increase efficiency or staffing based on weekly and hourly information.
It is important to note that the pre-built reports are based on a per instance basis rather than a per ticket basis. Most of your SLA metrics (First Reply Time, Requester Wait Time, Agent Work Time) are measured once per ticket. However, the metrics Next Reply Time and Periodic Update Time are used to measure the amount of time between comments. So, these metric could potentially be calculated multiple times.
For example, suppose you answered your customers' comments within the target time once, but breached the target three times after. Each of those achievements and breaches are calculated as separate instances.
Now how would this work if you are trying to calculate your Next Reply Time achieved percentage?
- Ticket A: 1 breach, 3 achievements (4 instances)
- Ticket B: 1 breach, 5 achievements (6 instances)
- Ticket C: 0 breaches, 3 achievements (3 instances)
- Ticket D: 3 breaches, 1 achievement (4 instances)
- Ticket E: 0 breaches, 3 achievements (3 instances)
Overall, there are 20 instances of Next Reply Time measured across five tickets. Your % Achieved is calculated by taking the number of achieved instances over the total number of instances. In this case your achieved percentage would be 75%.
% Achievement=15 achieved instances/20 measured instances=75%
The SLA metric instance attribute is also important when you build your own custom reports. If you want to view individual instances, you need to slice your report by this attribute. You can find this attribute underneath How>Ticket SLAs.