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SOPs & SLAs: Setting Expectations Through Documentation

How SOPs and SLAs set expectations through documentation.

How can you judge quality if it’s not consistent and measurable? Setting clear expectations and concrete processes are essential for outsourced bookkeeping and accounting companies concerned with managing quality.

By creating service-level agreements with your customers and standard operating procedures for your company, you can ensure consistent, measurable, and quality results every time.

Service-Level Agreements

Because “quality” is such a subjective term, it’s important to create a document that explains exactly what quality means. A service-level agreement (SLA) is the first step toward managing quality.

The SLA is an agreement between the client and the service provider. It details all the expectations held by both parties. Basically, it’s a quality checklist. You’ll know exactly what your team needs to do to produce high-quality work.

It might sound like SLAs are a list of client demands, but in addition to client expectations, a good SLA should also include itemized promises from the service provider.

What are you going to do for the client? When everything is written on paper, you and your client can be on the same page when it comes to the all-important question: What is quality?

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Now that you have an SLA you know exactly what you need to do. It’s time for the team to deliver what you promised. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are detailed “how-to” guides for every process.

With clear, defined procedures in place, every employee should be able to produce consistent results with minimal management. If a mistake is made, it’s easy to go back into the SOP and see exactly what needs to be corrected.

There should be SOPs in place for every process no matter how big or small. Write SOPs for managing account charts, balance sheets, client communication, and for anything in which quality is important. (That should be everything.) SOPs related to client-specific policies and procedures should be included in client operations manuals so that everyone is on the same page.

Adding checklists to your SOPs are a good way to ensure employees can easily follow and not miss any important steps. This will guarantee consistency and accuracy when it comes to delivering the promises made in the SLA.

It’s All in The Details

For these documents to work effectively, it’s important to include the right details.

For outsourced bookkeeping and accounting SLAs, you should include at least:

  • The accounting method utilized
  • Specific scope of service
  • Expected transaction volumes
  • Monthly close deadlines
  • Communication cadence
  • Year-end close and tax audit support details
  • Definition and timeline of client onboarding process
  • Technology stack utilized
  • What to do if requirements are not met

It’s a good idea to develop standardized templates for your SLAs. That way, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you get a new client.

To craft effective SOPs, include every minute detail of the process you’re describing. It doesn’t matter how big or small it may seem. The more detailed the SOP, the less room for error and the more sustainable quality work you’ll be able to get from your employees.

Sustainable Quality

SLAs and SOPs attempt to answer the question, “What is quality?”

The service-level agreement defines quality in the deliverables expected and promised. The standard operating procedure defines how-tos for your team members. With both documents in place, it’s easy to see exactly what quality is and how to consistently achieve it.

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