Business Monthly: Jargon Buster

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The Independent Online

Service level agreement

A form of contract between service provider and client that specifies both the work that the contractor will undertake and the standards of service that the client expects. Commonly defined service levels include frequency of progress reporting, definitions of confidentiality and availability for meetings and conference calls. For this reason, the agreement is often drafted by the client and not the service provider; many large organisations use standardised agreements for their contracts, used in conjunction with a separate work schedule that contains more specific details.


Businesses that provide a service will often have to make a "pitch" in order to win a contract from a potential client. In general, pitches should explain the service levels that a client could expect, describe the services that would be delivered to the client, and refer to experience with previous clients (such as through case studies and testimonials) to illustrate how the contract would achieve satisfactory results. Creative businesses must always make clear to clients what early ideas or design development work has to be paid for, especially if that does not lead to a subsequent contract.