Service Level Objectives (SLOs) play a crucial role in ensuring that the services we provide meet the needs and expectations of our users. However, setting effective SLOs requires more than just technical expertise; it demands a deep understanding of our customers and their priorities.

The Importance of Customer Understanding

At the heart of every successful product or service lies the customer. Understanding their needs, preferences, and pain points is fundamental to delivering value. When it comes to setting SLOs, this understanding becomes even more critical.

  • Alignment with Customer Expectations: SLOs are essentially promises to our customers about the reliability and performance of our services. Without a clear understanding of what our customers expect, we risk setting SLOs that don’t resonate with them or address their priorities.
  • Prioritizing the Right Metrics: Customers care about certain aspects of the service more than others. By knowing our customers, we can prioritize SLO metrics that are most relevant to them. For example, a gaming platform might prioritize low latency and high availability, while a document collaboration tool might prioritize data integrity and uptime.
  • Building Trust and Loyalty: Meeting or exceeding SLOs can significantly impact customer satisfaction and loyalty. When customers see that we’re consistently delivering on our promises, trust builds, and they’re more likely to continue using our services and even recommend them to others.

Collaboration Beyond Engineering

While engineering teams play a central role in implementing and monitoring SLOs, they shouldn’t work in isolation when setting them.

  • Insights from Customer-Facing Teams: Sales, customer support, and product management teams interact directly with customers on a daily basis. Their insights into customer needs and pain points are invaluable when defining SLOs. By involving them in the process, we gain a more holistic understanding of our customers' expectations.
  • Cross-Functional Alignment: SLOs impact the entire organization, not just the engineering department. Marketing teams need to accurately communicate service capabilities to potential customers, while finance teams need to understand the cost implications of meeting SLOs. Involving stakeholders from various departments ensures that SLOs are aligned with broader business goals and constraints.
  • Balancing Trade-offs: Setting SLOs often involves trade-offs between different metrics, such as reliability, performance, and cost. By involving stakeholders from different parts of the organization, we can make more informed decisions about these trade-offs, ensuring that SLOs strike the right balance between customer needs and business objectives.


Setting effective SLOs requires more than just technical expertise. It requires a deep understanding of our customers and their priorities, as well as collaboration across various functions within the organization. By incorporating customer insights and involving stakeholders beyond engineering, we can ensure that our SLOs are meaningful, relevant, and aligned with both customer expectations and business goals. Ultimately, this leads to greater customer satisfaction, trust, and loyalty, driving long-term success for our products and services.