It’s All About Credentials

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineYou say and believe that your call center is good, but can you prove it? Sure, you have clients who say how much they value and appreciate the service you provide, but so does your competitor. You have written testimonials about your quality and professionalism, but so does your competitor. How then, can you truly distinguish yourself from the claims made by your rivals? You must be able to substantiate your high level of excellence; you need credentials.

A credential is the verifiable recognition from an independent third party that you have earned and meet a standard level of performance. There are three organizations in the teleservice industry that can provide these credentials – once you qualify. These organizations are:

  • CAM-X: Award of Excellence and Call Centre Award of Distinction
  • ATSI: Award of Excellence and Site Certification
  • SNUG: Site Certification

CAM-X

The Canadian Call Management Association (CAM-X) offers two testing programs addressing agent performance and quality. These are the Award of Excellence and the Call Centre Award of Distinction.

Award of Excellence: The Award of Excellence program, started in 1989, is a benchmarking tool to test call center agents in telephone technique, call control, client knowledge, and overall service quality. “With competition from virtually every angle, only the best service will keep the customers happy and loyal,” said CAM-X Executive Director Linda Osip. “The cut above will be rewarded with the coveted Award of Excellence.”

Over a six-month period, participating organizations are called ten times by “mystery callers.” The mystery callers conduct each test call based on client profile information participants provide when registering for the program. At the completion of the testing phase, independent judges listen to the recordings of the calls and assess a score. The average of all ten scores becomes the overall score. Those achieving a score of 80 percent or higher will receive the Award of Excellence, presented at the annual convention.

This is an annual program and CAM-X recently began testing for 2003. It will be conducted from February through July. The winners will be announced at the Annual Convention in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 17.

The 2002 CAM-X Award of Excellence winners have been previously published in Connections Magazine.

The cost to participate in the Award of Excellence program is $350 for CAM-X members and $700 for non-members. (CAM-X administers this same program for ATSI and its members.)

Call Centre Award of Distinction: The Call Centre Award of Distinction program was created by CAM-X in 2000 to meet the needs of members who serve callcenterand contactcenterclients.  The program focuses on customer relationship management, courtesy, etiquette, and proper call techniques, providing unbiased testing for quality assurance. The Call Centre Award of Distinction operates the same as the Award of Excellence, however the evaluation criteria is geared towards advanced call processes that are not covered by the Award of Excellence program.

This, too, is an annual program and the registration deadline for the 2003 program is April 4. The testing will be conducted from April through September. The winners will be announced at the CAM-X Annual Convention in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 17.

The cost to participate in the Call Centre Award of Distinction program is $550 for CAM-X members and $1,000 for non-members. CAM-X members participating in both programs may do so for $800.

The 2002 CAM-X Call Centre Award of Distinction winners have been previously published in Connections Magazine.

(ATSI is also interested in the Call Centre Award of Distinction. It will tentatively be introduced to members at the ATSI annual convention and trade show in Orlando, Fla., to be held June 18-21.)

For more information, contact CAM-X at 800-896-1054.

SNUG

The Startel National Users Group (SNUG) has developed “a three-tiered educational program to provide members with certification levels covering the areas of their business with the focus on achieving 99.99% annual run-time,” said Dan L’Heureux, SNUG executive director. The three areas are CSR, supervisor, and site.

CSR Certification: The CSR (customer service representative) certification program is designed for the telemessaging industry to certify and accredit CSRs. The goal of the CSR certification program is for telemessaging service providers to offer their CSRs a professionally prepared program where they can be tested and accredited in customer service skill sets based on the features of the accredited telemessaging platform.

Successful candidates will have demonstrated excellence in three areas: completion and testing under the interactive training program, successfully passing a comprehensive written examination of call handling skill sets, and an oral interview testing customer service issues and problem calls with a certified examiner.

Supervisor Certification: Candidates are selected to participate in the supervisor certification program because their manager feels they have the potential to lead, coach, and support the CSR staff. As part of the examination candidates are given problems and case studies to solve. They also answer questions in essay form about system operations and procedures. It is as much a test of character as a test of knowledge.

Site Certification: The 24/7 site certification program sets forth nearly 60 criteria to be met or exceeded. These specifications were designed by SNUG’s Education Committee. They represent a collection of the best practices and guidelines to which telemessaging sites must adhere. Part of the challenge of participating in this peer review program is in the preparations that centers must complete in order to qualify. Upon receiving certification status, an organization will have demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the education committee, a high level of proficiency in recovery techniques, good business practices, documentation of procedures, and levels of redundancy necessary for 24 x 7 preparedness.

The cost is $495 for certification and $600 for the examiner, plus expenses. Certified sites can in turn examine for up to three other sites, thereby earning back their initial fees. Once certified, it can be renewed annually at a cost of $75 per year for two more years. After that, the site will need to undergo recertification.

Certification specifications have been developed for Startel systems and the Amtelco Infinity system. Work is currently underway to establish criteria for Telescan systems.

Those who have qualified for site certification are:

  • MedCom Professional Services (Chris Bell), in Levittown, Pa. (Startel platform)
  • Answerquick (Beth Cooper) in Knoxville, Tenn. (Startel platform)
  • AAMCOM (Steve Diels) in Redondo Beach, Calif. (Infinity platform)
  • Business Connections (Dirk Moeller) in Salem, Ore. (Startel platform)
  • An-ser Services (Allan Fromm) in Green Bay, Wis. (Infinity platform)

(SNUG administers this same program for ATSI and its members.)

ATSI

The Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) has chosen to promote existing programs from CAM-X and SNUG rather than spend time and effort to re-engineer these accepted and proven programs. ATSI provides these programs to its members.

Award of Excellence: The Award of Excellence program was created by CAM-X. Once CAM-X had it in place and fine-tuned, it offered it to ATSI as a member service. ATSI promotes the program to its members and monitors registration and payment. CAM-X administers the program for ATSI (this includes placing and taping the calls, evaluating the interaction, and scoring the results). Testing occurs in the fall and winter. Awards are handed out at the annual ATSI convention. Registration for this annual testing program will be announced in late summer and take place in early fall. This program is exclusive to members of ATSI. The cost is $249 or $299, depending on how the client profiles are submitted.

ATSI’s Award of Excellence Program was inaugurated in 1995. “Every year the level of participation has increased – a testament to the value of the program,” said Charlene Glorieux,  ATSI’s executive director.

The 2002 ATSI Award of Excellence winners have been previously published in Connections Magazine.

Call Center Award of Distinction: The CAM-X Call Centre Award of Distinction program is not currently in place with ATSI, but is expected to be announced in June at that annual convention.

Site Certification: As announced in this issue of Connections, SNUG and ATSI have reached an agreement for SNUG to extend and administer its site certification program to ATSI members. The cost is $545 for certification and $600 for the examiner, plus expenses.

[From Connection MagazineApril 2003]