By Greg Coleman
If you are considering site certification for your support center you are probably deluged by the sheer amount of information, facts, and myths about the benefits of earning certification, what being “certified” means, how to go about it, and why. In this article, we’ll sort all this out and take a broad look at some of the benefits of certification along with some of the things to look for when selecting a certification program for your support center. Certification methodology and quality of results can fluctuate widely between the various programs. The more information you have now, the better off you’ll be when selecting the program that will best help you achieve your desired results.
Who Should Consider Certification and Why? Here are some of the reasons organizations choose to become certified, along with what to look for when selecting a certification program:
- A Road Map to Top Notch Support: The program should provide a framework for the development of your support organization. The certification criteria should provide guidance for ensuring that best practices are developed and implemented. They should focus the organization on delivering the highest quality support possible.
- Address Specific Support Related Issues: The certification program should cover virtually every aspect of support center operations. It should provide a focus on key operational areas that need attention. By gaining this focus, support organizations will have the momentum necessary to address long-standing issues and improve overall operations in the process.
- Validate Current Practices: Companies that feel they are already delivering top quality support can use a certification program as a means of validation. In addition, certification can help them attain industry recognition for the quality of support being delivered.
- Market Support as a Competitive Differentiator: The certification program should provide the type of external validation required to help communicate the quality of support being delivered to your customers. Certified support organizations should have the rights to use the certification logo in marketing materials, enabling them to better promote their support as a competitive differentiator.
- Drive Consistency in Support Delivery: Many support organizations deliver support through multiple support centers. Consistent service delivery is a key component in maintaining and driving higher client satisfaction levels.
Benefits of Certification: The benefits associated with earning site certification are numerous. Among them:
- Improve Service Delivery: The improvements that you make in an effort to achieve certification will benefit your clients by providing them with improved service delivery, better trained staff, and better implementation and documentation of key processes and procedures. Virtually all support organizations could improve in one area or another.
- Increase Satisfaction: The certification process can help your organization increase client satisfaction and loyalty through improvements in operational effectiveness and staff productivity.
- Benchmark Against the Best: You can benchmark your support operations against industry best practices and compare your operations against those of other world-class organizations.
- Gain an Advantage Over the Competition: Use the certification process to set your organization apart from your uncertified competitors.
- Retain Clients: Use the certification process as a client retention tool to set your organization apart from the competition. It’s one thing to claim quality support; it’s another to prove it.
- Continuous Improvement: On-going re-certification can drive continuous improvements year after year. You’ll have a continuous improvement program in place that enables you to provide world-class service to your customers.
- Gain Consistency: By certifying each support center in your organization, you drive process and performance consistency throughout.
Return on Investment: Certification creates value in many ways. It focuses your support center on results that directly affect your bottom line. Depending on the certification program you select, your initial investment can be less than half of a full time equivalent per support center with minimal implementation costs.
- Efficiency: You should expect greatly improved effectiveness and efficiencies of the processes within your support centers, including improved response times and lower operational costs.
- Differentiation: Achieving certification with a leading program means you have joined the best of the best. It isn’t easy, but recognition of value seldom is.
- Consistency: You should be able to implement common practices leading to high quality support delivered consistently worldwide, develop consistent use of tools, implement standard sets of support metrics, and enhance your support strategy and vision.
- Recognition: Certification can help raise the internal and external awareness of the value of the customer support organization. Internal recognition elevates morale within your organization and your customers will appreciate the value of post-sales support. This helps you leverage service as a competitive advantage.
Selecting a Certification Program: Once you’ve decided to seek certification, do your homework, and select the program that is best for you. A few things to consider:
- What is the program’s record of accomplishment? Who developed the certification criteria? Who sponsors it? How long has it been available?
- Who are the certified participants? Check the names of organizations that have been through the certification process. How are they perceived in the market? Call them and ask for their feedback.
- What is the market acceptance? Is the program the accepted standard? How many organizations have adopted the certification program?
- What are costs? Some certification programs require costly consulting engagements or additional fees. Learn all the costs up front and avoid any surprises.
- How often is the program revised and updated? Being the best today doesn’t mean being the best next year. New trends and technology are continually raising the bar on superior customer support levels. Make certain the certification program you selected is updated and revised on a regular, published schedule.
- Program Content: Look for a program that can quantify the effectiveness of your support, based on stringent performance standards that represent best practices in the industry.
The program you select should establish a foundation to build on existing quality processes, and provide a clear focus on measurable results. Make sure the program is designed specifically to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty through improvements in operational effectiveness as well as staff productivity. Doing so provides a continuous improvement program that enables you to provide world-class service to your customers. After all – that’s the bottom line.
Greg Coleman is the Vice President Certification Programs for Service Strategies Corporation. Contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 858-674-4864.
[From Connection Magazine – September 2004]