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Article : Support Center Site Certification - Is It For You?

If you are considering site certification for your support center(s) 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, and 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.

Greg Coleman
Principal/VP Certification Programs
Service Strategies

  • A Roadmap to World Class 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 and 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 their Current Practices
    Those companies that feel they are already delivering top quality support can use a certification program as a means of validation. Inevitably, areas for improvement will be identified through the certification process that will drive even higher levels of performance. The certification process should validate the practices in place within the organization and allow for attainment of 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 the company to better promote support as a competitive differentiator.

  • Drive Consistency in Support Delivery
    Many support organizations deliver support through multiple support centers both regionally and across the globe. Consistent service delivery is a key component in maintaining and driving higher customer satisfaction levels. The certification program must provide a common framework through the program criteria and define the practices necessary to deliver consistent service levels across multiple support centers. The program should then measure the degree of consistency through the certification audit process.


Benefits of Certification
The benefits associated with earning site certification for your support organization are numerous. Among them…

  • Increase Customer Satisfaction
    Increased customer 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
Your clients, shareholders, investors, and prospects will recognize the commitment your company has made to become certified. Use the certification process to set your organization apart from your competitors who may not be currently certified.

  • Improve Service Delivery
    The improvements that you make in an effort to achieve certification will benefit your customers 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.

  • Retain Customers by "Blocking-Out" the Competition
    Your customers will recognize the commitment your company has made to becoming certified. Use the certification process as a customer retention tool to set your organization apart from the competition. It's one thing to claim quality support; it's another to prove it.

  • Leverage a Continuous Improvement Program
    Competitors driving improvements in services, new products and services, changing customer demands, and new markets are just a few areas that offer ongoing support challenges. Certification helps assure that your customers will receive a high quality of support. And, 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 Across your Support Organizations
    As example, the Support Center Practices (SCP) Certification program defines a common vocabulary and best practice roadmap. By certifying each support center in your organization you drive process and performance consistency across your organization. By providing a common goal and vocabulary, traditional organizational barriers that can derail other continuous improvement efforts across support centers are eliminated.


Return on Investment
Certification creates value in many ways. It focuses your support center on results that directly impact on your bottom line. Depending on the certification program you select, your initial investment can be less than ½ of a full time equivalent per support center with minimal implementation costs.

  • Efficiency
    With a leading certification program you should expect greatly improved effectiveness and / or efficiencies of the processes in place 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. As example, with the SCP Certification program, you must pass a rigorous onsite audit covering all program elements (minimum customer satisfaction score is required to proceed with audit) to attain certification.

  • Consistency
    Certification should provide additional focus on strategic planning for your support organization. You should be able to implement common support practices leading to high quality support delivered consistently world wide, develop consistent use of tools, implement standard set of support metrics, and enhance your support strategy and vision.

  • Recognition
    Certification can help raise the internal and external awareness of value of the customer support organization. Internal recognition elevates morale within your support 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 track record?
    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 a few of them and ask for their direct feedback and ask about the benefits they have received.

  • What is the market acceptance?
    Is the program the internationally accepted standard that others are compared to? How many organizations have adopted the certification program?

  • What are costs?
    Are all fees stated upfront? Are there associated consulting fees? 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 world-class today doesn't mean world-class 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 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 and staff productivity and provides a continuous improvement program that enables you to provide world-class service to your customers. After all – that's the bottom line.

About the Author
As Principal / Vice President Certification Programs, Greg oversees the Support Center Practices (SCP) Certification program at Service Strategies. SCP is the industry's leading certification program. Over two hundred technology support organizations worldwide currently participate in the SCP program, and interest continues to accelerate.

About the Company
Services Strategies advances service excellence for quality-minded organizations through industry-standard certification and training programs that ensure delivery of consistent, high-quality customer service and support. Service Strategies applies a proven benchmark process to its certification programs resulting in continuously improving service, while the company's tailored training programs advances the skills and competencies of service professionals and leads to increased organizational effectiveness.

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Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2003

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