By Todd W. Thomas
Consumers flock to credentials.
It’s a fact.
Go back 30 or 40 years to the days when auto mechanics were among the least trusted people in society. The ranked below door-to-door salesmen, lawyers and even members of Congress among the least honest professionals.
Those days are largely gone, and as it turned out, the shady shade tree mechanic wasn’t run off by angry car owners. Rather, they were replaced by Mr. Goodwrench™, ASE™ Automotive Service Technicians, and other credentialed professionals whom the general public came to recognize as dependable and professional.
As a quick aside, it should be noted that many independent auto mechanics were included in the group of credentialed professionals. Nor should it be presumed that prior to this move towards certified technicians were all mechanics dishonest. That is simply not the case.
However, it was difficult for many motorists – especially those who were in need of mechanics while traveling, or when in a new town – to determine which of them were trustworthy. It wasn’t that ethical, skilled mechanics weren’t available to the general public, it’s just that the only way to determine who they were was by trial and error.
So, the automotive industry put its collective heads together and – to simply a process that took approximately two decades – created credentials that the general public came to recognize.
That is where the automated vehicular gate community is today. We are in the formative years of helping the general public recognize the professionals in our industry.
Certification is open to anyone who wants to participate. It is not exclusionary. However, history provides no evidence that unprofessional players have any interest in going through the process of earning credentials, and even those who might, would come out of the process with a new view of their business model.
NOMMA has worked side by side with the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA), the International Door Association (IDA) and the American Fence Association (AFA) to produce two important certification programs:
· Automated Gate Operator Installer Certification (AGOIC)
· Automated Vehicular Gate Systems Designer Certification (AVGSDC)
Both are administered by IDEA, a non-profit credentialing and educational institute that was created in 1996 by the door industry, and which has since broadened its programs to include companies and individuals in the automated gate industry.
The AGOIC program was launched in 2008 and has experienced robust activity since the first testing was offered at AFA FenceTech show the same year. The course of study used for this certification is largely the basis of the Operator Installer School. Since its inaugural year, more than 900 individuals have enrolled in the AGOIC program, and more than 600 have been issued the credential.
The AVGSDC course was offered at this year’s FenceTech in Orlando, and already has issued 78 credentials and more than 100 have enrolled.
Both of these programs are produced and maintained by IDEA through the Automated Vehicular Gate Systems Coalition. Brent Nichols of Picasso Gate services as NOMMA’s representative on this coalition.
How does this help me?
Voluntary credentialing may be the most powerful and cost effective marketing tool available to AFA members. Here’s why:
· Certified individuals and their companies are permitted use of the trademarked logo for letterhead, business cards, advertising and any other marketing item. Consumers frequently recognize such emblems as a qualifying mark, and will limit the field of potential product and service providers to those displaying the logos.
· Using information to draw attention to one’s certification(s) in sales proposals and bids can often make the difference between getting a major contract or losing out on the basis of price.
· Promoting one’s certification can lead to more business. As word spreads that there are credentials in the automated gate industry, more specifications, facility managers and public officials may begin to require them.
· Since a strong emphasis of certification is public safety and strict adherence to UL 325 and ASTM F2200, insurers and risk managers are especially attracted to the credentials.
It is imperative that the automated gate industry continue the push towards professional installations. Each time there is a tragedy involving one of the industry’s products, the question is asked in the media, Why did this happen? All too often the answer to that question is a lack of adherence to manufacturer instructions and nationally recognized safety standards that apply to the automated vehicular gate system. Although certification is not a warranty against such failures in the installation process, it does require the installer to learn the proper and safe installation methods and defines the certification bearer as a professional who is always expected by the issuer to do so.
Most importantly, certification is frequently the answer to the question: Why should I hire you instead of your competitor? As more professionals become certified, the easier it becomes for the consumer to separate them from the field.
How Will the General Public Know What Certification Means?
Certification has become the most widely recognized form of professional recognition in all service and construction-related trades. A frequent misunderstanding among industry participants is that it is important for the general public to recognize the acronym of the certifying organization. This is not true.
For example, ASE Certified Automotive Technicians were used as one of the types of credentials used in that field. Most people recognize the certification as one that required specialized training and some form of documentation – such as a test – to validate the individual as certified. That’s the part that matters to consumers, and that is why it’s irrelevant that most people do not, in fact, know what “ASE” stands for.
Your customers will view your certification(s) the same way. Earning and utilizing these credentials also gives you the opportunity to tell your story in the proposal and sales process.
Certification is a remarkable sales and marketing tool, because it validates through an independent, non-profit third party organization that which others can only claim.
Now, go ahead and Google “ASE.”
For more information or to register on-line for AGOIC and/or AVGSDC, visit www.dooreducation.com, or call Debra Welhener at 937-698-1027.