Help Desk Institute Certification
For years, the widespread belief has been that technical knowledge and technical certification contributes most to career development success for support professionals. According to recent surveys however, soft skills are far more important than technical skills to reach the top of the support career ladder. In fact, in a recent survey, 96 percent of respondents judged communication skills and interpersonal skills (i.e., soft skills) as the most important contributor to achieving career success. As technical skills continue to commoditize, business acumen, management skills and interpersonal skills provide more than competitive advantage for the job-seeker—they provide a valuable stake into increased job security.
As the world’s largest association for IT support and service professionals since 1989, the Help Desk Institute (HDI) was uniquely qualified to create a definitive professional certification program for the industry. HDI certification for individuals is based on internationally recognized, open standards developed by a committee of worldwide industry leaders, help-desk and support-center experts, consultants and practitioners for the benefit of the industry community. The standards committee is made up of representatives from companies that include Bank of America, MCI WorldCom, TRG, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and ExecuTrain. The open standards are available for review on HDI’s Web site, www.thinkhdi.com.
“Facilitating the development of an individual certification program for service and support professionals that focused on non-technical skills was a priority for HDI,” said Ron Muns, CEO and founder of HDI. “While there are several technical certification programs in the industry, the support community increasingly required a standardized certification program dedicated to increasing service and support levels to customers that also provided real-world, proven guidelines and methods for career development through interpersonal skills, problem-solving, strategic planning and so on. Soft skills accentuate hard, technical skills. For IT service and support technicians, one set of skills can’t realize its full potential without the other skill set held firmly in place. HDI’s certification program provides this balance to technical certifications.”
HDI has developed four certification levels—Customer Support Specialist (CSS), Help Desk Analyst (HDA), Help Desk Senior Analyst (HDSA) and Help Desk Manager (HDM)—that represent each role and level within the support organization. HDI certification continues to expand globally increasing by more than 50 percent per year, and 82 percent of the Fortune 500 has achieved HDI certification within the past three years.
Behind HDI Certification Standards
Roles, Service Skills and Competencies: Understanding the role of the support professional and the role of the support organization within the business is the foundation for developing higher-level, “big picture” service skills. Providing consistent, high-quality support enables the organization to perform at peak levels. The support representative or analyst is often the first—and possibly only—point of contact for customers. Therefore, it is imperative that positive customer experiences are the norm. Nearly 70 percent of business is lost because customers felt that they received poor service. HDI certification standards promote delivery of the highest-quality service possible. Simply stated, solving the customer’s problem isn’t enough.
Support Processes, Tools and Methodologies: Customers should move through a seamless experience when requesting support. Developing goals, mission statements and a support “culture,” as well as mapping processes and selecting the best tools and technologies for internal requirements and customer needs is necessary for maximum efficiency on the back end and to provide optimal experiences to your customers. Certification and training means analysts know how to develop internal processes, develop and manage service levels and measure performance and are aware of the tools that must be in place for seamless customer experiences. HDI certification also ensures the analyst’s ability to evaluate and select tools, implement change management and understand network and systems management.
Customer Relationships and Problem-Solving: Being customer-centric is more than a strategy for the support organization—it’s the mission. HDI certification leads to analysts who can communicate and listen more effectively than before and who are extremely skilled at building rapport, showing empathy, resolving conflicts and negotiating to come to a conclusion or resolution that is mutually beneficial for the company and the customer. Incorporating creativity into problem-solving provides additional, new perspectives to solve the unique needs of each customer. Identifying problems, analyzing root causes, generating options and developing action plans requires critical thinking skills and the follow-through to evaluate process improvements and implement change.
Team-Building: Strong, functional teams are pivotal to the success of the support organization; successful teams receive support from management, communicate openly, receive effective incentives, are flexible and together create procedures and processes to ensure consistent levels of support. HDI’s certification programs promote effective leadership, rapport, ownership and responsibility. Certified managers know how to choose team members, analyze skill sets, evaluate performance, retain staff and measure performance.
Building Infrastructure and Technology Management: Customer contact systems, knowledge management systems, computer telephony integration (CTI), integrated servers, self-help tools and more build the technology infrastructure of the support center. HDI certification attests to knowledge of infrastructure technologies and tools, TCO of support technologies, understanding of process improvement and options for business contingency planning (disaster recovery). If tasked with setting up a help desk, re-engineering an existing support center or managing a center, HDI certification is a testament to abilities.
Strategic Thinking: Strategic plans are developed from department vision and mission statements that are aligned with the mission and vision statements for your organization. They also position service and support offerings as strategic leverage points to increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction and enhance business success. HDI certification proves the ability and mastery of strategic planning, marketing of the help desk or support center, problem-solving and reasoning skills, root cause analysis, support planning synergies with the remainder of the organization and escalations.
Career Development: Career development is the ability to adapt and flex with changing situations, delegate responsibility, remain focused on the task at hand (as well as the larger issue), communicate goals and objectives, make decisions and manage projects from beginning to end. Managers must professionally develop themselves as well as their teams. HDI certification ensures the ability to manage time and personal development and to professionally develop staff.
HDI Certification Programs
HDI offers certification programs for all levels, from entry-level analysts to senior-level managers.
The Customer Support Specialist (CSS) certification is for staff members in the call and/or support center environment that are dedicated to providing outstanding levels of customer support. There are no prerequisites for CSS certification. The certification ensures:
- Mastery of the roles and responsibilities of a customer support specialist.
- Understanding of the call-center environment.
- Understanding and development o