Technical Support Certification: Coming of Age
Technical support has become a mission-critical, value-added, customer-centric endeavor that is about to surpass software development as the leading employer of technical staff. People forget things, make mistakes, get confused and frequently do the wrong thing at the worst possible moment for themselves and their customers, and that’s when they contact the support center. Every support professional should follow a professional certification track in support skills for three compelling reasons: career security, professional development and compensation.
In a global economy where outsourcing and insourcing are a not only a possibility, but a fact of life for even the best-managed support operations, professional certifications can be the difference between being a candidate for a job and actually landing it. A certification tells a potential employer about a candidate’s personality, work ethic and ability to follow through on complex tasks. In an organization that is customer-centric, it also shows a commitment to customer care, which speaks volumes.
Technical support is no longer an afterthought in an organization, and is becoming one of the top reasons why customers choose a vendor and continue to do business with it. For internal support operations, the professionalism of staff members can be the difference between being outsourced and being a viable organization. Certification also is a powerful stress reducer for what is reportedly the eighth most stressful job in the United States. Studying and preparing for a certification examination can excite and expand the mind, lighten the spirit and increase productivity. Employees become more involved in their work, treat their customers with a new enthusiasm, and are able to demonstrate to their employers that although they are “techies,” they also are capable of and willing to look at the larger picture and the complexities of organizational life and the business as a whole.
In general, employees with professional certifications earn more than those who do not have certifications. The concept of “learn to earn” is more important then ever in our global economy, as employees are increasingly becoming free-lance agents with skill sets that will need upgrading on a continual basis. The ability to learn how to learn will come easier to certified support professionals than for their colleagues who are upgrading their skills. As it has worked for decades for engineers, doctors, lawyers and accountants, it will work for support professionals.
Just a few years ago, working on a help desk or at a technical support operation indicated that your organization was either punishing you, starting you there because you were a new hire or waiting for you to retire. It wasn’t considered a career choice that one made consciously. Today, support professionals have a complete set of professional certifications that identify them as trained, tested and certified professionals. HDI provides the following courses for individuals who desire to pursue a career in the technical support profession:
- Customer Support Specialist (CSS): CSS certification is for all staff in the support center environment who are dedicated to providing outstanding levels of customer support. This course contains practical exercises to reinforce learning. Upon completion of the course, attendees will be prepared to successfully pass HDI’s CSS certification examination. Course attendees will be introduced to the skills and techniques necessary to provide the highest level of customer service and support.
- Help Desk Analyst (HDA): HDA certification is recommended for front-line support center representatives and managers who want to develop the framework of knowledge necessary to conduct support center operations.
- Help Desk Analyst Boot Camp (HDA Boot Camp): HDI’s boot camp is an intensive course designed for help desk and customer service and support professionals who are dedicated to providing outstanding levels of service and support. It is recommended specifically for front-line support center representatives who want to develop their knowledge and understanding of help desk and support center operations. This course features practical exercises to reinforce learning.
- Help Desk Senior Analyst (HDSA): HDSA certification is for help desk and support professionals with 18 to 24 months of experience who are or expect to become team leaders or supervisors. The HDSA certification training program provides advanced-level, in-depth instruction to ensure a deep understanding of strategic support center operations and management skills, which ultimately lead to further career development goals.
- Team Lead Certification (TLC): This program will be designed for the senior support analyst who is on a management career path. The certification will provide the leadership skills, concepts, and business process and technology skills needed to manage the day-to-day operations of a support center. It will be released in March 2006.
- Help Desk Manager (HDM): HDM certification is for experienced support center supervisors, managers and project managers who are responsible for day-to-day operations and have three to five years of experience.
- Support Center Leadership Program (SCLP): The SCLP is designed for experienced support center managers, directors and other management positions directly responsible for providing strategic leadership for support organizations. The course focuses on the strategic skills necessary to build, maintain and promote the direction of the support center. It will be released in 2006.
- Support Center Certification (SCC): SCC is a standards-based, internationally recognized certification program developed specifically for internal and external support centers. The standards are maintained by a volunteer committee of industry experts and leading practitioners from around the world. The program has been designed to conform to existing international quality standards, such as the EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management), the Malcom Balridge National Quality Awards and ISO 9000.
HDI’s certification programs indicate the following qualities and skill sets are present in individuals and are operating in their organizations. Because of extensive study, testing, audits and audit preparation, managers and individuals can be confident that:
- Their support organizations will begin to reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO) and increase their ROI.
- They have created viable and challenging career paths for their employees, thus reducing staff attrition.
- They will increase customer satisfaction and elevate the reputation of their support operation for its quality of service.
- They can use sophisticated methods to measure skills and tie compensation to competency.
- A certified employee has obtained a degree of skill in the support industry that is widely accepted, highly valued and intensely practical in any support operation.
- A certified employee will be easier to screen and hire and has shown a degree of professional commitment, industry knowledge, intellectual curiosity and emotional maturity, which are desirable in any employee, but especially so in customer-facing staff.
- Finally, certified organizations have proven themselves to be committed to aligning themselves with their parent organizations and providing their customers with the best service possible.
In today’s support environment where low cost and high value are fast becoming the norm, only organizations that adhere to strict, industry standards of performance and operation and are staffed by trained and educated professionals will be successfu