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Qualification and Certification

At the May meeting of CCIF in Toronto there was the start of a revival of the discussion around Certification. It was not on the agenda and the conversation started in the halls but it did make its way into one of the panel discussions. The discussion did not go into much depth but the most important step was the acknowledgement that there was an elephant in the room.

To this point we have been mixing the two quite different things of Qualification and Certification into the same category. Qualification is based on the capability a repair facility, its equipment and people. It can be earned based on the right current equipment, the right current training, the right systems in place and the right demonstration of customer service. Qualification should be given by, to use my favorite word of this week, a ‘disinterested party’. Disinterested does not mean uninterested or uncaring. It means that party has no stake in the outcome. The outcome will be fair, but the granting authority has no financial or competitive stake in the granting, or not, of the qualification.

Looking outside the collision repair industry a good example can be found in electrical services.  A very important difference between electrical work and collision repair is that all commercial electrical work requires technician licensing. A company cannot present themselves as Electrical Contractors without having government licensed electricians on staff. No outside agency or business can provide this licensing or qualification.  It is provided by a ‘disinterested’ government agency and without this license an electrician cannot work.  There is not a lot of confusion among the consumers about the legitimacy of his work as he has been licensed by the only authority allowed to provide that license.

Private companies can then choose to certify any of these licensed electrical contractors to work with their products. As an example Eaton has an Eaton Certified Contractor Network.  Eaton has not issued licenses that are an alternative to mandatory government licensing but has selected companies and individuals from within the existing licensed pool. This inclusion in the network will likely imply that these electricians may be more efficient with Eaton products, or it may be more of a marketing or administrative function.  The electrician with Eaton certification may have technical, or marketing, or administrative advantages, but there is nothing in that certification that diminishes or takes away from the electrician who has chosen not to join the Eaton network.

In Canada, this is where the CCIAP (Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program) could serve the same purpose as government licensing.  The program is administered by the AIA, but the AIA does not profit by more or fewer shops, it has no stake in where those shops are, and it has no business affiliation with qualified shops.  A consumer will know that a CCIAP facility is operating within industry standards, with current equipment, well trained staff and a proper business structure.

Certification by OEMs or insurance companies is a different thing entirely; the basis for certification by an OEM has a tremendous amount of marketing included and there are a range of financial interests in that certification.  The choice of facilities that an insurer would prefer to work with is also very market and administratively driven.

Vehicle owners are bombarded with information about the virtues of the OEM Certified or insurer approved facility but are not told what criteria were used for including a facility in the program or leaving it out.

If insurers and OEM certification programs selected only from the qualified pool of shops in the CCIAP system the consumer would know that these choices have reached a high base level and will be able to do the right repairs. But they will also know that the CCIAP shop without outside OEM or insurer certification will also be able to provide fully capable and professional repair.

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