NEWS: Global Mentoring Solutions is now part of the Sherweb family. Click here to read more about the acquisition.

I was staring at a long list of ASC and General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP) certifications at my local car dealership yesterday, having arrived a few minutes early to pick up our car following a warranty repair. Each certificate of merit is placed prominently by the waiting area for the service and sales office, making it hard for anyone to miss the sheer number of accredited professionals they employ. This display is more than a marketing ploy; it demonstrates that this dealership (as most smart ones do) understands the value of the training and education their technicians undergo. There are two places I take my vehicles in our small town, and both employ several accredited automotive professionals in their service departments.

Whether I’m having something as simple as an oil change performed or a major overhaul, it makes me feel more confident that our car and truck are in good hands—knowing their technicians hold a current ASC certification. The paper is just a reminder of the instruction and hands on training each employee underwent, work and effort that gives them a greater understanding of their craft. But the value goes much deeper than that.

Have you ever wondered if your repair shop is honest about the suggested maintenance of your vehicle? When in college, I went to an “inexpensive garage” for my vehicle inspection, where I was informed my shocks and brakes needed replacement since they were more than five years old. Unfortunately for them, I already had that service completed 6 months prior, and I walked away (but got a second opinion from another shop to ensure they were ok, which they were)! It’s common to be suspicious of new business relationship, but to me the traditional moral clauses in certifications hold a real value. When each person (or business) is required to sign a pledge to follow a strict code of ethics , it adds some comfort, knowing I have an entity to report them to if any serious issues occur. Just having a certification doesn’t mean they will uphold those standards, but it should provide some assurance knowing the vast majority of credential holders will.

Checking Accreditations for Your Outsource Partners

Do I need to know my business partners have certifications to be a viable match? Of course not, but I did ask my accountant for her credentials, including accreditations and the associations she belongs to. For critical technology alliances, such as an MSP help desk or other outsource partners whom you’re clients will come in direct contact with, it’s imperative to ensure they’ve demonstrated a commitment to their trade and clients. As the IT support face for your customers, you want and need to align yourself with the best possible vendors and collaboration partners, and certifications and business accreditations are evidence their “resume” has some value.

An accreditation shows that a business is committed to a certain level of professional conduct, by ensuring they have well-qualified technicians on staff and follow industry best practices throughout their organization. Clients and business partners know when they see a credential certificate or logo that the company has invested in excellence and customer satisfaction. When an MSP is assembling a list of reputable and successful outsource partners, certifications make it easy to pare down the best contenders. For example, wouldn’t you feel more at ease knowing the organization managing your help desk employed a number of Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA certified technicians? Whether you expect them to provide support for a large number of technologies and applications, or just a few, an outsource partner should be proficient and knowledgeable in many disciplines. Without those abilities, your clients could be left in a jam when complicated situations arise. For example, each of Global Mentoring Solutions’ help desk experts (Live Experts) holds an average of 20 certifications each, with the most senior receiving 65. Some of those accreditations are Microsoft Certified Professional Engineers, Microsoft Certified Database Administrators, Microsoft Office Master, Cisco CCDP, CompTIA i-Net+, and CompTIA Network +.

When looking for partners, don’t forget the business accreditations as well, such as the CompTIA Security Trustmark, which identifies providers that have committed to follow IT security best practices. Those holding this designation have a great differentiator, a valuable investment to protect their clients’ data and networks, from design to daily threats. How important is the security discussion with your customers? With the Trustmark, it provides validation of your capabilities and commitment to their security.

That same differentiator is now available for managed service providers, with the CompTIA MSP Partners Trustmark, which was introduced just a few weeks ago. This business credential allows MSPs to elevate their processes and procedures, as well as promote their industry standing among peers and outsource partners. Once again, to receive an MSP Partners Trustmark, an organization must agree to a code of conduct, provide customer references, and meet a detailed list of criteria.

The downside of business accreditations (such as the Trustmark) is that much of the information is typically self-reported, so validation of the information they provided is critical. It’s a good rule of thumb to learn the basics of these credentials, and then quiz prospective business partners on their compliance and commitment. Most companies, when investing in a business credential, will be up to speed and ready to provide you the answers very quickly. If not, keep that in mind when narrowing the partner field to make your ultimate selection.

Another challenge with some business credentials is that the awareness level may be lacking for SMBs, meaning the value needs to be validated with your target audience. In the case of the IT Security Trustmark, CompTIA continues to invest in promotion activities to explain its value to a number of IT channel markets (the end users). Before putting any efforts into attaining a business accreditation, check to see if they provide a central repository of members, a place where prospective clients can locate you as a qualified expert located in their area, or proficient in the technology they seek. In other words, make sure the program has value so you can develop new business/alliance prospects, and your customers can validate your participation.

Promote Your Credentials

Don’t undervalue the use of credential “badges of honor,” each is helpful in demonstrating your professional commitment to both potential clients and business partners. Make sure you properly research these same standards with your prospective outsource partners, ensuring they are equipped to provide the highest level of support possible to you and your customers. When you narrow a list of helpdesk or disaster recovery service candidates, make sure certifications and other credentials are top criteria, and validate that each is current and valid.

The value to accreditations comes from the way each company leverages it. Discuss the reasons why you went the extra mile to get a Microsoft or Cisco certification with your clients and business partners, and make sure they understand why that piece of paper makes you the better than the competition. Most of all, make sure you use all of your available resources to get the contract that’s best for your company.