Responding to requests from its members to help distinguish skillsets, CEDIA offered some more details about its new five-badge Designations program that will be promoted to consumers. In a nutshell, the program creates five badges designed to help integrators distinguish themselves from their competitors in the market. The five designations are:
- Volunteerism and Community
- Customer Service and Support
The program is one of the first initiatives from the newly combined worldwide CEDIA board that includes members from both the U.S. and Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA). Planning for the program has actually been going on for over a year-and-a-half, according to Giles Sutton, treasurer of CEDIA and managing director of James + Giles Ltd., a custom integration firm based in London. But the program bubbled to the forefront once the newly combined CEDIA board was constituted and the group outlined its objectives.
“One of the things we brought up was the fact that we get asked all the time about how businesses can elevate themselves. The whole board agreed this was something that would be a priority as we move into a global association,” says Sutton, who sat down exclusively with CE Pro to discuss the program.
Sutton is well versed to be part of the task force for the program because CEDIA EMEA required business documentation to become a member from the very beginning. So, it was logical to use that successful framework for the creation of the Designations program to come up with a set of five designations that “we think are how you define the perfect CEDIA member,” recalls Sutton.
Importantly, the goal of the program is not to exclude any custom integration company from participating in CEDIA.
“CEDIA is an open organization. It's inclusive,” insists Sutton. “We want to encourage new businesses coming into the market. But at the same time, there are businesses that are long established, that have a lot of processes in place that believe there's not a lot of differentiation. We just are responding to what our members have asked us for.”
Designations was created with the full recollection of what happened to CEDIA membership a decade ago when the organization put in place a requirement that integration companies needed to have certified technicians in order to remain as members of the association. That plan resulted in the association losing a large chunk of members.
“We do not want to create barriers to being a member. I use my CEDIA membership logo to try to win jobs,” says Sutton. At his company, James + Giles, he speaks with potential customers about insurance documentation, references and other merits that his company brings to the table as a CEDIA member company while others do not.
How to Achieve Each Designation
Each of the Designations badges is important in and of themselves, and will involve a different method of analysis. For example, the Professionalism portion is already in place via the CEDIA project awards. For others, the association is working on methods collecting data, analyzing it, grading it and assessing it.
The Volunteerism and Community badge is not exclusive to volunteering in CEDIA but can include working with local trade association boards.
Customer Service and Support would include gathering client references or regular surveying of your customers, as well as post-installation service. Planning and Process would include not only showing examples of documentation of specific projects, such as schematics, map elevations cable schedules, etc.
The Professionalism badge includes planning, process and awards. It will also request to see an integrator’s mapped out start-to-finish procedures, which is something UK companies have been doing for years as part of ISO 9001 requirements. (Insurance is already a requirement to be a CEDIA member.) The badge would be examples of actual quality work, such as photographs or entries into awards programs.
The Certification badge covers CEDIA's current program that includes the Electronic Systems Certified (ESC), Electronic Systems Certified Technician (ESC-T), Electronic Systems Certified Designer (ESC-D), and Electronic Systems Certified Networking Specialist (ESC-N).
Lastly, the Education badge is somewhat self evident… CEDIA wants to see proof that dealers are educating not only themselves but their staff either through association training or manufacturer training. CEDIA already collects much of that data via Continuing Education Units (CEUs) it tracks for certification. CEDIA staff will be the ones reviewing the applications.
Each Designation badge is achievable, no matter what the size of the integration company. Moreover, each badge will have its own logo, which are in the works. CEDIA purposely avoided any sort of gold/silver/bronze or five-star, four-star, etc. levels, believing that would be perceived as “a bit too exclusive.”
“If you've only got a one star, are you likely to promote that to your customers? Probably not. We want something that is aspirational and that's actually achievable for businesses that are large and small,” says Sutton.
Planned Promotion to Other Trades
The plan is to promote the Designations heavily to trade partners, but not necessarily consumers.
“To try to achieve consumer awareness is one of the hardest things for a trade association,” admits Sutton. “It's almost like writing a blank check. The easy win is to promote it to other industry professional organizations. It's impossible to try and achieve a consumer awareness campaign. What we hope is the recipients of the Designations will do a lot of the marketing for us. They'll be so proud to have these Designations that they will promote it in their marketing materials, proposals, and business cards. That will be the way consumers hear about the program.”
Meanwhile, Sutton says that if a company is able to achieve all five Designations badges, it will open up “a whole load of incredible member benefits that they can use to promote their company.”
He could not release details on exactly what those member benefits would be, but things like access to special marketing video services and workforce development are likely on the short list.
Sutton adds, “It is going to be very hard to achieve all five… we're talking about maybe 100 to 200 companies in the world that are going to get all five.”
CEDIA is aiming to have the Designations badging program ready to fully roll out to the industry by the time the association starts looking for 2018 membership renewals.
“As our membership continues to grow, and we're in a competitive market, everyone wants to be recognized for things they're really great at. For me, this is going to be one of the most powerful programs CEDIA's done in a long while, because it encourages businesses to look at so many different aspects for the way they do things,” concludes Sutton.
What About HTA?
The Designations program is sure to draw comparisons to the recently announced Home Technology Association (HTA), but Sutton says they are completely different for various reasons, including Designations being targeted for exposure to other trades primarily, not consumers. Also, the Designations program is not a tiered system that requires companies to achieve one badge to qualify to earn another one. For example, a company may not have a service program, which means it can choose not to earn the Customer Support and Service badge, but that does not disqualify them to earning another badge.
Meanwhile, Sutton says CEDIA as an organization supports the HTA. He noted that anything being done to elevate the industry as a whole is good.