June 2008 - Accreditation

10 Steps to Direct Response Accreditation:
An Investment in the Multichannel Direct-to-Consumer Profession’s Future

By Sieglinde Friedman

1. Why ERA Accreditation now? In its efforts to enhance consumer confidence and trust, exemplary business practices, and to demonstrate leadership in direct-to-consumer commerce, the ERA Board of Directors approved an industry-wide Accreditation Program for ERA members and non-members. This program launches at the 2008 ERA Annual Convention in Las Vegas. The ERA Accreditation Program is an investment in the multichannel, direct response profession’s future, as it provides a mechanism to validate accountability and value to the consumer. The successfully accredited multichannel retailer or supplier will receive recognition for the quality and value of services they provide. The Accreditation Program is a fair, valid and reliable process by which professionals may demonstrate their advanced business practices and trustworthy performance to the consumer. It strives to be the emerging paradigm relative to developing and nurturing customer relationships. Consumers commonly associate certification status with enhanced value and quality. Therefore, companies whose staff has obtained certification status will be recognized and rewarded by consumers with an increase in sales revenue. There is compelling research that demonstrates that professionals who obtain certification produce positive effects on service quality, service outcomes and company revenues. As multichannel retailing enters the next generation of innovative and improved technologies, which are facilitated by evolving consumer behaviors, it is increasingly important that the focus of their expertise and judgment ensure augmented consumer confidence and professional growth.

2. What is the program’s stratagem? The ERA Accreditation Program endeavors to expand ERA members’ adherence to and understanding of best practices, responsibility and consumer trust. It will advance the industry as a whole by promoting the respect and sense of conscientiousness those multichannel retailers and their suppliers offer their consumers on a daily basis. The program will increase ERA members’ visibility in the multichannel industry and elevate their status as premier retailers or suppliers among consumers and peers alike, offering a greater competitive edge within the industry. Simultaneously, this initiative will not only advance ERA’s leadership role in the industry, but also demonstrate a commitment to its members by securing access to educational materials developed by industry-acknowledged top 50 retailers and direct response technology experts, seminars and workshops delivered by respected specialists, and in partnership with higher education institutions such as New York University, Stanford and UCLA.

3. What are the main benefits of ERA Accreditation to retailers and suppliers? The main benefits of ERA Accreditation are increases in consumer confidence, business value and standards for direct-to-consumer retailers and their suppliers. Studies have shown that, among other things, accreditation can lead to an increase in leads, customer satisfaction and employee retention. (See page 73 for a full detail of benefits.)

Business Benefits

  • Overall, between 8 and 10 percent more leads received

  • Sales increased between 6 and 15 percent, depending on the level of employees certified

  • Increased revenue per customer between 2 and 5 percent

  • Customer retention rates in three cases topped 60 to 70 percent

  • Customer satisfaction led to lowered service and support costs

  • Employee Benefits

  • Employee turnover decreased 79 percent

  • Forty percent of employees valued career development opportunities when assessing new employers. Increased income potential (higher education is associated with higher lifetime earnings)

  • Improved employee team communication and interaction

  • Supports competency-based recruitment and promotion of staff

Identifies performers and improves performance

4. Who is eligible for ERA Accreditation? ERA members and non-members are eligible to participate. There are, however, two major caveats: applicants must have a minimum of 24 months’ experience and currently be employed within the electronic retailing industry. Following award of accreditation status, accredited members/non-members must maintain at least 10 hours of continuing education credits in a three-year period to maintain accreditation standing.

5How much does it cost to attain ERA Accreditation? In order to activate participation in the program, candidates must successfully submit an application form and pay an annual Accreditation application fee of $350 (for members) or $950 (for non-members). This fee not only includes processing and other administrative costs, but more importantly, access to all webinars, non-conference classes and distance learning. With the exception of certain materials, instruction books and associated resources will be included in the fee, as well as classes, workshops and other educational venues at ERA conventions, with paid conference registration fees. The Accreditation exam itself costs $500 (for members) or $1,200 (for non-members) and is non-refundable. Should a participant need to take the exam a second time, it will be available after six months for a fee of $500 (for members) or $1,200 (for non-members).

As a way to encourage companies to support their employees to become accredited, ERA has created an incentive program similar to the rewards programs of American Express and other companies. One point will be awarded for every $1,000 that your company spends on dues or registrations to any and all ERA events. For example, if your firm spends $3,400 and send four people to a conference at $825 a registration ($6,700), you will earn 6.5 points. With these points, you are eligible to receive a free meeting registration (five points per registration) or a free registration to a non-conference education session (two points).

6. How does one prepare for the Accreditation process? Once enrolled in the program, annually until accreditation status is attained, preparation includes:

  • Attend at least two of the eight specifically designed Accreditation courses offered during ERA Annual conference

  • Attend at least one master class offered during ERA conferences

  • Attend at least two webinars in the series of the ERA webinars

  • Attend at least one non-conference ERA educational offering

  • Successfully review the contents of instructional materials and ERA research papers

7. How does the assessment process work?

  • Complete an online application form and remit an application fee

  • Successfully pass the certification examination

  • Maintain at least 10 hours of continuing education credits in a three-year period following achieving certification status

Any candidate for Accreditation may take the examination. There are nine sections within the exam, one for each discipline. Each section makes up a certain percentage of the exam. Thirteen leading ERA members-or subject matter experts-that cover all nine disciplines, created the exam.

8. How is accreditation awarded? Accreditation is awarded to an individual once they have successfully passed the Accreditation exam. Once 60 percent of a company’s staff passes the exam, the company itself will be considered accredited.

9. How will ERA promote Accreditation to the public? Through a seal of excellence, which not only demonstrates commitment to customer satisfaction and raised standards for the industry, but that also establishes that direct response commerce is safe, trustworthy and credible.

10. Where do I go with questions or for additional information? If you have any questions, would like to receive an application or more information on the incentive program, please contact Sigi Friedman by phone at (703) 908-1021, or via e-mail at [email protected] You may also contact Ashley Cavell by phone at (703) 908-1020, or by e-mail at [email protected] to receive an application or further information.

Sieglinde Friedman is ERA’s vice president of strategy.


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