Article of the week 49 – 2023

Cultivating Trust and Excellence:  The Power of Customer Service Certifications

The word certification comes from the Latin term „certus facere”, meaning “to make something safe”. Standards and certifications are powerful instruments for companies to gain the trust of customers and clients and are often required by major players seeking to outsource from their suppliers. Certifications can be a marketing instrument in itself and effectively promote the quality, safety or integrity of a company. Certifications can also help in scaling up by setting standards, or result in streamlined processes, thus potentially saving cost and decreasing defect rates.

There are many certifications available for companies – comprehensive management systems such as ISO 9001 or ISO 14001, IT security norms such as ISO 27001, payment security standards such as PCI DSS, CSR certifications such as Verso, employer certificates such as Top Employer, quality accreditations such as TÜV Certified Service Quality, and many more. However, you will find very few certifications and standards that are specifically geared towards customer service operations and provide a holistic assessment of all related processes instead of just assessing one selected area such as quality or IT.

The international standard for customer contact centers ISO 18295 has evolved from the European standard DIN EN 15838 and defines the organizational and procedural requirements for customer contact centers. It emphasizes the importance of customer satisfaction, continuous improvement and employee engagement.

A few other regional standards can be found when researching customer service certifications available in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). TÜV Süd offers a range of certification audits in addition to the previously mentioned ISO 18295 norm, including ServiceQualität and ServiceExcellence. A Berlin-based consumer association claims to break new ground by offering a comprehensive, documented and auditable standard for customer service, called ServiceCert. Is this area really truly unchartered territory?

Almost two decades before even the first release of ISO 18295 was published in 2017, leading brands throughout the world had started to adopt for their customer service departments and expect from their outsourcing partners a customer service standard, which has been providing a comprehensive framework to run customer service operations and achieve high customer satisfaction levels ever since. This refers to the COPC certification which dates back to the year 1996. Back then, a company named Customer Operations Performance Center Inc. was founded and released the COPC Customer Service Provider (CSP) Standard. This standard was developed by the COPC founders jointly with call center industry leaders, including big brand names such as Microsoft, American Express, Adobe and Intel. Since then, numerous companies in over 50 countries have been certified to one of the COPC standards that have been published over the years.

So why is COPC not even among the top results when you when conducting an internet search on customer service certifications in German? Why are certification providers in Germany still talking about uncharted territory when it comes to customer service standards?

Of more than 150 companies currently certified or in the process of being certified, only two are located in German-speaking countries. As business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, both provide customer service for a company for which COPC certification is an essential prerequisite for the provision of services.

The low level of awareness of COPC and its benefits is mainly due to the limited availability of training programs and resources related to COPC. These are only provided directly through COPC and are not yet available in German. In contrast, ISO certifications, particularly ISO 9001 for quality management systems, can be requested from numerous certification bodies in the DACH region and are therefore much more widely recognized and accepted in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Due to industry-specific legal requirements and regulations, other standards or certifications are often given priority in Germany.

Last but not least, it is comparably difficult to achieve a COPC certification. Yet at the same time, this is one of the biggest advantages of COPC.  Once an organization successfully navigates the rigorous certification process, it not only differentiates itself from other customer service providers but also benefits from the tangible operational advantages of COPC certification. In brief, certifications and standards play a pivotal role in establishing a foundation of trust between businesses and their customers and clients. Certifications are not only effective marketing tools – they provide a competitive edge and real operational benefits. Standards ensure quality and integrity and can contribute to business growth by boosting efficiency and preventing costly errors. Large corporations often make certifications a prerequisite for collaboration, highlighting the significance of standardized practices in the customer service industry. The adoption of customer service certifications in the DACH region is often dominated by ISO standards, with limited awareness of other global standards like COPC. To determine the right certification for your business, it is wise to thoroughly explore the requirements and advantages of each available option.

Aneta Kleinteich – Senior Consultant


To subscribe to the article of the week, click here.