Distributors: Get on Board the Certification Train

Categories: Distribution

By Graeme Golucki | February 1, 2016 << Back to Articles Distributors: Get on Board the Certification Train

The distribution landscape has seen quite a metamorphosis over the past few decades, and that is especially true in the cleaning industry. Consolidation and the rise of “big box” distributors have put a premium on forging not just successful relationships, but partnerships with building service contractor (BSC) and facility manager customers. One way prosperous distributors are separating themselves from the competition is by delivering training and certification to their employees―and more importantly―their customers.

Internal training and certification programs validate the expertise of distributors and establish them as true partners with their clients, providing more value to the products they sell. Daniel Josephs, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Spruce Industries, Inc., agrees. “With more logistic companies becoming more and more entrenched in our marketplace, it is beyond vital that we expand our value outside of just delivering a box of product,” he says. “We need to educate the customer how to properly use that product. Being able to host a quality certification program for our customers gives us the credibility that our competitors in the logistical world lack—industry expertise.”

Waxie Sanitary Supply, a California-based international jansan distributor, has been using training and certification seminars as a way to add value to its client relationships for years. “Hosting quality training seminars and events is important to our company,” says Waxie Director of Channel Marketing Keith Schneringer. “We believe that these offerings are a key point of differentiation for us in comparison with our competitors.”

Setting the Standard
As the worldwide cleaning industry association, ISSA offers a variety of hands-on certification programs that distributors can use to improve the professional development of their employees and their customers. ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) program is the most in-demand certification program in the cleaning industry. By becoming a CIMS ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.), distributors can assist their clients with achieving CIMS and CIMS-Green Building (GB) certification.

Schneringer and his team leverage the value of the CIMS program. More than 60 Waxie employees have achieved I.C.E. certification, which allows them to pass on their knowledge of CIMS best practices to their customers. “Waxie has used this training to assist several customers to prepare for CIMS certification, which has strengthened these customer relationships and helped us to become better business partners,” says Schneringer. “Additionally, we’ve been able to use ISSA’s CIMS standard as a platform to elevate the way the cleaning industry is viewed.”

Another example of a distributor utilizing CIMS to strengthen its relationship with a client took place at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA in 2006. The school’s services department sought to streamline its operations and implement a green cleaning program. The university’s primary cleaning products supplier, Athens Janitor Supply, suggested that the university work with its ISSA Certification Experts on staff. Representatives from Athens Janitor Supply walked university employees through the Standard point-by-point, and the services department then underwent certification. Once CIMS-certified, the University of Georgia was able to improve workplace health, safety, and productivity, resulting in an annual cost savings of more than US$400,000 per year and establishing a true symbiotic relationship with Athens Janitor Supply.

Taking A.C.T.-ion
ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Training Standard (CITS) is another tool distributors can use to differentiate themselves from the competition. By verifying their training programs to CITS and becoming Accredited Certification Trainers (A.C.T.), distributors can gain credibility and provide frontline cleaning professionals with an affordable way to improve their skill set. Once distributors become CITS-accredited trainers, they can then deliver third-party-verified training to their clients at their own training centers. Additionally, verified CITS training programs can be prescriptive, meaning a company can offer training on its own line of products as long as it meets all aspects of the training standard.

Yet another ISSA tool distributors can take advantage of is the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). This verified, third-party certification program provides hands-on, real-world training to cleaning industry professionals. Originally designed for end-users, CMI recently started offering training to distributors as well through its newly created Accredited Auditing Professional (APP) program. This seminar trains distributors in cleaning best practices, and provides the tools for distributors to provide building audits to their clients. AAP-certified distributors can then note any deficiencies in cleaning programs and provide recommendations for products and services. The knowledge distributors gain from CMI training can be passed on to their customers, which can help distributors solidify their position as industry experts and provide educated solutions for the unique challenges their customers face.

Bringing Everyone Together
“ISSA’s certification programs provide our employees more tools in the toolbox to be able to better compete in today’s environment,” says Josephs. “This has helped Spruce solidify relationships with our customers by making us valued advisors. And being considered an advisor to our customer is beyond measurable. “

As the industry continues to evolve, distributors have the unique opportunity to establish themselves as true partners in cleaning, and training and certification are two integral parts of that equation. The benefits of this enhanced relationship go beyond financial gains; they can raise the professionalism of the entire cleaning industry, as well.

About the Author.

Graeme Golucki is ISSA's digital strategy editor and can be reached at [email protected]; phone, 800-225-4772 (North America) and 847-982-0800.