In the first of our Auditor Dilemmas series, Ben Dewison, Specialist Member of the Institute of Customer Service, UK, outlines his steps for assessors to ensure the accreditation process is managed fairly and objectively.
An accreditation manager is shortly due to begin assessing an external company that wants to become accredited by the professional body organisation he works for. Before he makes contact with the company to begin the assessment, one of his own internal colleagues calls him, asking to discuss it.
On the call, it turns out that his colleague – who works in business development and sales – was responsible for bringing in the external company business and is now managing the client relationship. The colleague wishes to get some tips on how they can help the company to prepare for the upcoming assessment, saying that this will strengthen the overall relationship and help secure future business.
The accreditation manager understands that his colleague wants to do everything possible to support the client, but he also knows that giving details about the assessment would create a conflict of interest if the whole process isn’t handled correctly. He also has to ensure that no unfair advantage is given to the client over other organisations seeking accreditation, while preventing the overall robustness of the accreditation from becoming diminished.
So, how should he communicate with his colleague on this matter to maintain a positive client relationship, without compromising the assessment?
Whenever an assessment is undertaken, it is vital for the assessor to remain impartial so that he/she does not compromise any aspect of the assessment process. In this case, engaging with the internal colleague could indeed compromise the assessment, as information could be passed on (even unintentionally) to the external company being assessed. This would damage the reputation of the professional accreditation body, the accreditation product and the accreditation manager.
Best practice usually dictates that the accreditation manager has zero contact, regarding the assessment, with colleagues linked to those organisations that are being assessed
In this scenario, the accreditation manager should not even speak on the phone with his colleague about the upcoming accreditation assessment details.
What ‘can’ the accreditation manager do to support his colleague? The accreditation manager could explain this clearly and diplomatically, then arrange a time for them both to explore the assessment criteria used for accreditation. This could even form part of a general internal staff refresher on the quality framework and/or product, to support internal colleagues and ensure their continuous knowledge improvement.
So, this example illustrates the importance of ensuring a robust accreditation process to safeguard reputation and promote fair practice. However, it also reinforces the importance of quality professionals maintaining effective internal communication, in order to make assessment procedures supportive, visible and clear to colleagues working with us to best serve our customers.
We are looking for CQI and IRCA members to contribute to this series by submitting dilemmas that they would like answered. To submit your ideas/suggestions, email [email protected]