Kelli Fleischmann is product certification director for the Water Quality Assn. Fleischmann can be reached at [email protected].
Is it possible to gain a year’s worth of experience in just a few short months? It certainly seemed that way, as I began my first day as the new product certification director at the Water Quality Assn. (WQA) on the opening day of the WQA Convention & Exposition in Denver this past March, and wrapped up our annual Product Certification Forum for manufacturer clients in June. In between were meetings with the WQA board of directors and board of governors, members, committees, and task forces. Oh, and I traveled to Shanghai, China, for the Aquatech China show at the end of May.
This wild ride shows no signs of slowing down, and as I pause to write this column I realize that it is a perfect metaphor for how we view our new approach to product certification at WQA. For decades now, the WQA Gold Seal has been the gold standard when it comes to certifying water treatment products. The more recent sustainability mark is the first-of-its kind environmental labeling program for the industry.
These legacy brands offer peace of mind to end users, retailers and regulators, knowing that a trusted and accredited third-party has evaluated a product’s capability of passing rigorous testing according to industry standards and that certifying companies are continuously monitored.
The new approach I mentioned earlier has been in the works for some time and has gone through its own certification process, you might say, with input from WQA staff, members, clients and board. It is a value proposition that we are re-initializing among our team, so that we offer not only the highest quality of certification but also the fastest experience for our clients. The new model is built on seven pillars which we believe are critical to the certification process. These seven pillars underscore our vision for water treatment where we are actively improving our world through cleaner water and safer products.
The first pillar is our commitment to ethics and integrity in all we do. Why does that matter? Because the pressure is on us to deliver, and yet we cannot take a single shortcut or ignore a test result that may be unfavorable to the client. WQA is dedicated to promoting the highest principles of honesty, integrity, fair dealing and professionalism in the water quality improvement industry. What does that look like? Simply, product performance must be based on factual data obtained from tests conducted by technically competent personnel utilizing verifiable scientifically valid test procedures without guess-work, misleading statements or unsubstantiated claims.
The second pillar is a commitment to responsive customer service. We are re-dedicating ourselves to not only the service, but the entire customer experience. Customer service is action-oriented. We are committed to supporting water treatment product manufacturers by providing a fast path to certification. We are making more resources available, improving our processes and creating transparent tools to support the entire experience.
The third pillar is related to the second: better listening to customer needs. Listening is a valuable skill that gets overlooked amid the crush of emails, social media messaging and texting. We know that most certification problems are really communication problems, and most communication problems stem from a failure to adequately listen to the customer and understand what they need. Listening is more than just paying attention. It is approaching an issue from the client’s perspective.
Fourth among the pillars is to provide a consistent and reliable timeline on every project. The certification process involves a number of critical pathways and our clients must be kept informed every step of the way. They need to know what information will need to be provided and how long each step of the certification process will take. They should be immediately informed if there are delays and told why. Clients understandably want their certified product in the marketplace as soon as possible. Providing consistent, reliable and transparent timelines will help to ensure that they will trust the process is on track.
The fifth pillar has been another strong feature of our certification process: certification expertise. There may be other certifying bodies out there, but many do not have the expertise of WQA’s Gold Seal and sustainability programs. Our team of product managers and lab technicians work to ensure that clients receive the highest quality of evaluation so that their certified products are ready for purchase.
Sixth among the seven pillars is the greatest value pricing in the marketplace. Notice, I did not say cheapest. If others are intent on a race to the bottom, they likely will win. We will maintain our high standards and our commitment to the highest value for what our clients pay for their certification.
That brings us to the seventh and final pillar: synergy in support of the water treatment product industry. As WQA is devoted to the betterment of water quality, product certification serves as the vehicle to make that vision a reality. This synergy serves as a catalyst to make this happen.
The End Game
WQA is focused on actively improving our world through cleaner water and safer products. Those products must be tested and validated for the claims they make so that this vision comes into focus with greater clarity year after year.
So, there you have our seven pillars. All important and necessary components to take our product certification to the next level, improve the process and ensure our clients’ success, thereby advancing the betterment of water quality worldwide.