As Good As Gold
Certification is a genuine assurance of best in class.
By Amanda Matlock
Gold Seal certification can be the change in image our industry needs that adds the highest levels of standardized credibility and removes opportunities for negative references. I know many question how this can be done and wonder if it has a real return on investment (ROI). The ARA Gold Seal Committee works with the ARA staff and executive committee members to share the lists of CAR and Gold Seal members when having meetings with manufacturers and government agencies. This puts those with certifications in the elite top echelon of automotive recycling. This status is easily translated to marketing, websites, and social media that can educate customers on a facility’s status in the industry.
Certification certainly adds value, and my question in return is, what if every ARA member not only agreed and abided by the standards, but added to the certification every week through interacting with certified peers and marketing program participation to customers? I imagine we would have a stronger community, more credibility to the standards, a more well-known branded certification, accountability to the industry that impress more auto recyclers to participate, and a higher return on investment.
“Gold Seal has provided a base level of core competence among management and adds a level of trust to our customers, without lifting a finger,” says Kris Ossenkop, CEO, Northwest Auto Parts, Anchorage, AK. His advise to other recyclers, “Don’t be afraid of the time spent getting the certification. The application process itself is valuable and the certification award stays with you long term, with little maintenance.”
“Gold Seal certification is a benefit in many ways,” says Donna Schuette, CEO at Johannes Auto Parts. “It is a way for new customers to be assured that we are a top level recycler. I believe it also gives our employees a sense of pride and motivates them to maintain the high standards that Gold Seal Certification requires.
“Personally, I strive for a score of 100% because I know if I can achieve that goal, we are doing things to the best of our ability,” says Schuette. “I know that a lower score is considered a ‘passing’ grade, but why not go the extra mile and try to achieve perfection? To me that is what GOLD symbolizes, the ‘Best of the Best!’”
“I would also say that achieving the certification is easier than it appears on paper. Most of us are already doing things up to the standards required, I just needed to add some signage and a few minor changes to qualify. When you first look over the checklist it can seem daunting, but grab a clipboard and your smart phone for photos and you will be amazed at how close you already are to Gold Seal Certification.”
What is Gold Seal Approval?
ARA Gold Seal certified members know that customers want quality parts, written product guarantees, and total customer satisfaction. The ARA Gold Seal Program is a natural next step for automotive recyclers who have already completed their Certified Automotive Recycler
(CAR) certification and want to take their business to the next level of excellence.
Established by ARA with an endorsement from the Automotive Service Association, the Gold Seal Program allows recyclers to join forces to take a proactive stance to, specifically, build upon their environmental compliance achieved with CAR certifications and strive for the highest levels of quality and customer satisfaction. With a customer complaint system, mechanical parts warranty, and the requirement of all Gold Seal members to use the ARA parts grading system, a Gold Seal facility moves to the top of the preferred vendor list for recycled auto parts.
If you are ready, the steps to Gold Seal certification are well-ordered. To begin the process:
1. First, you must be CAR certified to apply for Gold Seal status. If you are not CAR certified, complete your first year self-audit required by that program (reference the following pages of this article). This certification helps protect you from any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines at the minimum.
2. Complete the Gold Seal Survey Monkey that will be sent to you from ARA to be a member.
Once you are a member, or if you already are, there are some things you can do to increase the ROI on your participation.
1. Make sure your company has completed the Renewal Survey found on the ARA website, or at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XD3HCY6.
2. Decide whether or not you want to continue with Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) calls to your customers. It is no longer a requirement from Gold Seal. The value of CSI is that it provides a real picture to you of what your client experience is. If you have a large team, it might be a beneficial investment. For more on this process, take a look at http://ww2.customerresearch.com.
3. Ask to be a member of the ARA Gold Seal Facebook Closed Group. Here you can engage in discussions on best practices and strategize as a community.
4. In fact, we encourage you to be an active member of this page by immediately posting something to the page. This page is for members to use as a resource to grow their business. Help each other by posting the good about your business and feel free to ask help for the bad.
5. Proudly display your Gold Seal banner at your facility so that your customers and your staff are reminded of your dedication to excellence.
6. Add the Gold Seal logo to your invoices.
7. Look for other places to display the Gold Seal logo in your business to inspire best practices.
8. Fill out surveys sent by ARA on quality, inventory, and sales. These help the Gold Seal Committee and ARA craft a program that is beneficial for all. Feedback is essential to success.
9. Instruct your team to understand the Gold Seal customer complaint process. Adherence to this process helps you and it helps the industry with standardized processes.
10. Get involved in the Gold Seal Committee. Currently under development is a restructuring of the audit process. Feedback and ideas on how best to report data to program administrators is vital the program’s success.
11. Most importantly, live out the Gold Seal standards each day and challenge today’s standards to be better in the future.
This kind of dedication, in small and big ways, are actions that will bring Gold Seal members increased sales, help the industry name, and make the certification in general more worthwhile for all.
Amanda is the HR Manager at Matlock’s Used Cars & Parts, Inc, a Gold Seal facility, and Chairperson of the Gold Seal Committee.