March 25, 2019

Improving Your Association’s Certification Application Experience

Improving Your Association’s Certification Application Experience

Credentials are popular right now. New and seasoned professionals are acquiring certificates and credentials to improve and validate their skills and knowledge—and employers are seeking that validation. Higher education institutions and for-profit companies are entering the credentials marketplace to take advantage of this increased demand.

Certification applicants come to your website and member portal with the same expectations they bring to every website they encounter. Even if your association is the only organization providing the type of credential needed by your membership and market, you shouldn’t take their participation for granted. Offer a certification application and renewal experience that meets and exceeds their expectations.

Provide a Straightforward Application Process

Time is a limited asset for everyone, including your certification applicants. Take advantage of the functionality provided by certification tracking software to streamline your certification application process. Don’t give applicants any excuse to completely abandon the process once they start.

Look for ways to make the process as clear and concise as possible. Don’t make applicants think too hard or guess what they should have to do next. Use certification tracking software that allows you to design and configure an application workflow that guides applicants step-by-step through the application or renewal process. Based on their answers throughout the process, allow them to skip steps that aren’t applicable.

Display a progress bar that shows where they are in the process and which steps remain. For example, let the applicant see that they’re on Step 6 and have two remaining steps to go.

Give applicants and renewing credential holders the ability to upload documents, such as certificates of completion, to support their application.

Given the details involved in applying for certification, some people will run out of time or need to take a break to find the information they need for the application. Allow applicants to save their work and return later.

Meet their expectations up to the very end. Make sure your certification tracking software provides a user-friendly payment experience. Allow applicants to conveniently store a credit card within the system. Let them apply association-issued promo codes or credits to their application fee.

Satisfy the Certification Applicant’s “Need to Know”

Anticipate the needs and questions of your certification applicants and renewing credential holders. What questions have they asked in the past about the application and renewal process? Make sure you answer these questions on the screen or provide the answers on a linked page.

Don’t give applicants any cause to wonder and worry about the status of their application. Use certification tracking software that allows you to configure statuses to keep the applicant informed. They should be able to see if their certification was approved or renewed, and, if not, why it wasn’t.

Credential holders want to be kept up-to-date on their certification status. Help them stay in the loop by setting up automated email notifications that alert them to upcoming expiration and renewal dates.

Empower Certification Applicants with a Self-Service Portal

The DIY ethos has taken over the online experience. Members, credential holders, and certification applicants expect to take care of any association and certification “business” online. They rather do something themselves than wait for someone at the association to do it for them.

A member portal provides the self-service experience expected by professionals in your membership and market. If you wish, you can allow anyone to create an account and take care of business, i.e., apply for certification, renew certification, register for an event, or take care of whatever association task is on their to-do list.

Credential applicants and holders can also use your member portal to:

  • Print certificates and transcripts
  • Self-report CEUs
  • Keep track of their CEUs

When you give applicants and credential holders the power to help themselves, your team also benefits as well—you won’t have to spend time fulfilling all those requests. However, always give portal visitors the option of talking to a real live person on staff for help if that’s their preference.

Draw Credential Applicants Deeper into the Association

Your member portal is the home base for processes related to certification, but it’s also just a click away from other engagement opportunities and membership benefits offered by your association. Take advantage of the “real estate” on your portal’s home page by displaying teaser copy and links to other engagement opportunities.

  • Promote your online community’s discussion group for certification applicants or for those who plan to take the spring or fall exam.
  • Advertise exam prep courses, study guides, and practice quizzes.
  • Invite new credential holders to a reception at your annual conference.

Promote membership to certification applicants and credential holders who aren’t yet members. Remind them about the lower prices members pay for educational events and resources.

Some associations have a special membership tier for certification holders and applicants. For example, the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) offers a membership tier (ASCM PLUS) specifically for people who are actively pursuing an ASCM credential. The ASCM PLUS package includes discounts on exams, courses, and study materials for the association’s credentials.

ASCM told Associations Now that they added this membership tier in an effort to stop the churn of members who join for certification discounts but then drop membership once they earn a credential.

Make sure you have a field in your AMS for designation suffixes. Your credential holders worked hard to earn those letters of distinction.

Find out how certification tracking software, like MemberSuite’s certification management and CEU tracking solution, can help your organization provide the online experience your certification applicants and credential holders expect and deserve.