If you work in the road transport sector chances are you know about industry accreditations, standards or certifications. Over the years more and more have popped up and now there's a veritable smorgasbord of offerings designed to address key issues in commercial road transport.
Some focus on compliance while others address a key topic such as road safety or air quality. Some are specific to a particular sector while others might be more vehicle specific. In any case it's reasonable to suggest that whatever you operate, wherever you do it and whatever you do there's a standard out there for you and it's got your name on it.
However, there's no getting away from a bit of creeping cynicism on the part of the end user, especially when the perception can often be that, as an operator trying to make a living, you're told that you have to achieve this or that standard if you want to work for or with us. And that's a shame because the cynicism is often misguided or misunderstood. But it all comes back to communication.
There's two issues to deal with here. The first is that sometimes the reason for introducing a contractual obligation to achieve a recognised standard is not fully understood by the people writing the ITT, tender document or whatever. Procurement specialists clearly know their stuff but do they actually consider the practical implications and benefits of creating this clause or requirement or do they do it because that's what someone else did and it seemed like a good idea? Moreover do tender documents really explain the reasons why something's required in evidence? I don't think so.
The other issue is that often the creator of said standard / accreditation / certification / other doesn't start by thinking how the standards will benefit the end user and how to convey it in a way that makes a difference to John and his van parked up round the corner. It's all very nice but John's thinking about the cost of fuel, how much he should charge and how long it'll be before his van packs up. How can he see any benefit to accreditation when it's not presented clearly and in a way that he can connect with?
The most important point of any industry standard is that it sets out, right from the start, to explain what the real world difference is to John and the thousands of others who question the value in what they're being asked to do.
If an accreditation is about safety then marketing should focus on the knock-on effect of an accident; how much will John lose while his van's off the road? How much will his insurance go up by? What effect will there be on his reputation? There are simple ways of understanding rates or costs through desktop research or ringing around, yet the people who develop these standards often don't bother.
Some standards offer tangible benefits through tools, information and training. Why not offset the cost of gaining the accreditation by comparing the market value of tools, information and training offered for free? I'm willing to bet the result is a net gain for the operator when it comes to costs.
And that's my point. To really connect and grow, a standard must communicate and connect with the people it will affect right from the off, regardless of whether it seeks to maintain the legal minimum, advance the development of businesses or address the wider problems of air quality and the safety of people. Until that connection's realised and acted on there will always be a limit to the success of an industry standard.
However, if you're looking to understand the benefits of industry standards we can show you the way! Call us on 01825 872 477 if you want to either create a standard, enhance a standard or implement a standard!