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Connecting Your Counter Help with HARDI's Certified Counter Specialist Program

March 1, 2011
The HARDI Certified Counter Specialist (CCS) program grew out of the need to attest to a person's qualifications to perform a specific job say, a Certified

The HARDI Certified Counter Specialist (CCS) program grew out of the need to attest to a person's qualifications to perform a specific job — say, a Certified Instructor, a Certified Air Filter Specialist or a Certified Public Accountant.

Understandably, credentialing started with people involved in public health and safety (e.g., registered nurse, registered architect). Even where no physical danger is involved, certification is used. Certification is simply a process that recognizes a person's qualifications and demonstrates knowledge as measured by an organization that itself is broadly recognized as the appropriate body to award certification. The Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is the sole organization representing the interests of wholesale distribution in the HVACR industry; HARDI members employ more than 6,800 counter and inside sales personnel.

As an integral part of the modern, information-based HVACR industry, it is necessary to have well-qualified people at the wholesale distribution service counter. These are the people who are on the “front line” — serving the needs of the contractor base.

The Certified Counter Specialist program is based on core principles and objectives. They are:

  1. To establish industry-recognized standards of performance, education and training for the counter position in HVACR distribution.

  2. To encourage training and education.

  3. To cultivate more knowledgeable sales support personnel.

  4. To increase awareness of the minimum requirements for wholesale counter sales positions.

For the individual counter person, the program offers industry-recognized credentials that are useful to advance a career as well as financial enhancement. For the individual wholesale distributor company, CCS provides the distributor with the opportunity to place a test-proven professional at the counter to assist the customer who may carry his own industry credentials. A competent counter person can drive down the number of returned items and use of wrong parts by the customer and reduce warranty expenses. The dealer-contractor employer appreciates decreased time wasted by his personnel at the counter and a reduction in his unapplied labor cost. Get in — get out — and with the right materials.

The HARDI CCS program provides four levels of recognition for specific educational and training achievements:

  • Assistant Counter Specialist (for the person starting out)
  • Associate Counter Specialist
  • Senior Associate Counter Specialist
  • HARDI Certified Counter Specialist (the highest achievement)

The CCS program started in early 2005, with the first person being “HARDI Certified” in August 2006. There are 528 people from 29 companies in the program: 52 are at the assistant level; 33 at the associate level; 33 at the senior associate level; and 61 have achieved the highest level of certification — the “HARDI Certified” level.

John Ogle of Corken Steel says he sees a “direct relationship to who is advancing and how fast, to their true knowledge level and ability to answer customers' questions. I can see how they have grown over the past few years since we adopted the program. We put a lot of value in the program, and we make sure that the people get the recognition they so rightly deserve. The people at the counter have excelled in their performance, and we have the CCS program to thank for that.”

Bill Hayden of Gustave A. Larson Co. has been part of the CCS program from the beginning and likes the core competencies portion. “This is the baseline used to start the educational process within the CCS program. The company is aware of the achievements of the people in the program, but one of the biggest incentives is ‘peer’ pressure. This tends to spur on the others who are in the program and make them follow through with finishing the requirements for each level. The feeling of accomplishment that an employee feels once he or she has achieved a level of certification is overwhelming. The added bonus to the program is that they can always choose to renew their efforts for additional certification and the feeling of accomplishment that it brings. It's entirely up to them.”

Aireco Supply's John Berry, regional manager, and Allison Huber, training and events coordinator, are also heavily involved in the program. Berry says the CCS program is “highly recognized in the HVACR industry as the standard for certifying counter personnel. We use it as a tool for the natural progression of job skills and upward mobility.” He adds that “another important aspect of the program is how the core competencies relating to various tasks and procedures are already laid out, and we can start using the program right away with new hires.”

Pat Peregoy, human resources manager, Munch's Supply, has “found that there are many benefits to the training that our employees receive as a result of participating in HARDI's certification process. The number one benefit would be the better customer service we are able to provide with the advanced product knowledge. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Having advanced product knowledge allows the employees to be more self-confident. A self-confident employee is a happier employee and a better salesperson. Employees are more valuable to their employers when they are well versed in sales techniques and procedures.

“Instruction in these areas is provided by HARDI as part of their program. Munch's Supply is proud to have a large group of HARDI certified individuals in their employee base. We plan to continue with the program indefinitely.”

It is still early in the year. If you are not taking advantage of the CCS program, isn't this a good time to reconsider how the program could help your company?

To receive information on the CCS program, contact Richard Wirtz at [email protected] or call 888/253-2128.