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Valuing Verifications — Why Commoditizing Verifications Poses Grave Risk

March 30, 2016

I have watched the retail pricing of verifications and other screening services race to the bottom. Margins in our industry range from thin to non-existent. Some very high-volume screening firms have moved production to wherever the lowest cost of labor can be found (India, the Philippines, Mexico, etc.). In the process, these firms are undercutting their competitors on pricing.

This commoditization of our industry is madness when you consider the extraordinary legal, regulatory compliance, data protection, and quality assurance requirements we must meet. This race to the bottom on pricing and its impact on quality and the ethical underpinnings of our industry hurts all of us, as well as the clients we try to serve diligently.

By selling quality and value, not price, your company can distinguish itself from the low-cost leaders. Listed below are my top tips for delivering high-quality verifications.

  1. Invest the time and energy it takes to hire the right people and train them correctly. The attitude that anyone can do verifications is a trap. The job requires tenacity, aggressiveness, problem-solving abilities, strong communication skills, and exquisite attention to detail. Training someone with those qualities to follow your procedures and think like a researcher should lead to quick and thorough results. Use a building-block approach to training, where each lesson builds on the previous one. The trainer should have a detailed lesson plan and deliver the material in oral, written, visual, and experiential formats.
  2. I am a big fan of playing out scenarios in a simulated environment where the trainee can fumble safely with the verbiage and screens. Also, include benchmarks to meet throughout the training cycle. Graduating from one level to the next, and eventually to a full-fledged researcher, should be an accomplishment in which the trainee takes pride.
  3. There just is no substitute for manually auditing and evaluating the results of your verification efforts. Someone with experience needs to check for correct dates, titles, and any adverse information. Any incomplete order needs to be especially scrutinized: why is it incomplete?; were all the steps taken?; does the status history provide a clear record of what transpired? This is painstaking work and not something that can be mass-produced or left to an algorithm. Quality assurance also needs to capture proper and improper processing and provide praise and feedback as part of a continuous process improvement program.
  4. Become accredited. NAPBS has created an accreditation program for U.S. consumer reporting agencies that are governed by a strict and thorough set of professional standards. This program has become widely recognized and brings national recognition to accredited firms. NAPBS also offers Fair Credit Reporting Act certification programs that can help researchers understand the gravity of their responsibilities and put their work into a larger context. In my personal opinion, being accredited and certified should help you when negotiating your rates.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. If so, let us know. If you have any tips of your own to share, we would be happy to post them. If you would like to write an article for Craig’s Verification Tips, please contact me by email at ccaddell@referencepro.com.

Craig Caddell is a noted screening industry expert on verification and reference operations.

Craig Caddell Written by Craig Caddell
Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lowers Risk Group
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