A Certification Exam, a Proctor, Two Candidates & the Blizzard of 2003

The “Blizzard of 2003” wasn’t your typical blizzard. Not for the two women in Columbia, Missouri scheduled to take a proctored ASTD exam in the midst of it.

And certainly not for William Wilkins, who drove two hours through a whipping whiteout to proctor it.

“Two days before the test,” explained Wilkins, “the testing center Kryterion used in Columbia closed unexpectedly. At the time, I was based in Holts Summit, not terribly far away. So I made arrangements to proctor the exam myself.”

Wilkins, then a young software developer, had just passed his second work anniversary with Kryterion.

Luckily, the women’s employer had a computer lab capable of hosting the exam.

The blizzard, chugging hard out of the southern Rockies, simply didn’t care. It had a date with destiny all its own.

What should have been an easy thirty-minute drive for Wilkins turned into a dangerous, two-hour slog. Nationwide, 44 weather-related deaths were reported, six of them in Missouri.

Wilkins arrived safely. The candidates arrived on time. The test session went smoothly. One of the two candidates left after completing the exam. The other woman stayed put and later broke down in tears.

“At first, I figured that she hadn’t passed the test,” recalled Wilkins. “But when I checked the results, she had done just fine.”

Wilkins would subsequently learn that this woman’s father had died the day before. Passing the ASTD exam meant that she could now move into a management role with her employer. She would be the first in her family to do that … and she knew just how proud of that accomplishment her father would have been.

Testing changes lives

Seventeen years later, William Wilkins, a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), was still with Kryterion. When I interviewed him, his title was Director, CX/CS Advocate. What began, for Wilkins, as a one-off encounter with a blizzard and an individual test candidate had since evolved into a passion.

The difference a test can make seems trite in the abstract. Experienced face-to-face, as a visceral, life-affirming encounter, it proved deeply meaningful and memorable to Wilkins.

In the credentialing arena, all participants are in the life-changing business.

Candidates (aka test takers) invest in and prepare for certification exams because success opens new perspectives and expands professional opportunities. That’s life changing.

When certificants add the initials of a certificate after their name on a business card, a resume, or an email, they are proudly—and pointedly—attesting to the life-changing value of their certification. That’s a powerful indicator of customer success for the sponsors who generated the certification path, wouldn’t you agree? And great advertising to boot!

Certification sponsors—the companies and associations that develop certification programs—birth new professions, open new career paths and create professional communities. That’s life changing.

Disagree? Fair enough.

The value of certification

But if credentials aren’t meaningful, why have some 43 million people in the US, as of 2018, worked so hard to earn one?

If credentials aren’t highly prized why are there so durned many of them? Last year, the national nonprofit, Credential Engine, reported that “Non-academic organizations, such as employers, associations and other training providers, offer more than 315,000 unique credentials.

As a leader in the exam-delivery arm of the credentialing industry, Kryterion is in the life-changing business, too. To make sure everyone in the company gets it, Kryterion recently adopted the following slogan and posted it throught the Phoenix headquarters: Improving Lives One Test at a Time.

But it takes more than a slogan to nurture a culture that lives and breathes customer success.

That’s why Kryterion began implementation of a customer satisfaction / customer experience (CS/CX) program of its own in 2019. The visionary behind the program? Naturally, William Wilkins, CCXP.

Interested in learning more about Kryterion’s client success products and programs? Look for an upcoming post to get Wilkins’ perspective on Kryterion’s customer-centric business philosophy.

After all, experience really is a great teacher.

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