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Automating Communications for Certification: Some Considerations

by | Certification

Are you in constant communication with your certification community? It is a full-time job! Automating communications for professional certification programs can provide a solution that streamlines your notification process, but of course, those automations must still be planned and implemented. Before you forget it, you still have to set it.

The hidden benefit of automating communications is that it provides a forcing function for developing a holistic communications plan, and to determine how you want to engage — and engage with — your community.

The Basics: Three Common Types of Communications

A helpful first step to developing a communications plan can be to consider the different categories of messages you might want to send, depending on the why, the whom, and the when.

Most certification programs will require some combination of the following types of messages:

  • Process/date-based communications: “Attention: This is your 30-day renewal deadline reminder.”
  • Segmented communications to all who meet specific criteria: “Congratulations! You have achieved all requirements for recertification.”
  • General broadcast messages to all constituents: “Update: We’ve changed our education eligibility requirements.”

Step by Step: Automating Communications Based on Process

It also helps to organize a communications plan according to your certification workflow. You can break down each step that your applicants, certificants, and staff will take in the system and whether the outcome necessitates an announcement, confirmation, reminder, inquiry, or request.

While every certification program is unique in terms of how it chooses to communicate with its associated community, some common notifications may be appropriate at different points in a certification workflow.

Consider which of these notifications apply to your program needs, and if you currently have a plan in place to send them:

Example Notification Description of Purpose

Notification upon the creation of a new application

Some programs wish to “welcome” new applicants by sending a message when they create an application. This message can offer encouragement, reinforce rules regarding completion, and recommend sources of assistance and support.

Due-date reminders

Deadlines looming? These reminders are typically scheduled at intervals of 90, 60, and 30 days, as well as one-week and one-day reminders.

Confirmation of application submission

Most programs confirm when an application has been submitted so that the individual has a record.

Past due warnings

Many programs send notices indicating that an application is past due, especially when late fees or grace periods are involved.

Payment receipt

Provides email confirmation that payment has been processed.


Back and Forth: Automating Communications for Staff Review and Audit

Your application process might also incorporate audits or other forms of staff review, either for an initial application or a recertification/renewal application. By automating these notifications, the system becomes the intermediary for communication between auditors, reviewers, and applicants, and not your program staff. Whether you audit or review all applications or just a portion, the following notifications might be useful for your communications plan:

  • Requests for clarification when an uploaded document or other aspect of the application is insufficient (e.g., poor quality, or does not match the expected content).
  • Notifications for when a submitted activity has been rejected. For example, a degree submitted as related does not appear relevant to the program and will not count towards experience requirements.
  • Notifications that, based on some irregularity, the applicant needs to submit additional information to meet requirements.
  • Notifications to applicants whose applications will be subject to additional review.
  • Notifications that inform applicants that after review, their application meets the determined requirements.
  • Notifications that an audit has surfaced irregularities in the application that require the applicant’s attention and action.

A Gentle Nudge: Automating Communications for Keeping Your Applicants on Track

Is someone not moving forward, either with their initial certification or recertification? In these cases, a follow-up message has proven to help inspire a desired action. The following kinds of notifications can reach your community at their pain points, making sure they stay engaged in their certification process:

Example Notification Description of Purpose

Application in-progress prompts

Some programs wish to send a message after an application has been created and a certain amount of time has lapsed, to prompt next steps and reinforce rules.

Notification upon activity approvals

Some programs perform “real-time” approval of submitted continuing professional development or education. Under these circumstances, to promote engagement and forward progress, notifications are sent as each activity is reviewed and approved.

Inquiry notices

When an activity or application does not contain sufficient information to determine approval or rejection, it can be “returned” to the person who submitted it. When an “inquiry” of this kind is performed, organizations typically configure an Inquiry notification informing the person that an activity was returned to them for further details, with an explanation of follow-up actions to resolve the issue.

Inactivity prompts

The system tracks when individuals are interrupted in mid-reporting process. To ensure that people are alerted to incomplete activities, the system can send a notification that reminds individuals that they started a task but did not finish it.

A communications workflow must be easy to edit and re-organize as a program grows and evolves. Should deadlines change, for example, you’ll want to be able to change the schedule of all your associated date-based reminders at once.

Send and Receive: Making Sure the System Works

Of course, you can build the most conscientious, community-minded communications plan possible, but if the messages aren’t reaching their intended contacts, then they won’t have the intended result.

It’s important to have a way to log your messages and make sure the right people are getting the right information. What if someone signed up to receive communications with an email address they no longer use, or emails entered the system with errors? When deliverability issues inevitably arise, it can be helpful to be able to determine — quickly — whether or not an email has been sent, delivered, and opened.

Automating Communications for Certification, LearningBuilder Style

At Heuristics, we configure automated communications as part of a certification workflow. Our LearningBuilder implementation analysts collaborate with your program staff to develop and launch a communications plan, and even help build your messaging templates. When necessary, your program staff can draft and update message content through a straightforward WYSIWYG editor.

We also offer robust tracking data: All communications with a user are logged to their profile, making it easy to troubleshoot inactivity and keep applicants and certificants on track. By logging when a message was queued, sent, delivered, opened, and viewed, the system can help answer the question, “Why didn’t I receive this notification?” We help you plan the work, and then the system works your plan.

Are we a fit for your program needs? Let’s find out! Click here to schedule an exploratory call or live system demo.

Heuristic Solutions is a leader in software and technology for certification, licensure, and accreditation. Partner with us today, and we’ll modernize your system to better serve your organization.


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