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Author's profile photo John Kleeman

Online assessments in compliance #5: It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it

Warren Buffett famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”. In this article — the last of a series on business benefits of online assessments in regulatory compliance, I explain how using a system like SAP Assessment Management by Questionmark is a great way to avoid those fatal five minutes and so mitigate risk to reputation.

Where reputation risk happens

A typical corporate business model is shown in the diagram below. A company uses its core capabilities in production with a supplier network and product/services development to make an offer to its customers, which it communicates via a sales and marketing channel, with a supporting finance structure.

reputation risk 1.png

The pink shaded areas in the diagram are where there is reputation risk. (I’d like to credit Questionmark colleagues Eric Shepherd and Brian McNamara for many of the ideas and the diagrams in this post.)

If you make mistakes within production – in regulatory compliance, processes, procedures or health & safety – this can seriously hurt your reputation.  Errors in regulatory compliance or failing to follow processes and procedures can similarly damage reputation in finance.

But the biggest challenge for many organizations is the sales and marketing channel, as this is more spread out and harder to control. You have to comply with laws on how you sell, both industry-specific and general ones like anti-corruption. The people in your channel, both employees and partners, must have product/solution knowledge. Reputation is also hurt by overselling and unsatisfied customers.

How can assessments help prevent reputation challenges?

Valid and reliable assessments allow you to check the knowledge, skills and experience of your workforce and check their competence. They are one of the few ways to touch every employee in your extended organization.  They can test knowledge of processes, procedures, products and confirm that people have the skills and experience to do what you need.

In production, many organizations use a system like SAP Assessment Management by Questionmark for health and safety assessments – you are not allowed to operate a machine or go into a dangerous area if you have not passed the relevant assessment and your pass is current. Sometimes this is even automated – a door will not open except to an employee with a current certification.

Assessments are used even more widely within the channel. It’s helpful to divide the channel into four areas – market messaging, sales, customer care and technical support as in the diagram below.

reputation risk 2.png

Market Messaging

When you talk to your prospective customers, there is a risk that your messaging is inappropriate or that messages do not resonate. Surveys are commonly used to check on reaction to messaging.


You need your sales people, whether in-house personnel or partners, to comply with laws and avoid corruption. They need to ensure your customers are satisfied, by selling fairly and not using trickery. Online quizzes and tests are great ways to check your sales people know all the rules and are competent to sell. Observational assessments using tablets or smartphones also let supervisors check team members, for example monitoring customer conversations.

Customer Care

In customer care, a challenge is high staff turnover, requiring lots of training. As in sales, the customer care team need product and process knowledge and need to satisfy customers. Quizzes and tests motivate learning, maintain focus and enable recognition of people who “get it”.  Surveys also allow feedback on customer satisfaction.

Technical Support

Lastly, every company has challenges when products or services don’t work. How you deal with problems impacts your reputation. The challenge for technical support is to delight the customer and fix problems on first call. Quizzes and tests are useful in technical support, but something that works really well for technical teams is a certification program. Skills and knowledge required are often complex, and using assessments to certify gives technical support teams career progression. It also encourages pride in their jobs, leading to better employee retention and better service.

Using assessments in this way helps with regulatory compliance and reduces reputation risk and improves your business by increasing customer service.

Summary of business benefits

In previous articles in this series, I have shared several business benefits of SAP Assessment Management by Questionmark within regulatory compliance:

Of course there are many other business reasons for using assessments in compliance. Many regulators directly require you to assess your workforce and show them the results, and can even fine you for not doing so. Assessments also demonstrate commitment – you are not just paying lip service to compliance but ensuring that all your employees and managers can demonstrate competence not just claim it.

In all these cases, SAP Assessment Management by Questionmark can help you make trustable assessments – valid and reliable ones that you can make good decisions with. In a world of increasing informal learning, where people learn however they need to, you still need to know that they “get it”.

The key point I’d like to make as I end this series is that online assessments are about both staying compliant with regulatory requirements AND giving business value. Assessments help ensure your workforce are competent and reduce regulatory risk, but they also give business value in improved efficiency, knowledge and customer service.

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