Aseproce launches agency audit scheme
30 January, 2014
Spanish agency association Aseproce has moved forward with an independent audit scheme in an attempt to establish minimum standards and drive quality and customer confidence in the sector.
President of Aseproce, Juan Manuel Elizalde, said the audit system was addressing a regulation deficit in Spain’s agency industry, which had seen too many “cowboy operators” over the years. “This process has to be done by a third party, an external group of professionals, so we changed regulations and worked with Lloyds Registrar,” he said. “This will make customers realise they are dealing with reliable, professional companies.”
The audit process examined five key areas of agency business: the company’s legal and financial standing; verification of information given to clients regarding schools and programmes offered; contracts with educational partners; the selection process of agency-appointed staff accompanying minors including command of the appropriate language for the destination and criminal background checks; and customer satisfaction. The latter will be checked through contact with students and parents.
Aseproce will now commence a media campaign to highlight the value of agency regulation.
“We have to show that this is good for customers, and that they can be sure of quality if they use an Aseproce member.”
The first audit was conducted in November, and Elizalde reports that all members passed with no problems. Having established minimum membership standards in the five areas with the first audit, the second year would be slightly more stringent, he added.
Aseproce is creating working groups to address any matters raised in the audits. One such project will be to create a central contract that Aseproce members can use with partner schools that are accredited within their respective national associations. Elizalde said he hopes to present the contact later this year.
Reaction to the audit process has been positive among educators, Elizalde confirmed. “Most of the schools are happy with this, giving us support with this extra step of quality.”
As a result of the new audit process and another regulation coming into force that requires Aseproce members to publically declare whether they are making VAT payments, membership of the association has declined by around a third. However, Elizalde confirms that another five or six agencies have expressed an interest in joining or returning to the association as a result of the new quality measures.
The audit system is a realisation of Elizalde’s goal when he was elected. “Three years ago when I became President, I wanted to offer quality standards and change the regulations to be audited by a third party,” he said. “We gave ourselves four years to bring this audit scheme into effect, but actually we have done it within three years. A lot of work has gone into this, and I am very proud of my team and the members.”
Elizalde said some elements of the third-party regulation scheme were unique in the industry, and that having been assisted by the French agency association Unosel, he was willing to advise and assist other associations within Felca and worldwide in adopting similar schemes.