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Let Your Customer Be Your Guide: 4 Steps to Better Quality Management

SHERI WEAVER
Quality Supervisor, HNI

We need to think about quality management as a journey.  By following these 4 guidelines, you can begin implementing an effective quality management process.

1. Know where you are going and chart your course.  

If you are planning a cross country trip to a destination you have never been before, you're not going to begin that journey without a roadmap or GPS as a guide.  When charting your course, your client should always be the 'destination' you orient yourself toward. 

Being customer-oriented means thinking about quality from your customer's perspective and focusing on the elements of quality that matter most to them.  quality managementIn the eyes of your customers, quality is about having the right product or service, at the right time, at the right cost.  Quality management is the process of narrowing the gap between what the customer actually needs and what you bring to the table. 

2. Research, research, reseach

Do you have a comprehensive understanding of your customer’s needs and expectations?  Have you asked or is your perception of the customer's needs based on assumptions?  An effective strategy is to perform market research, form  focus groups and implement client satisfaction surveys.  Be cautious on this though - if your clients are going to take the time to complete a survey or needs analysis, make sure your organization rewards their efforts by responding with a plan of action.

Are there hidden needs not on the client’s radar that you can uncover?  Good quality managment involves anticipating these needs.

3. Link your organization’s internal objectives to the needs and expectations of your customer base. 

Communicate the customer needs throughout your organization.  This involves creating a corporate culture where focus on the client perspective is the standard operating procedure.  Leadership must walk the walk and lead by example in this area.

4. Find balance between satisfying your customers and other stakeholders (owners, suppliers, the community). 

Focusing on your customer and their needs should be the starting point for your quality assurance processes, but it's certainly not the end point.  The needs and sentiments of employees, owners, suppliers and the larger community need to be considered as well, although the customer should remain the focus of your efforts.  

If you don't already have a quality program in place, starting this journey can be difficult, but as Ben Nneji said,

"The graveyard for companies that met an untimely death are littered with mounds of inaction and tombstones marked, "We will do it later."

Challenging the status quo and encouraging innovation around quality is essential to your business' long term sustainability. Don't get tangled in a web of excuses that will prevent your organization from pursuing quality initiatives.  

Celebrate successes, and yes, even failures, but do not accept inaction. 

Topics: Construction Transportation Manufacturing