Successful organizations have figured out that customer satisfaction has a direct impact on the bottom line. Creating an environment which supports a quality culture requires a structured, systematic process. Following are steps to implementing a quality management system that will help to bring the process full circle.
Let’s begin by defining the word quality.
“A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings: (1) the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs and (2) a product or service free of deficiencies.” American Society for Quality (ASQ)
A Quality Management System is “The organizational structure, processes, procedures and resources needed to implement, maintain and continually improve the management of quality.” American Society for Quality (ASQ)
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction. TQM focuses on the development of products and services that meet the needs and exceed the expectations of key customer groups. This is accomplished by creating an integrated “system” that is process centered, has total employee involvement and is completely customer focused. Creating a culture that is customer focused and collecting and studying data that supports efforts for the customer are critical components to the system.
Steps to Creating a Total Quality Management System
1. Clarify Vision, Mission and Values
Employees need to know how what they do is tied to organizational strategy and objectives which makes it important that all employees understand where the organization is headed (its vision), what it hopes to accomplish (mission) and the operational principles (values) that will steer its priorities and decision making. Having a process to educate employees during new employee orientation and a communication process to help ensure that the mission, vision and values is always in front of the people is a major first step.
2. Identify Critical Success Factors (CSF)
Critical success factors help an organization focus on those things that help it meet objectives and move a little closer to achieving its mission. These performance based measures provide a gauge for determining how well the organization is meeting objectives.
Some example CSF:
- Financial Performance
- Customer Satisfaction
- Process Improvement
- Market Share
- Employee Satisfaction
- Product Quality
3. Develop Measures and Metrics to Track CSF Data
Once critical success factors are identified, there needs to be measurements put in place to monitor and track progress. This can be done through a reporting process that is used to collect specified data and share information with senior leaders. For example, if a goal is to increase customer satisfaction survey scores, there should be a goal and a measure to demonstrate achievement of the goal.
4. Identify Key Customer Group
Every organization has customers and understanding who the key customer groups are is important so that products and services can be developed based on customer requirements. The mistake a lot of organizations make is not acknowledging employees as a key customer group.
Example Key Customer Groups:
5. Solicit Customer Feedback
The only way for an organization to know how well they are meeting customer requirements is by simply asking the question. There should be a structured process to solicit feedback from each customer group in an effort to identify what is important to them. Organizations often make the mistake of thinking they know what is important to customers and ask the wrong survey questions. This this type of feedback is obtained through customer focus groups.
6. Develop Survey Tool
Next develop a customer satisfaction survey tool that is based on finding out what is important to customers. For example, customers might care more about quality than cost but if you are developing a product and trying to keep the cost down and skimping on the quality, you are creating a product that might not meet the needs of the customer.
7. Survey Each Customer Group
Each customer group should have a survey customized to their particular requirements and they should be surveyed to establish baseline data on the customers’ perception of current practice. This provides a starting point for improvements and demonstrates progress as improvement plans are implemented.
8. Develop Improvement Plan
Once the baseline is established you should develop an improvement plan based on customer feedback from each group. Improvement plans should be written in SMART goals format with assignments to specific staff for follow through.
Goals May Include Some of the Following:
- Process improvement initiatives, such as: customer call hold times
- Leadership Development: Walk-the-Talk
- Management Training/Development: How to manage employees in a quality environment
- Staff Training/Development: Customer Service
- Performance Management: Setting expectations, creating job descriptions that support the vision and holding staff accountable.
After a period of time (12-18 months), resurvey key customers to see if scores have improved. Customer needs and expectations change over time so being in-tune to changing needs and expectations is critical to long-term success.
10. Monitor CSF
It is important to monitor CSF monthly to ensure there is consistent progress toward goals. This also allows for course correction should priorities and objectives change during the review period.
11. Incorporate Satisfaction Data into Marketing Plans
Once you’ve achieved some positive results with your satisfaction data, use it as a marketing tool! A lot of successful organizations miss the boat by not letting others know what they do well. Customers want to know how an organizations internal processes work especially if those process help to deliver an outstanding product or service!
Make sure technology is user-friendly and supports targeted improvements. For example, a website should be easy to navigate as well as easy to find (SEO) and the content should be easy to understand.
Make sure employees understand the vision as well as their role in supporting it. Look for ways to ensure that all internal processes are standardized and that employees receive the training to understand the standardization.
Successful quality initiatives require ongoing Senior Leadership sponsorship and support through structure, process and staff transitions. Designated resources are also critical in supporting these endeavors.
If you are interested in learning more about quality management, I highly recommend a book called: The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook, Fourth Edition.
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This article was first published in January, 2010, updated May, 2013.