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This month’s article is part two of a three-part series covering fundamental concepts of managing a quality-based business. Admittedly, quality management may not be the most exciting topic. Still, it’s essential if you want your customers to know that you provide a quality service – giving you a competitive advantage.
Most often, new customers will not take your word that you provide a quality service. Instead, they will have to see it for themselves in their experience dealing with you and your staff. In turn, they will tell others about their experience and increase your reputation for excellent customer service. That’s why customer focus is the number two principle of our quality philosophy.
Before I go any further, let me point out a few things about quality management. First, you may have heard of other quality methodologies like Deming’s 14 Points, the Baldridge Award Criteria, the ever-popular Six Sigma, or other methods. That fact is that there are many different approaches and principles to managing quality, and some can be more complex than others. However, the regulations you apply to your organization can be shaped into what you want.
Therefore when you develop your own quality philosophy, find what works for you and make it your own. For instance, I wanted to apply a simpler and fundamental philosophy – something me and my team could easily remember and always keep in the back of their minds. I therefore chose the three fundamental principles of TQM (customer focus, continuous improvement, and teamwork) that I’ve been sharing. Now let’s get deeper into customer focus.
Customer focus, by definition, is “an entire organizational goal to provide products or services that meet or exceed customer expectations.” In other words, everyone in your organization, from top to bottom, should be doing what they can to achieve your customer satisfaction goals.
Great customer service is not about how nice you can be to a customer, nor is it about remembering a customer’s birthday. It’s about having well-organized operations, competent team members, and proactive leadership are, but several of the many factors needed for providing great customer service. For instance, when a customer calls, do they get the same level of service from your staff that they expect to get, or do they get someone that doesn’t make them feel important?
Even when a staff member gives a different answer to the same question, your level of customer satisfaction can be affected. Becoming a customer-focused business aims to provide the same level of customer service each time you interact with a customer. This is especially important with multi-operational businesses. Consistency is important because you, as the owner or mainline entertainer, cannot be available for every event. At some point, you’ll have to give someone another entertainer. Why not ensure that the person you assign to the event will provide the same level of service that you would?
One of the best experiences I had when hiring a service company was when I hired SafeLite™ Auto Glass a few months ago to fix my windshield. When I call the main phone number, I get a different person every time, but I still get the same level of courtesy from each person, and they have all the information readily available to help me. In addition, the same level of service goes into their repair work. When they send the technician to repair the windshield, the technicians follow the same procedures, ensuring the job is done right the first time. It’s very interesting to watch them work.
If you wish to model your business after such a company so that you’re able to improve your company’s customer satisfaction and deliver the quality you promise, follow these steps listed below:
Step 1. Teach your staff the best processes and give them the information they need to do their job properly. For implementing a new procedure for the first time, it’s good to inform as many people as possible simultaneously. A meeting or training class is a great way to share the information because you have everyone together and listening firsthand. They’re not getting the information from another source where it could get lost in translation. Afterward, you can maintain consistency by following up the training with a document containing the information, such as the employee operation manual.
Creating an employee operation manual could indeed be time-consuming, but it’s great for the following:
• Analyzing existing processes
You or your operations manager can walk through certain tasks of a given job role and determine the best processes for completing the tasks. While you walk through these tasks, you will better determine how they can be improved.
• Effectively Developing new processes
There might be certain functions where everyone does it their own way due to little or no procedures to follow. There’s nothing at all wrong with individuality but not in this case. Team members doing things their own way can cause a variety of problems. Putting the mop in the wrong closet, for example, can waste time for the next person that attempts to mop the floor. Developing new processes for everyone to follow will greatly improve your efficiency and productivity.
While developing your employee operation manual, feel free to use some of the ideas of your team members if it’s an idea that produces the best results and is the most efficient process.
Step 2. Make sure your staff is properly following your processes. Everyone must follow the procedure you put in place from there on in.
Step 3. Establish your complaint management system. Once your operation plan is well established, your team should be able to handle any situation given to them by your customers. However, complaints will still likely occur from time to time. Quality is about striving for perfection, not about being perfect. Mistakes will still be made, but not as often as a less efficient system. When complaints occur, ensure your operations plan has the best way to deal with them and resolve them as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that companies get better customer satisfaction reports from customers that had a problem but had it resolved to their satisfaction. Even if you’re a small business that doesn’t have a budget for establishing an elaborate complaint department, you can still handle complaints effectively. For instance, designating one or two staff members is a great way to handle complaints. This will free up the staff members needed to handle other routine processes.
Step 4. Monitor and measure your customer satisfaction levels. The objective is to gather data from customers that have used your products and services and find out what they liked and disliked. It will be up to you to determine what you can do to address the negative feedback you receive, but it’s great to use that information in your continuous improvement process. Online surveys are great to send to customers to obtain information. DJ Intelligence has a great utility you can incorporate into your website.
Using these steps above will help you start improving your operations and help you generate better quality practices, minimize errors, and set new standards in everyday work processes. This, in turn, will allow your company to become more cost-effective, more customer-focused, and more profitable.