Customers are the single most important aspect of any business, and when it comes to your QMS (quality management system), customers are the life blood that keeps everything going. Essentially, no quality system can survive without some sort of process for keeping customers happy. Whether your business deals with customers directly or not, the people who use your products and services are invaluable to your growth. In some instances, employees, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders take on the role of the customer. But regardless of what form the customer takes in your company, one thing will never change – customers are the life blood of your business, and as such, they should be the heart of any QMS.
Making Customer Care the Heart of Your Quality Management System
How do you go about putting your customers at the forefront of your quality management goals? Here are a few things to consider to help you go that extra mile…
1. Get involved at all levels of management
Sadly, too many companies believe that dealing with customers is a job for lower level employees, with top level management execs choosing instead to stay in their offices rather than ever venturing down to the floor. This is common in many different industries – stores, airline desks, marketing agencies… even banks. While senior management may decide to give an appearance if they deem the customer to be high value enough, few bother to get involved at floor level for ‘everyday’ customers. The problem with this practice is that it causes an instant disconnect that could affect your customer care efforts. Without having a real, valid understanding of the customer experience and journey, how will you ever be able to relate to customers and listen to their needs? And how will you be able to connect to your frontline staff, either?
2. Test surveys before putting them into play
Surveys are a great tool… if they are designed properly and tested, that is. Without making the effort to test them before putting them into play, you may well be wasting every penny spent on the creation, design and distribution. Surveys that contain errors, are out of date, have irrelevant or poorly worded questions and do not give you the chance to get valuable feedback from customers and are simply wasting customers’ time (and your resources).
3. Embrace exit interviews
Just like you take the time to give exit interviews when employees leave the company; it can be extremely valuable to give them when customers leave. While you may feel angry and upset at their leaving, finding out why could prevent the same thing from happening with other customers. It may be that they are simply looking for something different to what you are offering. It may be that they no longer need your products or services. But it could be something within your organisation that is broken, and needs fixing. Until you ask, you will never find out (and therefore, never have the chance to fix things). It is also important to have honest assessments when it comes to customer satisfaction. A good customer complaints management tool can help to automate and streamline customer feedback, but that feedback needs to be honest for it to be useful. It is very rare for any company to only get positive feedback. While it is possible for a company to do no wrong, consistently glowing reviews that appear to lack depth may be a sign that your feedback system needs to be reviewed. Ask the tougher questions, and welcome the good, the bad and even the ugly. After all, even the worst feedback can help you grow your business. And that ability to learn and grow is what makes customer care such an integral part of any QMS.
Ultimately, while the role of a dedicated quality management professional may differ from that of someone who is responsible for planning and running quality campaigns within an organisation, both are tasked with the job of making things happen as far as improvement strategies are concerned. And, both can learn from common mistakes that are made by others who have walked in their shoes. Putting a quality campaign into motion is daunting at the best of times.
For the professionals who are leading the battle however, many factors come into play. Pressure from management, dwindling budgets, stubborn employees who refuse to jump on board with the plan of action and even simply lapses of judgement in what to do (or how to do it). While this role can be one of the more stressful roles to play, it is also one of the most rewarding roles… once things go off without any major hitches, of course.
What Not To Do When Running Quality Management Campaigns
Whichever role you find yourself in – independent quality professional or hard-working office manager slash quality manager slash admin overlord – there are a few things that you do not want to do during the course of action. Some of the mistakes that should be avoided when putting a quality management campaign into action include the following:
- Frightening people into compliance. You want people to galvanise into action, but fear may not be the best motivator (no matter how effective it can be in the short-term). Compliance is not always as cut and dried as it appears. Warning letters are all very well if the problem is deliberate non-conformance, but often things like lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, problems with team members or even honest mistakes could be at play. Try to focus instead on working with people rather than against them, and open up the lines of communication wherever possible.
- Focusing on damage control instead of adequate prevention solutions. All too often, day to day quality roles involve putting out a lot of fires. Sadly, when there is too much focus on damage control, even the best quality system can be overwhelmed. By seeking out good preventative solutions, such as finding competent employees and putting trust in their abilities, you will find that there are fewer fires to put out (and more time to spend on all your other quality goals).
- Not looking at the bigger picture when it comes to finding errors. It can be easy to assume that the reason for a fault is that a worker has made a mistake. Of course, this could be the case in many instances. Without a proper investigation however, or a solid internal audit, it can be easier to overlook bigger issues that could be at fault. Sometimes, the reason that a worker has made that error is due to a fault in the manufacturing system, for example, or a problem with the quality control process documents. Investigations should always be done before anything else to ensure that you know exactly why an error has been made.
- Trying to change everything, all at once. So many quality professionals want to change the world, within as short a time as humanly possible. This is admirable, but almost always impossible. The best route is to start small with one project or one focus area. Get everyone on board and implement the changes. Once you have seen success with that first step, it will be far easier to succeed with the next step. Trying to do too much and then failing can be devastating – not only to the success of your quality strategies, but also to your potential career as a quality professional.
- Not taking any quality certification courses. Do not underestimate the value of training for your own skills improvement. Quality certification courses offer an excellent tool for anyone who takes on a role within the quality game. As such, it would be unwise to ignore the value that it offers, purely because you do not feel you have time to spare.
Despite the ups and downs experienced along the way, there is no doubt that those who forge ahead with the planning and execution of quality management systems love what they do… at least 99% of the time when things are going fairly smoothly!
Employee competency assessments are not only a fantastic tool to help power your company through to increased levels of quality – they are also an excellent employee attainment tool, a great incentive tool and a way to catch little problems before they become bigger problems. Many standards such as the ISO 9001 quality management standard require comprehensive training, and for companies that are serious about ensuring the quality of products and services, training is an essential area that cannot afford to be overlooked. But despite the importance of testing competency, such assessments are often planned almost as an after-thought, with little effort put into the process to ensure full benefit from training. When potential employees consider jobs at any given company, training opportunities are one of the things that are taken into account. Training allows employees the chance to grow within your company, improve their skills and ensure better job security. It can also give you an edge over your competition – especially as far as customer service and quality measures go. How can you maximise your training strategies to get the most out of employee competency assessments? Keep reading to find out…
Getting the Best From Your Employee Competency Assessment Software
Investing in employee competency assessment software is the first step in improving the training process. The next step is to ramp up that process so that it is geared towards optimal success. Some tips to keep in mind include the following:
- Highlight training as an investment. Initial costs may seem on the high side, but training is the ultimate investment in your people. Make it clear within your company that training is considered an investment in the development of your team.
- Focus on your core needs. Rather than trying to solve every possible skills gap, focus on the skills that you specifically want to improve. Then, provide a timeframe that can be realistically used to meet those training goals to see results.
- Promote a learning culture. Make sure that your employees understand that your company cares about helping them boost their skills. Encourage a culture of growth, learning and development. Give employees the platform to stay competitive within their skills so that they can continue to grow within your company.
- Include management. It is vital that top level managers and leaders are involved in the process, too. This is one of the best ways to build support for training effort and ensure that everyone is involved, from top to bottom.
- Start small and build your way up. Starting with a smaller group is a good way to test out your training system before building up to a full company-wide plan. This way, you can get feedback and fine-tune the process as and when needed.
- Use the best instructors possible. Trainers should be hired for their ability to provide professional training, with useful materials that add value to the company. Choose wisely and make sure that you work with the best instructors within your budget.
- Choose training space wisely. Training location should be chosen carefully, too. The location for training can make a big difference in the quality of learning. Make sure that there is ample space, facilities such as air-conditioning and equipment such as computers, overhead projectors or anything else that may be required.
- Make your goals clear. All employees who are going through training should know the purpose of the training, and how it affects overall company objectives. This will enable a better level of involvement and participation.
- Make it a continuous process. Training should not be limited to new employees and promotions. It should be a continuous process that is used for any employee who would benefit from further training – whether to help someone learn new skills or to clear up any competency gaps that may be present.
- Track training results. Training is all very well, but without tracking and reporting, all that effort will go to waste. Choose the metric that is most applicable, such as productivity or value to the company, and keep the focus on this throughout the training process. Reporting tools will go a long way in making it easier to monitor progress simply, which is another reason to use a dedicated software solution for this task.
As you can see, testing and training is something that deserves sufficient preparation. With a bit of planning and goal-setting, you should find that your employee competency assessments provide a useful tool that helps your employees as well as your overall goals.
One of the most essential principles of quality management lies within the involvement of people during all steps of the improvement process. As the most important resource within any organisation, people at all levels are the very essence of the organisation. The involvement of people within each level is crucial to allow their abilities to be used for the benefit of the entire organisation. People or staff could be considered the fuel that drives the organisation, and a solid workforce relies largely on involvement – from the entry level employees who action out strategies all the way through to management levels who set goals and ensure that processes are implemented correctly. In this way, quality management relies on the involvement of people for the ultimate success in all processes and strategies.
How the Involvement of People Aids Quality Management
People play an important role across all aspects of the quality management process, with each person’s role playing a crucial part. The ways that the involvement of people assists quality management include the following:
- Take ownership and responsibility to resolve obstacles – each person within the organisation takes full ownership of their own roles and responsibilities, ensuring a more effective problem resolution process across the board.
- Actively seek out ways to make improvements, and improve competencies, knowledge and experience – each person within the organisation should have the chance to be proactive, by finding ways that aids improvement. Each person should also have the chance to improve their specific skills and experience to aid the company in achieving its goals and outcomes.
- Easily share knowledge and experience in groups – all people within the organisation have a right to share their knowledge, skills and experiences in groups. This facilitates a more effective organisation through the strengthening of departments and groups within the organisation, thereby assisting quality management by ensuring that departments are able to operate smoothly and more effectively.
- Focus on the formation of value for customers – each person within the organisation has a responsibility to add value for customers, on all levels of the organisation. Whether it is sales staff, customer relations staff, entry level staff such as receptionists or management, each person is required to create value for customers in any way that they are able to do so.
- Innovative in promoting the organisation’s goals – even the most entry level employee in the company should play a role in promoting the organisation’s goals. Innovation plays a strong role in finding new ways to further the organisation’s objectives, ensuring return on investment for all concerned.
- Improve the representation of the organisation to customers, local communities and the general public – all people within the organisation need to improve the representation of the organisation to all its stakeholders, from customers to local communities and other audiences.
- Assist people get satisfaction from their work – people who are finding their work rewarding and satisfying are far more likely to want to be involved in all aspects of improvement, as they have a vested interest. This means that employees should be able to find ways to address any concerns they have with workloads or tasks.
- Make people passionate and proud to be part of the organisation – the final aspect that determines how people are able to influence improvement is that they should be proud and excited to be involved in the organisation and its various processes. This will ensure that they have a personal interest in quality management, thereby motivating them to adhere to processes on their own accord.