Blog 5 - Why is quality important?
Before any of us think about the importance of Quality we need to consider what it actually is and what it means to us, whether as individuals or to the organisation. As individuals we may think about clothing, furniture, buildings, holidays, and customer service and so the list goes on but what it means will vary wildly among us and for now we will think about quality in the context of business and what influences expectation, opinion and perception.
The quality of your product or service influences your company’s reputation. The growing use and importance of social media means that customers and prospective customers can easily share both favourable and critical opinions of your quality on various relevant social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. A strong reputation for quality is always important but is even more so in markets that are very competitive. Poor quality of service or a product failure that results in a product recall campaign can create negative publicity and damage your reputation for a lengthy period.
Your customers expect you to deliver quality to specification and if you fail, they will quickly look for alternatives and why not – wouldn’t you? Quality is critical to satisfying your customers and retaining their future loyalty so bear this in mind to ensure quality products or service that can make an important contribution to long-term revenue and profitability.
Most successful businesses nowadays have some form of Quality Management System (QMS) with fewer companies now competing on the basis of price alone as a satisfactory business formula, so why might this be
- Someone somewhere will always be able to undercut you, so it’s usually better to sell on quality rather than on price.
- Customer expectations are rising all the time, so failing to meet them is commercial suicide.
- Procurement systems usually require tendering firms to have some form of QMS, and generally prefer an externally-accredited one. In practice, this means ISO certification and so if you are not certified it may be worthwhile finding out how to achieve and maintain it.
Quality as an investment
The quality or continuous improvement journey could incur start-up costs including consultancy fees, training and process improvement works but you should reap the benefits including:
- From process improvements which should soon reduce the cost of poor quality
- Improved working practices that save on waste of time/effort/ materials
- Longer-term returns on investment depend on how well quality has been taken on board by everyone as you still need a good framework of leadership and management in place
Key components of quality
Experts may differ about where to place the emphasis but you will know the most appropriate balance for your business
- Focus on improving areas of your business that are critical to success
- Commitment from managers and supervisors at all levels
- Systems that encourage innovation or contribution
- Responsiveness to changes in circumstances and to any customer driven issues
- Plan your improvement, do what it takes, check and act on the findings
- Having a good product or service
- Continuous improvement takes time and resources, determination, drive, and persistence.
Spread the news
Sustaining improvements is more about people than about techniques. It is important to tell people what is being changed and the resulting benefits, so that those not directly involved realise there is continuing work.
This means from both internal and external customers. Many firms think they welcome feedback, but how many genuinely treat complaints as learning opportunities.
If you have no objective measure of improvement, how will you know which, if any, changes have made a difference? If you have statistics, check them to see if the original issue is now resolved. Keep asking your customers for genuine feedback – it gives you information and strengthens your relationship with them too.
Quick fixes tend to come unstuck sooner or later – you can deliver specific projects, improvements and changes to a timescale, but quality is a never-ending journey. When you reach a plateau that you thought was the summit, look back and see how far you have come. Walk until you feel justifiably confident about running.
GOOD LUCK WITH THE JOURNEY!