Quality management and its requirement for continuous improvement plays a vital role in ensuring that customer-focused organisations better identify and address core customer needs. Companies are reliant on their customers for their existence and well-being and should therefore recognise all existing and potential customer needs, meet customer requirements and strive to surpass customer expectations by following total quality management processes across the organisation. Steps in applying these processes include the following:
- Understanding customers’ needs and expectations – this is essential across all aspects of a business, from product design and development, production, pricing, delivery, after sales support and any other area of the organisation that has an impact on the relationship with the customer. Satisfied customers will be repeat customers, they will also provide positive reference to other potential customers, both of which are important in order to have a business prosper and grow. Understanding what customers require, continuously adapting to suit their changing requirements and improving the quality of service is an excellent route for effective quality management.
- Balanced approach among customers and other stakeholders – customers are not the only parties who have a role or an interest in the success of a business and its activities and achievements. Other interested parties who should be included are employees, suppliers, partners, owners, shareholders, suppliers, the local community, government and regulators, all who form the collective group of stakeholders. Understanding their respective needs and balancing them with the customer’s needs will ensure a more complete approach to exceed customer expectations, a greater level of service and a better understanding of areas for improvement.
- Communicating these needs and expectations throughout the company – both customer’s and stakeholder’s needs should be communicated throughout the company to ensure that all employees fully comprehend these expectations and requirements. This ensures that from the most junior to the most senior employee, in all the functional areas, are committed to striving towards meeting these expectations. This plays an important role in an effective quality management process.
- Monitoring customer satisfaction and acting on results – customer satisfaction is imperative to any business, no matter how large or small, or what the industry may be. Both positive and negative feedback should be monitored carefully, and all results should be acted on to allow customers to know that the organisation values their input. All feedback should be seen as a way to aid continuous improvement and should be addressed quickly and efficiently.
Managing customer relations – this is by far the most important aspect of a customer-focused organisation. It is essential to maintain and grow relations with clients and stakeholders, and this should mean being fair and honest at all times. Whether there is a specific employee or department who deals with customer relations, or this role falls to a designated senior management level employee, transparency and integrity play a vital role in building effective relations. In this way, the company is able to work towards effective quality management as a genuinely customer-focused organisation.