Every product and service that your customers receive from you reflects the quality of your business. Pay attention to the words in that sentence. If your product is water, it does not matter how pure it is when it leaves your factory. If you send it through a dirty pipe, the only true measure of its purity can be made at the other end.
Quality is, by definition, a subjective judgment of fitness for purpose and a useful working definition of quality is: a product or service that meets the customer’s requirement.
You will come across definitions of quality that insist on excellence, delighting the customer, adding the “wow” factor and exceeding customer needs. The truth is that in the 21st century we are still struggling to be consistent in meeting customer needs and any business that can achieve that for 80% of its customers can rank themselves with some of the best organizations in the world.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
So how do you go about measuring quality at the other end of the pipe? Why not start by asking your customers? Most companies have some sort of record of who their customers are, where they live and their telephone number or email address. Open up a dialogue with a good sample of customers and ask them a consistent list of questions to find out what really matters. You may well ask, “Can’t I just count complaints?” Of course you can, however studies show that only half of those with complaints can actually be bothered to get in touch with you; so if you want a clear picture you may need to go the extra mile.
If you feel that talking directly to your customers about problems they are having will be too painful, then employ specialists in opinion surveys to do the dirty work for you. They can analyze and sanitize the feedback to present it to you in a more palatable form and you can even build in a time-delay to respond to problems that you could otherwise have solved on the spot. All joking aside, if you take quality seriously there is no substitute for getting as close to your customers as possible.
Another eye-opening technique for checking the quality of the customer experience is to undertake mystery shopping either first hand or through the eyes of a third party. Follow what you believe to be the normal customer experience either by telephone, on-line or in your company’s shops or offices.
- use a stop watch to time how long it takes to be acknowledged
- gauge how easy it is to get advice or information on a complex subject
- test how polite your staff are at the end of the week
- check how appealing your company premises are when deliveries are being made or restocking is in progress
and, very importantly:
- find out how easy it is to hand over money.
When you get your answers, don’t be shy, share them with everyone in the organization. Don’t use them to find fault, if anything take the blame yourself. Remember that some food stores don’t let new employees loose on customers until they have been trained for six weeks.