Good enough is never enough with total quality management. TQM calls for continuously improving processes and increasing customer satisfaction. Everyone in a business helps, regardless of department or rank. An effective TQM program supports sustained growth in revenue and profits through pleasing customers and working efficiently.
If a business wants to be known for quality, it must start by defining “quality.” Is it a lack of mistakes in providing a product or service, for example? Or is it the greatest return on investment for customers? Everyone in the business must know what it does and where it wants to go to help it reach its destination.
TQM initiatives should be actionable and measurable. Identifying critical success factors like customer satisfaction and market share allow companies to align their actions with their objectives. Then they can track their progress by monitoring metrics, like customer satisfaction ratings and market share percentages.
In TQM, customer satisfaction isn’t confined to one department. Nor is it the responsibility of management alone. All employees contribute to the cause. So, businesses must inform employees of their roles and solicit their input before planning an approach.
Planning an Approach
Once a company targets the desired improvement, like increasing customer satisfaction ratings, it takes steps like:
- Defining the problem: Customers aren’t happy.
- Collecting related data: Customer survey responses for the past three months.
- Finding the root cause: Customers wait too long on the phone for service.
Doing the Work
Total quality management helps businesses to systematically tackle problems and seize opportunities through steps like:
- Developing a solution: Automatically routing calls to the next available customer service representative.
- Picking a measurement: Hold time for customers.
- Implementing changes: Start automatically routing calls.
Checking the Results
Companies can gauge the effectiveness of their TQM initiatives by comparing data from before changes were made to after. If automatically routing calls to the next available service representative is successful, then the company should see shorter hold times for customers. Satisfaction scores should increase as well.
Acting on the Findings
A business can reap long-term benefits by documenting the results of successful TQM initiatives and sharing them throughout the organization. When the customer service team improves its performance, that can help sales and marketing do better as well because they can point to those same improvements when working with prospective customers.
Also, the process that was used to increase customer satisfaction scores could be applied to other problems, perhaps with refinements based on lessons learned. For example, the production department might be able to compare pre-change and post-change data to measure the effectiveness of its efforts to reduce the number of defective products.
Just as everyone shares in the work, everyone should share in the rewards. If the company achieves its goal of improving customer satisfaction, it might pay employees bonuses for reaching the targets it has set for individuals, departments and the organization as a whole.
Jim Molis has more than 20 years of experience writing for and about businesses. He has been a business reporter for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, a managing editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and an editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal. He also has written for management consultants, professional services firms and numerous publications as a freelancer.