Continuous quality improvement (CQI) is something many business owners associate with large companies and ISO 9001 certification, but adopting a CQI system for its own sake can have many benefits too. CQI initiatives benefit employees, managers, clients and the organization as a whole.
These benefits can be seen regardless of what the organization does. In fact, the importance of quality improvement in health care has been well documented, leading toward reduced costs for hospitals and clinics, increased employee morale and improved services to patients. Quality improvement in business almost always translates to reduced costs and increased profitability.
CQI is a systematic process of identifying strengths and problems with products, services and processes and then analyzing them, testing potential improvements and implementing improvements that work. It's a cycle of improvement that never ends and becomes a part of an organization's culture.
Quality improvement initiatives always help clients. For companies selling products, customers should begin receiving higher-quality products with fewer defects and flaws, faster shipping times and more accurate shipping estimates. If a company sells services, job estimates will become more accurate, and jobs will be completed more efficiently and performed with a higher degree of customer satisfaction.
As data from quality improvement initiatives is collected and analyzed and as feedback from employees, managers and customers is reviewed, companies can often find ways to improve upon their existing products and services. For customers, this can often mean reduced prices or products and services with higher value for the money spent.
Suppose, for example, you started a painting business and provided your employees with rollers and brushes. Knowing that you are looking for ways to improve business, an employee suggests using sprayers for large jobs instead of rollers. You determine that the job is completed 20% faster with less paint used. Not only can you offer that customer a discount, but you can offer lower prices to future customers and increase the number of jobs your team can complete each week.
By developing a culture that encourages CQI, employees are more motivated and have greater job satisfaction. A large part of this comes from the fact that employees know that their opinions and observations are important for the company. This can be especially valuable for a small business that can't necessarily afford to pay top wages like a larger company can.
In addition to this, of course, is the fact that as products or services are improved, interacting with customers becomes much more pleasant, thus improving morale. Receiving compliments about the work that was done is much more satisfying than listening to complaints, accepting returns and offering refunds. Of course, with improved morale and greater job satisfaction, employees also spend much less time looking for a new job.
All of the benefits experienced by customers and employees from a commitment to CQI are passed on as benefits to the organization. Happier customers results in increased sales, fewer returns and more referrals. Happier employees translates to reduced turnover rates and increased productivity.
In addition to these benefits, organizations also realize three other important benefits:
- Reduced costs: Less waste, fewer returns and less time spent redoing work all decrease costs.
- Improved accountability: When quality problems are identified, so are the employees, suppliers or service providers responsible.
- New initiatives: When improving quality is a focus, new opportunities soon present themselves. When you know why a mousetrap doesn't work efficiently, it's much easier to build that better mousetrap.