Customer satisfaction and retention are key to solid business growth, and a big part of achieving these repeat customers is providing high-quality products and services. A quality management program operates on all levels of a company to ensure that what you do lives up to the standards you want to convey. Quality management programs have the potential to help you gain an edge over the competition, build a sparkling reputation and grow your bottom line.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Your company's quality management program includes everything you do in order to live up to and exceed the standards you believe in maintaining over the long haul.
Quality Program Definition
A quality management program includes repeated short-term actions taken by your company through:
- Quality policies: Quality policies include all rules and regulations about what quality looks like and does not look like for your company as well as how you respond to make things right when quality falls short.
- Quality planning: Quality planning produces a quality plan document specifically outlining all of your policies and procedures when it comes to quality as well as the measures you will use to gauge your quality management efforts.
- Quality assurance: Quality assurance ensures that your company's processes will result in the level of goods and services you desire to offer your customers.
- Quality control: Quality control is about ensuring that your end goods and services are up to par before going to customers. This includes inspecting and testing all goods before their sale.
- Quality improvement: Quality improvement is the ongoing assessment of how your current quality management efforts are working in order to tweak them for better and better results over time.
Why Quality Management Matters
Quality management says a lot about the ethics and integrity of a company. People prefer to work and do business with companies that care about giving customers the best quality possible for the money they are spending. Some of the benefits of quality management include:
- Increased customer satisfaction: When customers know that they can count on you to provide a reliable product, they will return time and time again as well as spread the word among others. Increased customer satisfaction leads to a positive company reputation, better longevity, greater profits and a more stable organization.
- Reduced costs: Honoring warranties, remaking products, scrapping failed products and employing excessive quality control personnel increase costs for a company. When your quality management program is working well, all of these costs are drastically reduced, widening your profit margins and speeding up your growth.
- Increased quality: When a quality management program is efficient, product errors are greatly reduced, with more products and services going out to the customer correctly the first time around. When you have an established pattern of fewer errors out of the gate, efficiency increases along with customer satisfaction.
- Positive morale: Employees on all levels feel better about working for a company with high ethics and integrity that offers quality goods and services. When employees feel they are making a real difference with what they do, it fosters a sense of purpose and excitement about coming to work each day.
Seven Quality Management Principles
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has compiled seven quality management principles in an effort to help improve quality management efforts across the board. These principles could be helpful to your business as you think about how to best implement your own quality program.
- Customer focus: Quality management is primarily about creating satisfied customers and meeting their needs. Understanding what customers want and need makes it easier for your business to thrive long term and increases market share.
- Leadership: Leaders within the organization encourage strategic alignment, bringing all parties on board with the stated purpose and quality control procedures. This makes meeting quality program goals more seamless, less costly and less time consuming.
- Engagement of people: Recognizing, empowering and engaging all parties within the business boosts morale in a way that makes achieving quality control standards feel important to employees. This creates a collaborative or inclusive feeling that does not feel as burdensome to workers.
- Process approach: Processes help departments and employees to develop the habit of creating and expecting quality so that it becomes nearly automatic. This is effective when the quality management systems are designed and implemented with certain outcomes in mind.
- Improvement: The principle of improvement involves continually assessing the quality management systems and processes to find ways to improve results over time. This means increased efficiency, lowered cost and more satisfied customers.
- Evidence-based decision making: Rather than making decisions based on what feels right, quality management decisions are made based on actual data, figures and evidence. It is easier to confidently reach or exceed goals that are based on facts rather than on theory alone.
- Relationship management: Businesses rely on many outside parties in order to conduct their daily activities, and these relationships are vital to the success of the organization. It is important to build relationships with suppliers, service providers and others involved in the success of the company.
The Purpose of Quality Management
The quality program definition includes the necessity to do everything you set out to do with excellence. If your mission is to create trendy office supplies with the purpose of bringing joy to office settings, then the purpose of your quality management program is to do this exceptionally well. When your business is exceptional, this leads to increased market share and happier customers.
Quality Program: Apple
In its quality program, Apple strives to provide products that perform well, are beautiful in appearance and are user friendly. Their iPhone changed the landscape of cellular phones and what we expect them to do. Although they succeed at this for the most part, sometimes they fall short, as in the areas of battery performance or the occasional dud part in a product.
In its quality program, Apple chose to offer low-cost battery replacements for faulty batteries in an effort to boost customer satisfaction. Apple also offers an exchange and repair service where they will fix or replace defective products free of charge. They offer scheduled customer-care appointments in their stores and strive to make customers happy and keep them coming back.
Improving Quality Management
Improving quality management means constantly assessing your organization's quality program definition and systems with an eye for strengths and weaknesses. You can use the seven ISO principles to guide you in seeing where your organization performs well versus where it feels clunky, cumbersome or ineffective.
Customer-centered companies like Apple, Zappos, Trader Joe's and Amazon can help you think about models for quality management that would produce positive results in your business. It is also important to consider areas where quality management is more expensive than it needs to be in order to better allocate resources to departments that need better funding.
Key players in your organization can use all of this information to brainstorm ways to up your quality management game, change systems and produce products or services that keep customers happy.
- iMore: Apple's $29 Battery Replacement Program: What You Need to Know
- Apple: Exchange and Repair Extension Programs
- Interaction Design Foundation: Apple's Product Development Process: Inside the World's Greatest Design Organization
- Investopedia: Quality Management
- Forbes: The 10 Most Customer-Obsessed Companies in 2018
- International Organization for Standardization: Quality Management Principles
- AccountingTools: The Benefits of Total Quality Management