Six Sigma encompasses a set of practices designed to identify, analyze and remedy causes of defect within a process or product. Defect is not simply a problem with a product; it is anything that causes a company to operate less cost-effectively, at a slower pace and with an end result of lowered customer satisfaction. Acquiring and constantly pleasing customers is Six Sigma’s ultimate goal.
Six Sigma methodology focuses on business improvement. Beyond reducing the number of defects present in any given number of products, a business employing Six Sigma methods must seek improvement through any means available. That means identifying and remedying problems wherever they occur. Six Sigma calls anything that damages business functionality in a way that increases defects, raises costs, slows productivity or reduces customer satisfaction a source of pain. The elimination or remediation of these sources of pain leads to overall business improvement.
Any business seeking improved numbers must reduce the number of defective products or services it produces. Defective products can irrevocably harm customer satisfaction levels, as each customer ending up with a defective product becomes a potential lost costumer--and because the displeased customer will tend to pass the word about this defective product along. Then you’ve got to fix the defects, which can increase research and production costs dramatically.
Reduced costs equal increased profits. A company implementing Six Sigma principles has to look to reduce costs wherever it possibly can--without reducing quality. Cost reduction potential exists throughout a company. Acquire cheaper raw materials of equal or comparable value; reduce transportation costs via alternate shipping methods; streamline production and quality control processes with automation or improved equipment technology; cut personnel costs with outsourcing, downsizing or other methods; or reduce rent payments by moving production or sales facilities to different locations. Even the adoption of greener business practices can lead to reduced costs, as powered-down electronics, recycled paper and reduced wastage can have significant impact. No change is too small to consider.
Any reduction in the amount of time it takes to produce a product or perform a service means money saved, both in maintenance costs and personnel wages. Additionally, customer satisfaction improves when both retailers and end users receive products sooner than expected. The company that can get a product to its customer faster may win her business, regardless of questions of quality or cost. There’s a reason fast food was the definitive concept in food service during the 20th century.
The sources of pain that Six Sigma methodologies seek to remedy interrelate. Customer satisfaction depends upon successful resolution of all Six Sigma’s other objectives. But customer satisfaction is an objective all its own. Every aspect of a business’ self-representation, from marketing strategies to sales personnel performance, can have a positive or negative affect on customer satisfaction. Seek positive customer response to these self-representations, and customer satisfaction will improve.