High-quality products and services are essential to building and maintaining consumer trust but maintaining high levels of quality can create challenges for organizations. Consumer expectations shift at a rapid pace, and what’s considered “high quality” today may not hold true in the immediate future. Not to mention, gaps in quality standards will increase over time, especially if you haven’t established a culture of quality within your organization. As expectations continuously evolve and customer experience is increasingly prioritized, the need for quality standards is greater than ever. Your quality standards should contain well-defined procedures for delivering a product or service of the highest quality. These standards should align with the expressed needs of your target customers, reflect your business strategy and internal business logic while also continuously reinforcing quality as a core value throughout your entire organization. Below, we’ve provided several key actions to ensure that your quality standards are continuously updated and improved.
Assess Your Current Quality Standards and Ensure They Are Accessible
Consistency is a critical consideration for quality standards improvement. This is also the first element to review for needed changes. Are all stakeholders clear about the overall goals and the specific procedures for achieving quality assurance? What are your current quality management KPIs? Do they still coordinate with your current quality standards, and are they easily accessible to your stakeholders? Assuring that quality goals and standards are consistent across your organization should be one of your main objectives. Next, these need to be translated into specific procedures for each department to follow. Procedures should be clearly and concisely documented. As such, you should develop procedural material (such as standard operating procedures) that leaves no doubt as to how the tasks should be performed and illustrates what an acceptable outcome looks like. Ideally, images and videos (or, if technologically feasible, Augmented Reality tutorials and demonstrations) should be incorporated into the training process and also should be easily accessible at all times through an online resource center for employees. Existing quality standards and their relevant procedures should be reviewed and updated periodically (e.g., quarterly, every six months, or yearly) with the help of managers and employees from each department.
Data is Everywhere: Leverage It
Data from all departments should be aggregated and assessed in comparison to your quality standards and their associated procedures and processes. Any department from sales, to marketing, to customer service, to production may have data that influences the quality of your product or service. Take an inventory of the data that is available to you and assess which data sets could be valuable to you. You could measure existing standards to the data you have collected to assess how well you are meeting quality goals with your current standards. This strategy could help you prioritize which aspects of your current quality standards need to be updated.
Create a Culture of Quality Ownership
Creating a “culture of quality ownership” is important to help achieve quality management success. This goes beyond merely standing up in a meeting and lecturing stakeholders on the importance of providing high-quality products or services to your customers. If you, or any of the company’s leadership, are lagging in demonstrating what “quality ownership” means, then your message will fall on deaf ears. Employees should be involved in the who, what, how, and why of enterprise quality standards. This involves a conversation, rather than imposing a “to do” list as a top-down “you must do this or else.” What motivates employees to go above and beyond? Does this differ depending on the department or the individuals within each department? When and where are the quality assurance procedures breaking down due to a mismatch between executive and management expectations vs. the actuality of an employee’s daily workflow? Your organization might benefit from regular meetings with key people who handle different processes connected to quality.
Now more than ever, consumers have countless product and service choices available to them. They’ll quickly jump ship and can easily voice their opinions on social media, should your products and services not live up to their standards of quality. Since your quality standards should meet or exceed customer expectations, you should have a thorough understanding of their expectations. Determining customer needs goes above and beyond assembling and evaluating your customer service data. Use surveys, focus groups, and interviews to gain greater and more impactful insights into what your audience wants. Not only can this reveal new target markets, but it can also bolster positive customer perception, as gathering customer feedback shows that you care about your customers’ experience. Quantitatively, you can implement customer satisfaction surveys to track how satisfied your customers are with your products or services. Methodologies such as Net Promoter Score can easily allow you to do track this information.
Utilize a Quality Management System Software
As you seek to improve your quality standards, it’s critical to develop a quality management system (QMS) for managing your evolving quality standards and ensuring customer requirements and regulations are precisely met. As the need for quality standards continues to grow, investing in a QMS software solution can help automate the process of verifying and improving these quality standards, while ensuring that they are accessible throughout your organization. Implementing the key actions discussed in this post will help you jumpstart improving your quality standards. Prior to working on creating a new set of quality standards, make a list of quality goals you would like to achieve with these new standards and procedures. Schedule a quality review once the new standards have been implemented to assess whether or not you have achieved your goals. Contact IQS today to request a demo of our QMS software solutions or to learn more about how we can improve quality at your organization.