Talking Quality with Ford–Roundup

Cars and quality strike a chord. The Influential Voices’ responses to my conversation with Bennie Fowler, VP of quality at Ford Motor Company, were even more passionate, thoughtful, and innovative than usual. And no wonder! Bennie’s remarks about quality as the entire customer experience highlight the evolving role of quality in the 21st century. Some key points from the Influential Voices:

Dennis Arter, for example, compares Ford’s quality initiatives to ASQ’s Futures Study, which he recently participated in. Dennis shares Bennie’s perspective that quality is changing. At Ford, quality is not only “job one” – it is everything.

Kerrie Christian discusses the impact that globalization, technology, and social media now have on quality in the automotive industry. She concludes that technological innovations may help the automotive industry in terms of quality and customer communication by allowing the companies to identify potential issues before they escalate into crises.

Aimee Siegler likens Ford’s definition of quality to her understanding of marketing. She relates both concepts to her experience of deciding where to send her children for gymnastics.

Guy Wallace agrees with Bennie Fowler that quality must go beyond the product to the customer experience and that purposeful innovation is vital. He recalls a project in which he worked with Ford engineering managers during the early 1990s. The project required quality function deployment (QFD) to translate customer needs into engineering characteristics for the product.

Anshuman Tiwari asks: should Ford be considered a manufacturing company or a service one? He answers that it should be viewed as a service company, because it sells not only the product but also the subsequent services it provides as part of the total customer experience.

Other notable themes:

Ford provides an example that should be studied and followed even outside of the auto industry.

Bruce Waltuck discusses the “EX Factors” that make Ford successful.

Matt Heusser commends Bennie Fowler for identifying “specific, actionable and meaningful improvements” (in beauty, fuel efficiency, technology and safety) that the company wants to make. Matt writes that it is this attention to the customer’s wants and needs that sets companies like Ford apart in terms of quality.

Chris Hermenitt focuses less on the interview and more on Bennie Fowler’s position at Ford. He insists that companies – particularly those in the automotive industry – need to designate a C-level position strictly for quality.

Dr. Robert Burney singles out Bennie Fowler’s comment that quality is about the entire customer experience. He adds that this is a new concept in the healthcare industry.

Influential Voices shared their longtime loyalty to the Ford brand because of its commitment to “Quality as Job One.”

Robert Mitchell praises the quality of Ford’s product and proudly discusses his 30 years as a Ford owner. He writes that in terms of design, styling, comfort, features, finish and reliability, Ford is on the mark.

Almost everyone has had personal experiences (both positive and negative) that help them define what a commitment to quality means to them.

Jennifer Stepniowski details her thoughts on the U.S. automotive industry and what she thinks it needs to do to catch up with foreign automakers. She writes that Ford is the top American auto company because of its proactive approach to managing public perception, its improved commitment to quality, and its history and “salient origins.”

Rajan Thiyagarajan finds inspiration in Ford’s persistence and success in a challenged economy, citing Ford’s “phenomenal” sales figures this year in India, where the Ford Figo has helped increase sales by 71 percent. He attributes the reason for this to Ford’s focus on quality in the customer’s eyes.

Cesar Diaz Guevara summarizes each of Bennie Fowler’s answers and applies them to the Latin American market. Cesar notes that Latin America is working towards incorporating the entire customer experience into quality, but the region’s companies have a lot of work to do.

Perhaps we all do. As the definition of quality evolves, professionals in the global quality community must evolve with it. Let’s raise our voice and get to work.

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