Quality=Customer Service?

When you think of “quality,” do you think of customer service? I certainly do. The customer service department is often our first—and only—contact with a company, whether it’s our Internet provider or retail outlet.

And yet, customer service is not always seen as a “quality” issue, at least according to ASQ’s recent customer service survey. We polled more than 600 quality and customer service respondents around the world, and the results were similar: Managing customer expectations and communicating with customers is challenging, no matter where you’re located.

We also found that companies don’t consider customer service as a top priority—as opposed to product development, IT, and marketing.

The survey addresses possible solutions—such as setting up a rapid response team, systematizing replies to customer complaints, changing the focus from short-term transactions to long-term relationships. What do you think is the role of quality—whether the “big Q” or the “little q”—in customer service?

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8 Responses to Quality=Customer Service?

  1. Jeff Israel says:

    Paul, I absolutely agree with you. All quality professionals should care deeply about the value customers receive, including high quality in their customer experiences. I believe quality professionals are bound by our code of ethics to be Customer Advocates, even if it is not reflected in our title or formal job description.

    In my experience formal accountability for customer service is often relegated to mid-management level, and not really prominent on the radar of top management. In the last few years, we’ve begun to see a trend of more and more companies appointing CCO’s (Chief Customer Officers) to lead and foster efforts in customer focus and improved customer experience.

    Regardless of whether the organization is on this path or not, I implore each of us to consider how we can be a champion for the customer. My webinar “Taking Care of the Customer: Who’s in Charge and How Can Quality Help?” was recorded for the Customer-Supplier Division last summer is available to quality professionals by clicking here: http://asq.org/cs/110937/web.html?shl=110937

    The intent of the webinar was to equip Quality Professionals with some new ways to add value in the Customer Service part of the equation.

  2. Nancy Hesch says:

    Quality does not just focus on the product and products to come only. Measuring customer’s satisfaction is also a component of quality, and should be analyzed by management. If something goes wrong, a quality response would be contact with the customer by a senior person that can bring solutions to the customer’s issue and can be acted on without delay. Quality is also communication with the customer as it is needed, not as time allows, when you get around to it, or when the customer is left with little or no options. Quality is making the customer and their needs a priority.

  3. Ben says:

    Quality is a simple statement. It is the difference between the expected outcome and the actual outcome, as defined by the customer. It can be as transactional as a person to person interaction, or as large as something like Coca Cola’s ability to produce 10’s of thousands of bottles of product that taste exactly the same each time.

    If you ignore it at any level, you will eventually suffer the consequences. I don’t think it carries the same weight as other quality attributes, depending on the type of business. If you make a product, that is generally accepted as a quality product, then your poor customer service can suffer longer with no or minimal impact. If you provide a service, and offer poor customer service, then the consequences will appear much sooner.

  4. Mehul Shah says:

    Hello Paul – Good Post. I agree with you that customer service is one of the most critical aspects or outcome of quality. We have been following an interesting trend in this area through our research of around 400 quality executives. When we asked senior executives (VP level and above) about their top strategies objective, when it comes to quality management, the response was customer service. However, as we look at the response from mid-level executives, customer service goes to the third top while the top one comes to cost of quality. One can argue that both of these areas are related in some ways, but it is always interesting to see how different companies balance the cost and customer service equation.

  5. The role of quality in customer service is dynamic and broad. There is no universal formula to achieving optimal cost:strategic goals; at least in this realm because the factors change considerably when the service or product changes. Consider the type of personalities that purchase model rockets to those that purchase bottle rockets. Now place each on hold for 3 mins the. Ask them what they thought of the wait time.
    The goal is happy, and loyal customers that trust the sincerity and competence of their suppliers.

    The role quality plays in the medium that is customer service is a big “Q”.
    Making it so while balancing the priorities of other tangible expensis is a road few wish to travel. But those that do will have a significant advantage over their competition.

    The key remains to having a focus on the customer and asking the right questions. From there a meaningful and practical system of analyzing and meeting those needs for alignment with strategic goals comes next. But without a timely system in place to address those mounting concerns, the needs may have changed. Or those customers already gone and spreading the word as to why they left.

    On cost effective and timy means of encorporating those changes have been achieved, an organization must be innovative and address some underlying desire of their customers to keep them coming back. When I’m banking I look forward to taking to a. USAA representative because they are so timely, polite, knowledgable. When shopping at the Apple Store I like the sleak interior and inovative products they used to constantly spit out. When buying from McDonalds I like that a fast food restaurant is both fast food at the drive thru and a clean restaurant if I want to take a pass on having the kids drop BBQ sauce, apples, and chocolate milk on the leather. Every company and organization that is worth mention understands an underlying expectation and desire of their customer and does their damnedest to provide it; and it shows, it shines.

    Baseline, survey, plan, and empower the tip of the medium that is “customer service” to make changes that follow the entent of some basic guidelines from the strategic organizational goals. Accountability, rewards, and acknowledgement of progress can achieve a CPI culture that holds quality near and dear to the heart of customer service.

  6. Francisco Zamora says:

    I think that the costumer service is important because in lot cases for this rol the costumer can feedback to manufacturer in case the some problem in the service o product, I also think that the support the management is important already for to give service we need resources.
    Finally, if the manufacturer want to give a good costumer service, it should integrate all the departments and areas.

    Best Regards.

  7. Rebecca Farrow says:

    I believe the whole intent of a quality system is to deliver the best product you can in the best way you can, resulting in a win for the customer and the business. Unfortunately, many business’s see systems and customer service in isolation and still consider quality systems as being for reactive and compliance purposes only.

  8. Natasha says:

    Maybe if we substituted “Customer Service” with “Client relations”, the idea would become that of an entire relationship. So then the “Quality” of that relationship is based on the efforts of all parties involved, in any type of transaction, and the benefits are shared.

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