December Roundtable: What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The December topic is:

What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?



Prem Ranganath is a senior director and global head of IT delivery excellence and risk assurance at Quintiles Inc. He is a senior member of ASQ and enjoys working with teams to enable quality as a necessary and valuable behavior. He is very passionate about introducing a quality mindset and practices in K-12 so that quality is ingrained into interactions and decisions early on. Prem teaches at a graduate level course on software quality and product management at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. He blogs at The Art of Quality.

Chris Moustakas President, Chief Executive Officer. Chris entered the enterprise software industry right after graduation. He helped design and build mission-critical applications in industries as varied as Insurance, Banking, Healthcare, and Utilities. Today, Chris is passionate about helping organizations of any size become more agile and improve their operations by adopting the Devonway platform approach to their digital needs. Visit Chris’s blog at https://www.devonway.com/blog/.

John Hunter has a background in online quality information management. He has developed quality improvement methods and software at the quality management office of the Secretary of Defense and the White House Military Office. He blogs at Curious Cat Management Blog.

Robert Mitchell has 30 years of quality experience in manufacturing, non-profit and civic organizations, and manages corporate quality and Lean Six Sigma operations at 3M. He is incoming chair of ASQ’s Minnesota section. He blogs at Quality Matters.

Luigi Sille is the Quality Manager at Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation in Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean. He has been a senior ASQ member since 2014, and blogs at sharequality.wordpress.com.

What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?

Prem Ranganath
At a time when the traditional quality function is rapidly evolving into a shared commitment in IT organizations it is important for IT management to revisit the approach for enabling acceptable quality. The roles and capabilities of quality practitioners needs to move beyond process excellence and compliance.

For a start, the quality practitioners’ role has to be directly tagged to customer goals and expectations so that the practitioners’ plans and outcomes can be expressed as value statements that can be easily understood by customers.

Secondly, although the quality practitioners’ may be reporting into the IT organization there has to be an association with a customer-led function so that the outcomes from quality practitioners’ engagements are supported by stories that demonstrate impact and value delivery. Therefore, there is an immediate need to evolve technology and process focused quality practitioners into customer-driven (business-minded) practitioners.

Thirdly, moving towards a business-minded quality function will require a comprehensive evaluation of the competencies and skills that are currently used to identify new talent and develop existing talent. Quality objectives and metrics will also have to be aligned to customer goals and expected outcomes.

Lastly and most importantly, IT management has to enable an environment that consistently supports a quality function whose success is measured by their ability to solve customer problems. Being the independent informed voice between technology solutions and customers can also be a smart career move for quality practitioners.

Chris Moustakas
The best way to make sure that Quality and Customer Integration grow together is to embed elements of your Quality program into the specific instances of interaction with your customers. Too often, the tools companies use to gather critical data from clients are tacked on as afterthoughts, using follow-up surveys and similar techniques. But by neglecting customers’ voices at the time they’re most engaged — the point of integration — they miss out on a tremendous opportunity to gather insights that are relevant, timely, and honest.

However you go about integrating customers with your Quality program, don’t forget the cardinal rule – keep it simple! Don’t overburden your customers by asking them to submit lots of information; two pieces of data is usually more than enough. For example, if the interaction involves a defect resolution dispute, a simple “Where did we go wrong?” question gives them the opportunity to describe the root cause in their own words, and can often jumpstart your own causal analysis efforts.

As much as you depend on your customers, your customers depend on you. You’re solving a problem for them, so they want you to succeed. More importantly, they know better than you the value you bring to the relationship, so by involving them directly and consistently you accelerate your potential to continuously improve, not just the overall quality of your product or service, but your value proposition.

John Hunter
Effort should be directed at continually delighting customers. This requires an understanding gained at the user gemba (to truly understand what customers are trying to achieve and how your product or service facilitates them doing so successfully and how it could be improved).

Quality practices of experimentation directed at continually improving management practices and internal processes need to be completely integrated with the efforts to continual improve customer delight. Those efforts should be one process and therefore they automatically grow together.

The success of improvements should be evaluated at the system level. As Deming said: “The consumer is the most important point on the production-line“. If the organization pursues optimizing parts without considering the whole that leads to problem, including disconnection between internally focussed process improvement and what customers experience.

Read the full post: Continually Improving Using a Focus on Delighting Customers

Robert Mitchell
Sustainable quality growth begins with a customer-focused culture of performance excellence A sustainable enterprise must be agile, responsive and adaptive to ever-changing customer expectations and competitive pressures while demonstrating superior competency in anticipating future requirements and excelling at re-inventing itself to capture market share leadership.

In today’s world of inter-connected global supply chains and exponential rate of change, the sustainable organization must strategically prioritize its information systems and customer listening processes. All employees must be provided the skills, training and tools necessary to solve customers’ problems. Employees must be trusted, respected, expected and empowered to use this newly acquired information to pursue innovative solutions and take intelligent risk. Failures must be accepted as a necessary learning experience while key learnings are actively and intentionally managed and shared to promote and advance organizational knowledge growth. High performance and desired behaviors must be defined, encouraged and rewarded.

Luigi Sille
Customer integration is part of a customer relationship. It’s having direct contact with the customer, in other words, your customers must be treated as part of your organization. Quality has to do with your products, service, and of course, happy and satisfied customers. It’s all about your customers, focus on them, and it will have an immediate positive influence on your end product and/or service.

A partnership with the customer (external customer) is a must. Having direct contact with customers can benefit a company in many ways.

Benefits like:

  1. Better/Open communication (customers)
  2. Retention of your customers
  3. Customers become loyal
  4. Improve your chances to succeed: better market segmentation
  5. Running your business better
  6. It’s a competitive advantage

Customer integration has direct influence on the quality of service and/or products of your organization. Every institution has to do their utmost to get feedback, ideas, and information from their clients/partners.

To make quality and customer integration grow together the essential tools are:

Communication- Being open and honest will improve the communication between the different groups/partners. This will result in an effective communication flow, which means a flow of ideas from customers to make changes, adapt and/or improve your quality.

Trust- Trust is an important tool for a successful customer relationship. People will automatically talk freely when there’s a sense of trust. When your customers trust you as an organization, it will have huge impacts on the quality of your products and/or service.

Respect- Treat your customers/partners with respect; this is the key for a lasting customer relationship. This will let your customers feel comfortable in expressing their ideas and or opinion.

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