Defending Customer Requirements and Total Quality


Spaulding, Marc L.; Arnstein, Fredrick   (1990, ASQC)   ODI, Burlington, MA

Annual Quality Congress, San Francisco, CA    Vol. 44    No. 0
QICID: 9487    May 1990    pp. 418-427
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Article Abstract

The ability to work systematically with customers to determine their needs and requirements has developed more slowly than other aspects of Total Quality Improvement. Generally, most organizations begin their quality improvement efforts by focusing on employee awareness, cost of quality, and work process improvement. These are mainly internal efforts. In manufacturing, businesses sometimes work with their vendors to improve the quality of incoming raw materials, assembly parts, and the like. While these efforts aimed at internal work systems and at vendors are necessary for an effective Total Quality Improvement program, they do not go far enough.

The inability of many organizations to determine what exactly their customers want is a serious impediment to their total quality improvement efforts. Determining customer needs and requirements is a watershed in total quality improvement. This ability continues to distinguish Japanese firms, who are very good at figuring out customer requirements, from their American competitors, many of whom are still in the early stages of implementing quality improvement.

In this paper, we aim to help managers who would benefit from an increased ability to determine customer needs and requirements. We provide a discussion of specific methods for collecting data about customer expectations, and we suggest several effective ways to use this information to seek alignment with both internal and external customers and improve the business relationship.

Because organizations often find it difficult to determine customer requirements, we also present three strategies for defining what the customer wants. These strategies, which have proven effective in a variety of actual settings, include (1) quantitative survey methods, (2) qualitative methods, and (3) partnering workshops aimed at building alignment between customers and suppliers. Finally, we offer several ways of linking information about customer needs and requirements to other total quality improvement activities undertaken by organizations in their attempts to improve internal systems and vendor relations.


Quality management (QM)

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