Quality at Your Service
It sounds clichéd, but quality is everywhere. We’ve heard about it for years—tools traditionally used in manufacturing are making their way into the service sector, opening up job opportunities for quality professionals at banks, hotels and hospitals that are trying to gain a competitive advantage.
In this issue, we give you several examples of quality outside its conventional environments. A software provider uses failure mode effects analysis and ISO 9000 certification to improve (p. 24), a car dealership wins a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (p. 30), and we see how to use Six Sigma to drive up profits (p. 37).
In a story we unfortunately could not fully cover, it seems quality has even permeated one of the least likely sectors—marketing toys. While shopping earlier this year, a colleague of mine noticed a new line of G.I. Joe action figures called the Sigma 6 team. This is a first as far we know—naming products meant for children after an improvement method because the method’s name sounds cool.
If there was indeed a connection to Six Sigma, I thought it might make for an amusing news item in “Keeping Current.” I contacted Hasbro, which manufacturers the toys. What followed my simple inquiry provided me with one of those poor customer service stories we all have.
I went to Hasbro’s website and completed an online form, explaining who I was and asking what I thought was a pretty simple question: Does the Sigma 6 line of G.I. Joe toys take its name from the popular quality method?
I immediately received an e-mail thanking me for my interest and assuring me someone would be in touch soon. Three weeks later, I got another e-mail. This time, I was told the answer to my question was “not readily available” and the Hasbro customer service representatives would have to investigate the matter further before getting back to me.
Another five weeks passed. Finally, I received an e-mail that said: “This is a secret. Watch the cartoon to learn the origins of Sigma 6.”
I couldn’t believe it. They were telling a professional journalist with a simple question to watch a show aimed at adolescents to uncover the apparently classified information I was looking for. And it took them nearly two months to do it.
Clearly, there is some flaw somewhere in Hasbro’s process for replying to customers. In fairness, my experience might have been an exception to how the company usually does things. For Hasbro’s sake, I hope so. If it’s not, then maybe it should use Six Sigma as a tool to straighten things out and not just as a name for its toys.