Don’t Panic!

Knee-jerk reactions limit long-term viability

In today’s sickly economy, consumers are attempting to stretch their dollars further than a candy-craving kid looking to spend a nickel at a dime store.

But, as businesses scrimp, cut, trim and scale back, it simply cannot be at the cost of quality if these organizations hope to emerge from the recession alive.

This sentiment was underscored by the results of a survey of manufacturers that served as the basis for the latest ASQ Quarterly Quality report titled “How Economic Recession is Affecting Quality Activities.”

“Organizations that refuse to panic, that move ahead with new initiatives, and that don’t cut too deeply will be better positioned to excel when the economy rebounds,” the report says. More details are available in the Keeping Current article “Where is Quality During the Recession?” and the full Quarterly Quality Report is available at www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2009/20090109-slumping-economy.html.

“Staying the course” is often easier said than done. It might help to consider the economy from the customer’s viewpoint. When customers are painfully cognizant of where their money is going, they’re much more likely to take their business elsewhere if they believe customer service or product quality has suffered. By the same token, superb customer service in a down economy offers manufacturers and service providers an opportunity to shine.

Many companies are looking to outsource their customer service functions in an attempt to reduce costs. When they do, it’s more important than ever to ensure that out of sight doesn’t become out of mind, a point made in this month’s cover story. Author Bill Schultz uses a personal experience to illustrate some of the pitfalls that can accompany a decision to outsource customer service and provides some advice for preventing unintended outcomes or customer gaffes.

Author Kreg Kukor’s article complements Schultz’s message by describing methods for deploying a sustainable quality system for a global supply base using basic concepts, strong relationships and web-based systems. If you’re looking to outsource business processes—or already are—you’re bound to find some useful tips for shoring up those relationships in this article.

Quality professionals know it’s not always easy to keep passion for quality alive when it seems it’s all management can do to find ways to keep the lights on. Yet, the two are not mutually exclusive. Quality professionals who can help management understand that connection will find it easier to make quality a priority in achieving organizational goals over the long term—in good times and bad.

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