Quality Movement Has Good, Bad News
March 23, 2010
The continuous quality improvement movement has focused the
attention of many employers and employees on the quality of the
products and services their organizations provide to their customers.
The result has been an increase in employee and management commitment
to quality. Many organizations have transformed to better serve their
managers, however, are often perplexed when they learn that 40 to 50%
or more of their employees rate the quality of their products and
services poorly. Even more puzzling, management has data that
demonstrate a high level of repeat business, low customer turnover and
high levels of customer satisfaction.
Quality has become the
sacred organizational cow, but many employees have actually become too
critical of their organizations. In the frenzy to improve quality and
perfection, employees have become so focused on identifying and solving
problems, they have lost sight of the fact their customers are, for the
most part, satisfied.
Perhaps this is because they have little
personal contact with customers and thus don’t know how they really
feel. Because they spend the majority of their time solving problems
and putting out fires, they distort the reality that the overwhelming
majority of their customers are satisfied and will continue to be
When employees feel the quality of the products and
services provided to customers is low, their commitment to the
organization weakens, internal conflicts proliferate, and trust in
management declines. Also, organizational pride-the thin glue that
holds many organizations together-begins to lose its strength.
employees believe management, their coworkers or people in other
departments are not committed to quality, they may lose their own
personal commitment to quality. This could result in a downward spiral
of declining quality, poor customer service and lost business. Here are
steps you can take to ensure employees don’t lose their personal
commitment to quality.
Identify what is important to customers and share results:
Employees often focus their energies on improving what is most
important to them rather than on what is most important to their
customers. Properly developed surveys can ask customers what is most
important to them, and sharing these results with employees can help
focus their energies and assuage their concerns.
Track customer satisfaction trends:
It is important for employers and employees to know if customer
satisfaction is improving, remaining constant or declining. This
information helps employees better understand whether the
organization’s commitment to quality is working.
Provide competitive intelligence:
It can be enlightening to employees to learn how customers feel about
the organization’s products and services vs. those provided by
competitors. This information also can be gathered through customer
satisfaction surveys and by interviewing former customers of competing
Provide an appropriately balanced picture:
Care should be taken not to sugarcoat or distort customer satisfaction
data. Armed with accurate and complete information, employees will be
able to develop the appropriate perspective.