Quality Blog

The Dashboard: Measuring the Quality of People and Product

February 8, 2011
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The duties and responsibilities pertaining to the function of our nondestructive testing (NDT) inspectors have not changed in years, even though new manufacturing materials have been developed, and the inspection equipment technology has advanced. We could say that similar to the fire triangle (oxygen, heat and fuel), there is a business triangle (product, supplier and consumer). If one of the components is missing nothing happens.

As time goes by the bottom line is that all companies need assurances that they have a good business triangle in place, and one of the ways to achieve this is through the monitoring and measurement of customer satisfaction.

Some of my clients manufacturer products, while others provide a service. It is enlightening for me to see completely different companies experiencing the same problems. However, over the years, I’ve seen that most companies will devote the least amount of attention to the most important attribute in all companies─customer perception. Nondestructive relations (NDR) means not destroying your customer’s perception of your company through product or service you provide. If this relationship, trust and confidence as seen through the eyes of our customer are damaged, you will end up with a product or service that has no customers.

One of my current clients is in the services industry. They install and provide service in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, otherwise known as HVAC. In the service industry, a plumber is not just a plumber─they are also the salesman, technician and customer service representative. They need all of these skills and much more to make enough money to support a family. Many companies utilize service technicians (i.e. plumbers) as sub-contractors.

A service plumber will typically receive a percentage of the cost of the supplies and service. His visible tools may be a monkey wrench, but much more is required of him. His or her primary responsibility is to present themselves safe reliable technicians that the customer will let into their home. The secondary responsibility is to perform a refurbishing job on the existing equipment if practical, or recommend an upgrade to meet current environmental, efficiency and cost savings advantages of technologically improved equipment.

Now this may sound great, however, the caveat is that cross-skilled individuals are difficult to find. As a mentioned earlier, the customer is not simply letting a plumber into their home; they are letting in a plumber, salesman, customer service and planner. This person has a fiduciary responsibility to the customer, but his paycheck comes from the business owner, so he also has a subordinate position to please his employer.

In this scenario, the plumbing company is operating similar to an aircraft flying through the fog. The pilot’s (or company in this case) only chance of ensuring customer satisfaction is consistent work site inspections to evaluate workmanship and compliance with local, state and federal regulations. Alternatively, the company can leverage today’s technology advancements to measure these same elements of customer service through a remote company dashboard.

Essentially, this equates to an instrument-trained pilot flying in the fog, and relying on his instruments keep him or her aware where the aircraft is, and how it is performing. However, when instrument control is lost, a pilot flying an aircraft through the fog is unable to tell if he or she is flying upside down, and the same thing happens when a company loses control of its remote dashboard.

ISO 9001:2008 and all associated versions for Aircraft (AS9100) and Medical Device (ISO 13485) state clearly in Section 8 that the monitoring and measurement of key attributes such as customer satisfaction are required. Customer satisfaction is based on monitoring and measurement of the service and the processes used to provide the service.

Is your company flying blind in the perception of your customer? All companies need a real-time dashboard that represents their external eyes and ears. Real-time dashboards are the thing of the present, with the capability of each employee having a sophisticated device such as a Blackberry or iPad. For example, in the case of the plumber, he or she can take pictures, order parts, request equipment, report unsafe conditions, research equipment technical manuals, or give real-time status reports and transmit this information to the company’s headquarters where large flat screen panels can broadcast real-time customer satisfaction and the job progress, GPS truck locations, needed parts, etc. Additionally, customers can be called during the repair, maintenance or installations that are in progress. The bottom line─no surprises upon job completion.

I would like to hear what your company is doing, or should be doing to ensure real-time customer satisfaction.

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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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