A focus on customers should help any organization improve. Satisfy the customer and success will follow, or so the thinking goes. And it makes sense. Without customers, the best product or service is irrelevant.
This concept is an integral part of many quality management systems. Total Quality Management, for example, emphasizes the importance of this: “A core definition of total quality management (TQM) describes a management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction. In a TQM effort, all members of an organization participate in improving processes, products, services, and the culture in which they work.”
As stated on the ASQ site, “The customer ultimately determines the level of quality. No matter what an organization does to foster quality improvement—training employees, integrating quality into the design process, or upgrading computers or software—the customer determines whether the efforts were worthwhile.”
In other words, while you may think your quality is stellar, if the customer disagrees, they are the final word. And customers today have more avenues than ever to air their opinions.
Customer reviews can make or break a product. According to Micah Solomon, achieving a high level of customer satisfaction depends on four factors. As he writes in Forbes, “Customers are satisfied whenever they consistently receive:
- A perfect product
- Delivered by a caring, friendly person
- In a timely fashion
. . . with (because any of those three elements may misfire)
- The support of an effective problem resolution process.”
And these standards continue to increase. As Solomon says, “What your customer today thinks of as on-time delivery is not only stricter than what her parents would have tolerated, it’s stricter than what even her older sister would have tolerated.”
Quality is, of course, the best way to please customers and make a product stand out. As Toby Nwazor writes in Entrepreneur, “Your customers are primarily concerned about two things: your product quality and good communication. If your brand can offer a top-notch product while holding things together at the social media interactive level, as well as the social impact one, you won’t have a loyalty problem.”
Making quality a priority can take many forms, and the path towards better quality is varied. Improving processes is one way to get results. Rather than manual inputs, perhaps some can be automated. Streamlining document control or updating software might be one way to move the business forward. Gathering information about customers can yield a host of useful details that may make the difference between the customer looking elsewhere or continuing to work with your organization.
Customer focus is not only a wise business decision, but also a key aspect of ISO 9000: 2015. As ASQ states, customer focus calls for a range of tasks: “understand the needs of existing and future customers; align organizational objectives with customer needs and expectations; meet customer requirements; measure customer satisfaction; manage customer relationships; aim to exceed customer expectations; and learn more about the customer experience and customer satisfaction.”
While this may seem like a daunting to-do list, the activities are likely something your organization is already working on. What company doesn’t try to meet customer requirements, for example? But spelling out the goals can be helpful in directing employee energy towards these areas.
And many successful companies have embraced this idea, including Toyota. The company embraces a “Customer First” and “Quality First” mission. According to the company, “Since its foundation, Toyota has established a corporate culture that focuses particular attention on quality that will make customers smile, and on continuous kaizen (continuous improvement), achieved through genchi genbutsu (onsite hands-on experience).” The company seeks “to improve safety, peace of mind, and satisfaction for our customers.”
Making customers smile is a worthy goal, which will create happy associations with your brand as well as loyalty. To go about this, focus on making every customer a loyal customer. Retaining current customers is a lot simpler—and less expensive—than seeking new ones. By cultivating a better relationship with the customers you already have, you will be able to improve the business.
While every organization strives to offer the best product or service, it’s inevitable that they will one day fall short. However, this can also lead to a chance to showcase your customer support. Sometimes the most satisfied customers are earned by a helpful resolution to a problem. Making the situation right can earn your company unswerving loyalty after a customer sees how you fixed their problem. And when they are pleased with the results, they no doubt will share this with others. So whether it’s delivering a replacement right away, listening to the issue, or asking how to best resolve it, there is ample opportunity to make it right.
Of course, preventing issues from the start is the best approach. Reducing customer complaints is a clear way to improve the business. No one at your organization likes to hear about how things went wrong, and by fixing the number of complaints, job satisfaction will likely increase as well.
Consider your own experience as a customer and aim to make each customer interaction a positive one. If you receive superior service or customer support, take this information to your organization.