Quality is quite an ambiguous word because every one of us has a different perspective on what it actually means. What is a quality product for one person may be viewed as poor quality for another.

I want to leave the debate about quality for a moment and instead ask the following double-barreled question: what constitutes customer satisfaction and how do you know when you are achieving it?

A few weeks ago I was doing a little shopping, visiting a store in Dubai that is a well-known brand back home, in readiness for an imminent trip to the UK.

“Why are you visiting such a shop when you can pop into the original UK store?” I hear you ask. Well, there was something quite lovely about my trip to this store. Warm weather, sun shining, music playing, and no fighting through the London high street shoppers. Perfect!

My peaceful day was suddenly disturbed by a raised voice from a customer who shouted to a sales assistant, “where is the Dundee cake?”

The man was politely informed by the management that the cake was not available and confirmed the “Dundee cake” isn’t so popular in the local UAE market.

This didn’t deter the customer who continued his rant and declared that“even if the store lost money due to having no sales of this item, then they should continue to stock the cake as it is a defining product line for the store.”

In the midst of a mixture of laughter and quiet embarrassment that a fellow countryman could behave in this way to the poor sales assistant, I considered his statement for a moment.

I contemplated how our backgrounds, ethics, childhood, belief systems and environment have such an impact on us subconsciously, and can determine the way we react and behave to situations in our everyday lives.  In addition, depending on where we live we have varying rules, culture and legislation to also follow.

This man was outraged there was no Dundee cake, however for me from the same country, I was not affected and found the situation almost humorous.

So how do we manage customer expectations and the quality standards of our products and services when there are so many external factors to consider and uncontrollable situations, such as personal experiences?

In any organisation it is imperative that the expectations and standards are clearly laid out to all parties.  This message must come from the senior management, filtered down through the departments.

One way senior management can achieve this and to ensure business operations are working as efficiently and effectively as possible, (along with achieving maximum productivity) is to establish a Quality Management System (QMS).  A system of work which will identify how you will manage the quality of your operations to ensure that you meet and exceed customer expectations.  It is almost like a company handbook, which can be manual or electronic, and tailored to meet the requirements of your business.

This manual contains the company procedures, processes and associated documentation targeting the key operational areas of the business and includes managements’ quality policies and quality targets.

This set of documents in the system are “user friendly” and can be easily understood and used by all employees, suppliers and subcontractors – they are specific to the business and the processes which are in use.  Not only will this be issued to all staff in order to learn the  company operational requirements, but it is also an effective tool to assist management with measuring company performance, output and customer satisfaction levels.

I am not referring to an “off the shelf” product, but a specific work system matching your own business procedures which are currently being used within the organisation.

With efficient working operations, costs can be substantially reduced and you will be able to pinpoint exactly where any bottlenecks are, adjusting your business and operations accordingly and ensure successful planning ahead of time.  It can also be used to identify areas where additional training and support may be required for employees.

You wouldn’t construct a building without a programme, so why would you run a company without a company specific system of work in place? – not only to train your team, but to enable you to measure your business performance?.

It is our experience that many organisations and staff are not fully aware of their company procedures and are often using their own personal opinions, history and Excel spread sheets within their organisations (usually from previous projects). At times these can be valuable, however too often the case they can be detrimental to the organisation.

So lets’ move now to the BS EN ISO 9001:2015 accreditation in a nutshell. This is almost identical to the company system or “handbook” that we spoke about earlier. In this case the ISO 9001:2015  is almost giving you the step by step guidebook for creating your own management system, in that it clearly identifies the key/risks areas within the business which you should ensure are covered in your quality system; almost like a reference book enabling you to establish key controls and tools to use to monitor, analyse and continuously improve the business operations in each area.

The key areas covered usually signify the points where your actions can dramatically impact your customers and their satisfaction.      

When talking about your customers, this doesn’t simply mean your external customers or your client; your customers could also be other departments in your organisation, your suppliers or even your colleagues.  Your customer could also be a Government entity – ensuring you comply with legislation and local laws.  Whenever a requirement is not being fulfilled, customer satisfaction can be impacted.

Once the system is set up, and the ISO criteria and requirements are fulfilled and you can demonstrate the system is being used in the business through audit and assessment, you can then proceed to the formal ISO assessment.

You do not necessarily have to apply for the ISO 9001:2015 accreditation on the system you develop or manage, however as you already need to establish and document your current working business procedures, processes and structure, why not apply for the ISO and use this tool?

For example due to the recent skyscraper fires in Dubai, the UAE introduced new legislation and tougher controls. The Civil Defence now require an ISO 9001:2015 accreditation in order for businesses to obtain a commercial licence for firefighting equipment and installation services.  The certification demonstrates company commitment to quality and professionalism in each and every aspect of its work.

Holding the ISO 9001:2015 accreditation can open up access to new markets, raise your company profile and help you gain new business opportunities, which helps you stand out from your competitors.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, we would love you to follow our Qualitaz page on linkedin or facebook or contact us for further information.

FURTHER USEFUL LINKS : WWW.THECQI.ORG,  WWW.BSIGROUP.COM
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