Do customers play a role in the Quality of Products and Processes? It is a clear "Yes" for sure in a Business to Business environment and we see how customers demand quality certifications from their suppliers, be it ISO 9001 or SEI CMM.
In manufacturing, we see that ISO 9000 is just a basic standard and different industry groups stipulate their own standards like TS 16949 by the Automotive Industry, TL 9000 by Telecommunications, AS 9100 by Aerospace Industry , and ISO 13485 for Medical Devices, and so on. These standards bring in very valuable and robust processes and systems into an organization, and clearly raise the standard of the organization. Organizations adopt and implement these standards based on customer requirement. The benefit of adopting such standards is not only limited to being awarded the business but it also raises the overall standard of the organization.
Each one of us plays a role in raising the standards of products and services delivered in our country.
What about quality in a B to C environment? Can we, as customers of commodities and products, have an influence on Quality? I think each one of us play a role in raising the standards of products and services delivered in our country. Setting high expectations puts pressure on the manufacturers and service providers and raises the standard. We need to do this by demanding high quality and giving feedback at the appropriate occasion.
Well, demanding quality doesn't mean being unreasonable and demanding more for than what we pay for, like traveling on a budget airline and expecting to get free Five Star quality meal. The consistent and repeated demand for value will go a long way in raising the standards of goods in the country. Imagine the days of Ambassador and Premier Padmini. We never asked for more and we were willing to pay what was demanded, the country never progressed in Quality during that era.
Recently my car broke down and I had to get it fixed. When I went to pick it up; I noticed that the problem was fixed, but the seat was completely wet. I realized that it had rained heavily the previous night and the car was parked with the window open. While I pointed out the problem, the engineer tried to convince me that the wet seat was a result of the car being washed. I took the car, but had to return back to the service center the next day as I was unable to bear the stink. I had to pick a fight with the concerned engineer, escalate the issue to his manager, and finally managed to get the car vacuumed and dried. It would have been easier to do the cleaning myself and avoid the travel and the fight, but I would have failed in my duty as a customer to give feedback to the management and the organization, at large.
The questions we pose must trigger introspection and create pressure to improve.
Likewise, when we are asked to fill up feedback forms or give verbal feedback, the general tendency is to give the feedback in a haste and laid-back manner, with an assumption that they will never use the information. Like Dr. Deming says, when the waitress at the table asks "Is everything fine", the usual response is "yes good" and not "well, the meat was cold and the vegetables were over cooked". He says that the customer knows that there is no point giving that feedback, because it never reaches the management. We must change this. First of all, we must give feedback and if possible, find out how they are working on the feedback.
In another incident, the wheel plate of my new car fell off on the highway. I complained to the customer service department, and was told very politely that there is no guarantee for this. It's strange that while you enjoy a drive on the good roads in your new car, parts fall off for which the company does not take responsibility!
I responded to the company that I don't mind paying for the plate but would like to know the root cause for this problem, and wanted assurance that the plates from the other wheels don't fly off. I also wanted to know how they are going to address this problem; and if this was a perennial problem, as I had learnt that earlier models also had the same defect, why this problem was not addressed. To my plethora of questions, the customer support executive was quick to buy time to enable him to talk to the factory and get answers as well as see how he can make good the loss.
In the examples given above I am not trying to say that we need to be smart dudes, throwing our weight around at the customer support officers or waiters or talk rudely and in an ill mannered way; but we must push our providers of products and services so that they become more customer focused and at least start thinking of the improvements that can be done. The questions we pose must trigger introspection and create pressure to improve.
Let's do this not just for the sake of ourselves, but let's be tough and polite customers so that the quality of products and services in our country are no less than those in the developed world.
Pradeep Kumar E.T. a master black belt in Six Sigma , is the Country Manager- Operational Excellence with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to pradeep@ businessgyan.com
Issue BG68 Nov06