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Concordia University - St. Paul, MN 8/30/2009
Customer Driven Quality Running head: CUSTOMER DRIVEN QUALITY
Customer Driven Quality Jason DeBoer-Moran OLC 605, Cohort MA264 Professor Randy Carlson August 30, 2009
Customer Driven Quality Customer Driven Quality The failure to deliver products or services that the customer considers valuable is one of the greatest downfalls that can happen to corporations today. It is possible for companies to deliver excellent products only to fail at serving the customer. As a result, it is important to determine what the customer values and where constant improvement can occur in order to
increase the customer’s perceived value. Deming, who famously brought the concepts of quality improvement to post-war Japan, indicates that improvements in quality lead towards lower costs, which translate into higher productivity, which leads towards increased market share (Meredith & Shafer, 2007, p. 129). Repeating this continuously in a constant state of improvement will lead towards greater customer satisfaction. Customers who experience a great deal of quality will become return customers. The return customer who continues to find value in the experience of doing business will become evangelists for the corporation and invite their colleagues and friends to partake in the quality experience. It is imperative that the company understand the relationship that they are entering into by doing business with the customer. The commitment to relationship between company and customer requires understanding that the customer drives quality. It is essential for the corporation to mix their internal definitions of quality with the definitions provided by their customers. Corporations should also look to institute a solid review system to determine how they are performing over time and to gauge their improvement. Producer’s Definition of Quality The producer’s definition of quality primarily deals with the areas of quality under control of the corporation. This is where great strides were made by post-war Japan under the recommendations and guidance of W. Edwards Deming. “According to Deming the major cause of poor quality is variation. Thus, a key tenet of Deming’s approach is to reduce variability in the
Customer Driven Quality process” (Meredith & Shafer, 2007, p. 129). The corporation has direct control over variation
and strives towards reduction in variations and defects in manufacturing. Repeating the quest for quality in manufacturing and design at every level within the corporation will certainly lead towards increased customer satisfaction. This is only a piece towards ensuring customer-driven quality throughout the organization. While the customer will appreciate receiving functioning units, there are an increasing number of competitors on a global level striving to reach the customer with high quality products. It is important to look beyond the manufacturing process to ensure the customer perceives a high level of quality throughout their experience with the product. Definition of Customer-driven Quality The relationship between corporation and customer brings a large challenge to the corporation. The biggest challenge is that the customer has complete control over the start and end of the relationship. As a result, it behooves the corporation to work to ensure the customer finds quality throughout the process of purchasing, but also in ownership. Sparks and Legault (1993), indicate that manufacturers have historically focused on quality of production and have begun to focus on design. To ensure for customer-driven quality, Sparks and Legault state that it is important that manufacturers also focus on sale, delivery, and post-sale service in addition to quality in production and design. It is everything after the sale occurs that continues to reflect on the perception of quality from the consumer. Prioritizing customer-driven quality requires constant attention to the customer and their needs. Responding to customer concerns can happen in two methods: the reactive approach or the proactive active approach (Foster Jr., 1998, p. 67). In the reactive approach, the company is at the ready for customer complaints and questions to occur after the product is sold. In the
Customer Driven Quality proactive approach, the company works with its customers in advance to develop a product that meets the needs of the customer. It is important for companies to enact both a proactive mindset alongside the resources for reactive support. As Foster Jr. (1998) points out, the customer’s
needs are always changing. It is, therefore; very difficult to plan for every possible concern that a customer might have. Companies will need to engage the customer in order to ensure their products are meeting the proper needs in the marketplace and that customers are finding quality in the continued relationship with the company. Six Sigma Process and Customer-Driven Quality Proactive Customer-driven quality requires the organization to be in a constant state of review and improvement. Corporations that enact Six Sigma processes have a repeatable system to maintain the focus on quality for both the producer and the customer. “Six Sigma provides a structured, logical, and disciplined approach to problem solving” (Meredith & Shafer, 2007, p. 134). There is openness in the Six Sigma process. Problem solving can occur throughout the organization. The process itself starts with the definition phase. The quest to improve quality is difficult, because the definition of quality can be different depending on which stakeholders are asked. Six Sigma is specifically designed with the customer in mind. “A crucial step in implementing six-sigma is to understand customer needs” (Taghaboni-Dutta & Moreland, 2004, p. 16). Six Sigma processes examined by Taghaboni-Dutta and Moreland (2004) indicate the attention to customer needs and implementing them into a Six Sigma process translates directly into savings for Student Loan Marketing Association. The customer is an important focal point for quality in products.
Customer Driven Quality Conclusion The globalized market contains multiple competitors in all fields that are capable of manufacturing excellent products at affordable prices; something must distinguish various competitors as the leader in the field. The relationship between customer and company is the
distinguishing factor in excellence between organizations. Involved customers are not only in the customer relationship with the company, but they are also advocates. While corporations have primarily focused on increased quality in manufacturing and design, it is essential that they ensure that the process of ownership is also free of variation. This requires corporations to be proactive and work with customers to ensure that they are meeting needs and that they are accessible for complaints and suggestions. These complaints and suggestions could be the opportunity the company will need to develop successful new products or enhancements ahead of the competition. Enacting a process like Six Sigma to include the customer’s definition of quality is an important way to ensure the corporation continues to consider the needs of the customer. Ensuring that the customer is the center of the definition of quality is important; however, the customer should not act as an impediment to innovation. The focus of customerdriven quality is quality in product; it is not customer-driven design. Innovators should be directly involved with the customer to ensure that the customer’s needs are determined and that products can be developed with the customer in mind.
Customer Driven Quality References
Foster Jr. S. T. (1998). The ups and downs of customer-driven quality. Quality Progress, 31(10), 67-72. Retrieved August 30, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 35115511). Meredith, J. R. & Shafer, S. M. (2007). Operations Management for MBAs. 3rd Ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Sparks, R. E. & Legault, R. D. (1993). A definition of quality for total customer satisfaction: the bridge between manufacturer and customer. SAM Advanced Management Journal. Retrieved 30 Aug, 2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6698/is_n1_v58/ai_n28627378/ Taghaboni-Dutta, F. & Moreland, K. (2004). Using six-sigma to improve loan portfolio performance. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 5(1/2), 15-20. Retrieved August 30, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 653882451).
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