Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My experience in applying the Baldrige criteria revolves around customer focus and especially product offerings and customer support. The Malcolm Baldrige national award is an annual excellence award that is awarded to organizations excelling in the overall quality of its work. One of the important points to improve quality included in the Baldrige criteria is customer focus. In this blog, I am discussing those two points and what their relationship to quality.

Most of quality experts and founders agree on one important point in providing quality services and products which is that quality is defined by the customer. Whether it is a service or a product, the most important factor that measures quality is adherence to customers’ requirements, exceeding their expectations, and achieving customers’ satisfaction. For example, companies do not produce products that the market does not need, and also should not produce products with specifications that the market does not require.  I think about quality as a measure of how successful the company is in providing products or services that will attract customers and satisfy their needs. In simple words no customer is willing to pay or use any product or service that does not satisfy their needs. This means that the organization is providing a service or a product that does not have a customer which will result in massive loss of resources and effort.

In order to provide quality services and products, organizations should seek specifications and requirements from customers. There many ways to collect that information which saves the organizations a lot of loss resulting from rejected products, effect on reputation, customer disengagement and other ways where overlooking quality of products or services affects the organization. Customer feedback, surveys, and competitor’s services analysis and comparisons, focus groups and other methods should be used to identify customers’ requirements. This will insure that the products and services provided by the organization satisfies the customers’ requirements and therefore, achieves quality.

The second point is to provide assistance and support to the customers though customer support which will also serve as a feedback tool on the organization products and services. This step should be managed by a section of the organization specialized solely on customer support.  The means of communication to that department should vary to help the customer communicate easily. The support should be accessible using emails, calls, and/or any other preferred customer means of communications. Furthermore, providing a quality customer support means that the organization cares about the customer, the quality of the products and services provided, and keeping that customer loyal to their services by building a trust relationship.

One of the most efficient and cost effective ways to run an organization is to give customers what they want, with specifications the customer requires, and also provide sufficient customer support for that service or product. The initiation stage of the product begins with understanding and fulfilling customer requirements using tools mentioned earlier. The next step is to provide customer support for customers and also collect feedback from the customer regarding fulfillment of the customers’ requirements. Although this seems to be a lot of work, but it greatly decreases the number of reworks, rejects, returns, and wasted resources which are a big deal in today’s manufacturing.

Omar Ghurab