For the third installment in our ASQ Global State of Quality Report series we’ll look at “Accelerating Qustomer.”
First coined in the 2013 report, “qustomer” describes the close relationship between quality and the customer in successful organizations, to the extent that the two become intertwined. However, this isn’t to say that customers solely define quality.
As organizations mature in their quality strategies, so too does the level of customer integration. A high level of customer involvement is required to maintain a superior level of quality throughout the entire life cycle of an organization’s activities.
The report revealed that more than three-quarters of responding organizations identified customer needs as key drivers of their quality programs and objectives. These relationships must continue to be maintained, not only for the end consumer, but also for the entire supply chain.
Given the correlation between quality and the customer, the report explores a shift in the concept that the customer is the only one who can define quality. In 2013, 56 percent said, “The belief is that the customer is the only person qualified to define what quality means.” In the current report, this percentage fell to 43 percent. This decline could be affected by the realization that quality back-office activities – which may not be directly visible to customers – can significantly impact business performance and compliance. On the other hand, could big data provide organizations with useful insights? Hence, the need for equilibrium between the customer and internal quality.
The report also addresses how organizations could forge closer ties with their customers – with transparency one suggestion put forward.
More than 60 percent of organizations were found to leverage “quality impact on customer experience” and “brand reputation to drive profitability.” In an effort to engage with customers, two-thirds of organizations have shared product quality information with customers – but there has been a 6 percent decrease in the sharing process since 2013.
Employees and supply chain partners making a proactive effort toward providing customer experience training can strengthen an organization’s culture of quality as it relates to customer integration.
Interestingly, only just over a quarter of organizations were found to train their quality teams in customer experience skills. This form of training is more prevalent in service-based industries, such as health care, where customers often see little middle ground when it comes to satisfaction – that is, the service they receive is at either end of the spectrum.
For those organizations not currently focused on this area, opportunities still exist to increase the quality of employee interaction with customers. On average, less than a third of organizations provide customer experience training. When looking at customer experience training geographically, the data is relatively consistent across the majority of customers – except for Africa, where customer experience training is minimal.
Overall, the data points to opportunities for organizations to assess their current efforts around customer experience training and seek ways to accelerate their efforts in this space. Better trained staff drive higher satisfaction rates and, in the process, improve the perceptions of product and brand quality.
Continue to read The Auditor Online in the coming weeks for more interesting findings from the ASQ Global State of Quality 2 Research 2016 report.