By Mike Ford, PBO Co-founder and President
Simple Quality Control – Do You Have It? Has your business experienced fraud, neglect, abuse, errors, or underachievement in the delivery of your products or services? If yes than you probably do not have a Quality Control (QC) program in place. A QC program is essential to building a successful business, as it evaluates and modifies an organization’s standard operating procedures (SOP) to make sure desired results are delivered to the client.
Absolutely! The success of a small business also depends on its ability to produce and deliver high-end products or services. Defining what “quality” means for your product or service offering is the first step to developing a QC plan. While most executives know the general level of quality needed for their business success, there are sources that help set quality standards for industries. Industry associations and/or trade groups are a good place to start your research. Businesses can use these standards as a benchmark for measuring the quality of its product or service. A QC program should be set at every level of the company and understood by all employees.
The goal of every business owner should be to create a company that is profitable and steady. As a business owner you want your business to run just as well when you are away as it does when you are present. Your business must be able to perform successfully without you, this requires that you maintain standards by quality control.
The first step to a quality control program is to communicate with your customers and get valuable feedback. This can be as simple as a feedback survey once a year to per sale questionnaires.
Surveys: For example, Gibson Air, an air conditioning and heating company, sends out an end of summer survey to all customers each year. The feedback it receives helps the company to continuously improve its services during the busy summer months by ensuring it is addressing any problems and expanding on opportunities. Not only does the survey help it identify problems, but it also shows the customers that they are a priority.
Per Sale Questionnaires: A common tactic for retail stores is to ask customers short questions at the end of every transaction. Customers may be asked a question at point of sale, such as, “how was your service today?” or they may receive a questionnaire with the confirmation email after an online transaction. Some companies even invest in follow up calls to speak with customers after a purchase.
One aspect of a good QC program is customer service. Customer service is how a business will truly differentiate themselves in very competitive markets. Good customer service relates to the service your employees provide before, during and after a purchase or service offering. First rate customer service often leads to greater customer satisfaction and a more enjoyable experience for them. This translates to repeat business.
Empower your employees: If you have ever flown Southwest Airlines, you’ve seen this in action. From the check-in-desk to the in-flight-crew, they have the power to make decisions that are in the best interest of the customers. All you have to do is read the stories submitted from their passengers in the latest in-flight magazine to see how this company has built customer loyalty.
24/7/365: Not only does your company need to be available around the clock, but it must be everywhere at all times. Intuit, developer of QuickBooks and TurboTax, has mastered this. Not only can customers ask questions by phone, but also on Twitter, Facebook, and through live chat. Intuit has done such a good job building a following and community at tax time, they have professional tax experts answer questions on their behalf, free of charge to them and customers. Of course, this has to be monitored, but who could ask for a more organic QC program.
The maintenance of a desired level of quality in a service or product, especially by means of attention to every stage of the process of delivery or production has to be part of your QC program.
Six Sigma: If you are in manufacturing or source parts and products, you know about Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service. (Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Sigma). Having a program like Six Sigma, you will save yourself a lot of grief in production and potential for law suites.
Segregation of Duties: In most QC Programs there is a practice for segregation of duties to create an approval function. For example, a bookkeeper might enter all the data entry and payroll into the accounting software, but a Controller would review their work, initial and approve the invoices they input and also ensure the reconciliations were done accurately. The biggest benefit is this function greatly eliminates fraud or theft. When you have just one person, it is impossible to have an approval function. (What are the risks of not having segregation of duties.)
Kaizen: One of my favorite concepts of how to improve is the Japanese word for "continual improvement". In business, Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen). A great example of applying Kaizen to its business is Toyota. The Toyota manufacturing process became the industry gold standard by utilizing the practice of small improvements. Every employee is responsible for a set number of Kaizens a year. By taking small bits, employees were able to identify small improvements in the manufacturing process that made a tremendous difference when those improvements were combined.
Quality control and continuous improvement should be at the forefront of every business owner. Stay ahead of your competition by developing your Quality Control plan today! Contact the experts at Pro Back Office to discuss how you can establish a quality control program.