Managing the quality of your product or service is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner.
It can be the difference between life or death for a business since it is so intimately connected with customers’ needs and wants. But so many businesses, small and large, put quality management to the side as something they’ll get to when they have time.
In this article, I want to share with you some tips on knowing your quality standard, checking it regularly, and correcting it when things go wrong. Put quality front and centre in your business, and you will have a far greater chance of success.
When some people hear the word quality, they think premium, but that is not the way we’re using the word here.
Every product has a quality standard, even the humble Bic pen. You can write with a Bic, which costs around 50c or with a Montblanc, which can cost around $500. But you’d agree, they both have their own level of quality, right?
You might think that Montblanc has a far higher need for management of quality in their business than Bic, but this is definitely not the case. Both businesses have an equal need for a quality management system.
Whilst quality can be an expensive and complex system in a business, using, for example, the International Standards Organisation or Australian Standards, for a micro or small business, you can start off with a much simpler and cost-effective system, which has just three ‘moving parts’.
The first component of a quality system is setting your quality standard. Literally, this is describing what a quality product or service means for your business.
If you imagine the perfect Bic pen, sitting in a glass box next to the production line at that company so that people can look at it and compare all other products to it, you’ll get the concept of a quality standard.
You need to remember, however, that the quality standard you need to deliver is very much in relation to the price you are charging and the needs and wants of customers in your segment of the market. You have to meet or exceed the customer’s needs, or they won’t buy from you. But you also have to be able to make a profit at the quality level you deliver to meet those needs.
The second component of your quality system is regularly checking your products and services to see if they are in fact meeting the standards you have set. This will include physically inspecting recent examples of the product or service and comparing it to your quality standard.
This can work for any product or service and will also include checking with clients if they agree you are meeting or exceeding their expectations.
The third and final component of the quality system is correcting quality if it is found to be different from what you are wanting to achieve. This correction has two elements; you need to correct the actual product, which might mean changing suppliers or fixing a machine. But it also means correcting the person who made the product.
Here are two examples:
You have set a quality standard in your insurance business that policies include certain information and are delivered to the client within 24 hours of an approved quote. But, one day you find, that the policies from one broker in your team consistently miss, say, the flood information for the properties he is insuring. So, you’d have to correct the policies to include the flood information and you’d have to correct him, to ensure he knows he should include it.
You run a bespoke furniture business, and you find one of the staff has switched from beeswax to polish furniture to shellac. So, you’d have to ensure beeswax was used once again and show the person how to use it and tell them to stop using shellac.
As you can see quality is important in business. As important as the air you breathe. Without it, you won’t meet customer needs and wants at the level they expect, and without satisfied customers, you are unlikely to stay in business very long.
But it doesn’t need to be complex, and there are three simple components you need to plan for; setting, checking and correcting the quality standard.
Enjoy the success you’ll have from getting this key part of your business operations right.
Originally published on Smallville.