Modern manufacturing has come a long way in employing rigorous quality initiatives, but when a defective part slips past the quality initiatives, customer perception can make the situation go from bad to worse very quickly.
It isn’t always easy to get quality right given the current manufacturing environment. Shorter delivery times, increasing competition and elevated customer expectations; it is no wonder that quality is once again front and center.
Customer expectations matter, more so than ever. The new view of quality has expanded. Quality has always had two sides one could argue: actual quality and perceived quality. Often the latter takes longer to detect and is harder to change, so manufacturers concentrate on real quality. Actual or “real” quality is what most manufacturers have focused on using a parade of alphabet soup approaches like TQM, SPC and Lean Six Sigma.
Perceptual quality analyzes customer sentiment with customer “listening posts” to gather and evaluate perceptions of the brand, product or service. It then allows the manufacturer to analyze and define potential drivers of the perceptions and suggest alternatives to address the problem and the perceptions.
The equalizer of these two measures is managing customer expectations. A company can integrate these measures by communicating in advance the expectation of the quality at the beginning of the process. Where does this tolerance really need to be? What is the real delivery date? How many parts do you really need on a specific date?
Perceived quality comes into play when all expectations are not met. Often a product that is not delivered as expected lacks quality in the customers mind.
What will take organizations into higher elevations of customer satisfaction and perceived quality? A comprehensive approach to customer-driven quality for both real and perceived quality, all of which can be implemented with readily available information technology: • An up-to-the-minute, unified view of all relevant data. • Tools for collaborative, proactive analysis and action. • Availability of knowledge to all stakeholders.
Today’s organizations need a single, integrated version of the truth that spans the organization’s processes – from inputs to outputs, ideally from upstream suppliers to downstream customers. They need a way to not only assess what was, but predict what will be. And they need a way to share these insights across organizational and functional boundaries. Companies must realize that quality is not just a necessary manufacturing program but is, in the end, all about the customer.