A great deal of energy has been invested by US manufacturers to improve competitiveness and customer satisfaction in the past couple decades. Armed with the rediscovered teachings of Deming, Juran, Crosby, Akao and others, significant strides have been made in improving industrial quality and operations; but many would say this isn’t enough.
The key, others say, is to launch similar efforts in administrative and non-manufacturing areas to complete the effort. But, how big is the task and do we have the right tools and strategies? How large is our service sector? Over three quarters of the US workforce, by some reports, is paid for doing service work (administrative and non-manufacturing work). With this three quarters of the workforce number in mind, it’s easy to see that it is essential that we develop at least the same level of skill and commitment in managing service quality as we have done in manufacturing.
Do we have the right tools and strategies to create total customer satisfaction? I believe we can actually go beyond the traditional Industrial Age improvement initiatives. The goal here is to outline the key issues and methods necessary to build a quality conscious culture responsive to the needs of both internal and external service customers, suitable for the Knowledge Age of the 21st century.
Reframing our Concept of Service Work
New assumptions. We need to demystify and reframe how we think about and manage service quality if we are to achieve significant change. The assumptions used in this reframing may differ from conventional thinking in several ways, but consider the following as a start:
- Service quality is not customer service (although customer service and customer relations are part of service quality)
- Manufacturing-based models and techniques for managing quality may be more hindrance than help in transforming service unless jargon is removed and an appropriate
sequence for change is used.
- Appropriate language usage can speed the introduction of change. Technical jargon (i.e. SPC, QFD, DOE, JIT) is best avoided while words like service and customer require explicit definition.
- Even advanced management concepts and tools will have only limited impact until the producer-centered organizational culture becomes a customer-centered culture. This is true for current initiatives including Six Sigma, theory of constraints, supply management and Lean. All of these efforts emphasize internal operations, not customers; process not outcomes
- Significant change in customer satisfaction and cultural orientation can occur without initial massive training efforts.
From producer-centered to customer-centered culture – Changing the culture of an organization is no small task. The proven process outlined here has been effectively used in government, transportation, electronics, banking, retailing, heavy manufacturing and communications industries. It addresses the initial changes in language, roles and measures which can help speed your effort.
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