Among many determinants of an organization’s success, the quality of its products and services is one of, if notthe most important. Skillful marketing, adept product placement, business process acumen, market timing—all are vitally important to success. But without the level of quality in the product or service that the customer demands, an organization cannot be successful.An organization that wants to achieve excellence must be diligent in designing, implementing, and continuously improving excellent products and services.
Most government and semi-government entities in Abu Dhabi are part of the service sector, and the government employs the EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management)Excellence Model to help ensurethatthe services it provides to its people are of the highest quality. Through this model, the government can make sure its services meet international benchmarks of quality.Their success in this regard can be seen in the steady growth of numerous economic indicators including GDP, standard-of-living indicators, and citizen satisfaction indices. With the goal of being one of the top five performing governments in the world, policies developed by and employed within the government of the UAE have helped many industries to lay claim to being the best in the world.
With a savvy and demanding customer base that expects nothing but the best, and a government vision to provide citizens and residents with just that, public sector entities have their work cut out for them. In this article, we explore some of the key elements that must be considered and implanted into any organization that aims to deliver product, service, and process excellence.
All processes have, as their root objective, the furtherance of organizational goals. To be profitable and acceptable to the entire organization, they must be designed from the point of view of that high-level goal. Processes need to be lean, efficient, and most importantly, strategy driven. The successful implementation of any organizational strategy is contingent on processes that have been designedand implemented in the best, most efficient manner possible. Improving process quality may seem to be a mundane task, but itis of utmost importance to the long term survival and success of anyorganization.Therefore, leaders should make time to manage those boring process maps covered with boxes, arrows, and diamonds.
Process management should always be a core component of any organization’s management system. End-to-end processes must be designed and implemented via leadership’s direction, and should be frequently analyzed, categorized, and prioritized for effective management and continuous improvement. Through these various management approaches, anorganization should be able to improve itsproduct and service development and production processes and better manage operational and strategic performance. A constant process review and improvement cycle will ensure that an organization’s products and services continue to deliver value and meet, if not exceed, customer and stakeholder expectations, all the while cutting costs, improving efficiency, and reducing errors and waste.
Quality management has been and continues to be among the most discussed business management topics of our era. Quality Management Systems such as the ISO 9001, Lean, and Six Sigma are effective quality management systems that aim at delivering and maintaining product and service excellence. These systems, or frameworks, can be adopted to assess and/or audit process effectiveness and efficiency at regular intervals and promote continuous process improvement. As such, most excellent organizations employ a large portfolio of management systems to ensure compliance and efficiency across all key functions and processes within an organization. However, as so many of us already know, earning a quality certification or accreditation is one thing; implementing a quality management system is something completely different. According to most Forbes 500 organizations, it boils down to one thing: A culture of excellence that starts with an organization’s leaders and that is adopted by all employees.
The importance of innovation in business has been discussed numerous times in this segment. A culture of innovation,cultivated by the leaders, and adopted by the people of anorganizationis a key ingredient in ensuring your organization is and remains ahead of the competition.Innovation can be integrated into you organization’s management systems by designing work flows that integrate brain storming and idea generation activities into your process review and improvement processes. Finally, leaders must ensure that innovation is always recognized, rewarded, and encouraged in order to keep great ideas coming.
Any company following the EFQM Model for Excellence needs to strive to provide its customers with the highest value. These stakeholders are primarily satisfied through the products and services that are developed and produced for them.Organizations need to keep coming up with innovative ideas to optimize the value of products and services for customers and embrace creative solutions as a way to keep improving their products.
For this to be possible, it is important to know exactly what the customer’s expectations, moods, and tastes are and what they deem valuable.This knowledge may be gained through market research or surveys and other forms of customer feedback. This helps anticipate where the market is going and what changes the organization may need to make to improve the current product and to help steer future product development and marketing. The company may even involve current customers and suppliers in helping to dream up and develop innovations for better products and services for existing customers and to broaden the customer base.(Also see our article in this issue, “Crowdsourcing—Empowering the Public.”)
An important component of product development is technology. Technological advancements are sometimes hard to keep up with, and therefore having a savvy information technology director onboard is invaluable. Excellent organizationsstay up to date with the technology trends, especially those which may impact their products or industry, and make appropriate investment decisions to ensure they are always one step ahead.
A recent shift in focus from the traditional customer satisfaction model to the “Customer Lifetime Value” approach means that not only do excellent organizations strive to provide the products and services customers want today, but they anticipate what their customers will want tomorrow, next year, and five years from now. Attracting new customers is much more costly than keeping existing customers happy. Excellent organizations get to know their customers well. They manage current products and services in a way that delights their customers and develop new products and services that will keep them coming back year after year.
Marketing your products and services is all about creating the right value proposition. Developing a value proposition is an essential part of business strategy. It defines the value that an organization can deliver to its customers through its product and service offerings. Combining this with a clearly defined business model that irons out the core capabilities, processes, partners, and target markets, anorganization can identify a “unique selling point” thatcan aid in marketing strategies. From here, other details such as target customers, market positioning, and distribution can be determined.
Once an organization has defined its value proposition, it then uses savvy marketing strategies to promote products and services to target customers and various user groups. The excellent organization carries out its marketing in a systematic way, targeting current customers as well as seeking to attract and develop new ones to broaden market share.
Organizations areoften accused of false advertising and in many cases failto deliver all the great features and benefits claimed about their products and services. This is never the case with excellent organizations. Advertising should never go overboard;greatorganizations make sure they can deliver on all the promises they make in their marketing campaigns because they know and understand the risk of damaging their integrity.
Understanding customer expectations and needs while keeping your value proposition in mind is a difficult task. Organizationsmust incorporate this delicate balance in production and delivery processes. Unsuccessful organizations disappoint, mediocre ones meet needs, but excellent organizations’ products and services are strong enough to not only fulfill, but exceed all expectations and delight their customers.
Product management is important, but excellent organizations understand that this process does not end once a customer receives a product or service. They provide post-delivery support in the form of customer service, technical support, warranty and refund provisions, as well as provisions to recycle and reuse products whereapplicable. Such mindfulness helps organizations be considerate of the environment and society, and allows them to give something back to the planet. It is a great way to limit the depletion of natural resources and to maintain a good and healthy public image.
Production, delivery, and product management are processes that should concern a wide range of stakeholders. Excellent organizations have learned to involve their people, customers, partners, and suppliers in optimizingthe effectiveness and efficiency of their value chain.Key among these stakeholder groups are the front line employees.Employees need to be provided with the necessary tools, competencies,information, and empowerment to be able to maximize the customer experience. Additionally, processes can be continually improved by comparing them to internal and external benchmarks including local and international market leaders, in order to recognize and incorporate innovative and beneficial practices in the organization’s processes.
Customer Relationship Management is an art that differentiates mediocre organizations from excellent organizations. Customers need to feel valued, cared for, and respected by their favorite companies. When they buy a product or use a service they enter into a bond.It is the job of the organization to solidify this with integrity, honesty, and openness.
Customers should feel that they can reach the organization when needed, and that the company should be accessible and attentive to their needs. Thus, excellent organizations have made themselves available to customers on a daily basis, some even going as far as being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.Offering memberships and subscriptions to customers is one way that excellent organizations use to add long term value and customer engagement. Etihad Airwayshas come up with a nice way to help customers remain open with them about any breach of values and ethics. Their Ethics Line is available not just for customers but for other stakeholders as well. It is regarded as a great initiative to engage customers and improve their image and value positioning by maintaining a dialogue with stakeholders based on trust, transparency, and openness.
Monitoring customers’ experiences is essential to understanding them and ensuring that they return. Feedback from customer surveys, complaints and suggestions, social media polls and reviews should be continuously monitored. Customer perceptions and experiences must be documented, reviewed, and improved. An unsatisfied customer can hurt anorganization more than any satisfied customer can make up for, as those who have been disappointed are much more likely to tell others about their grievances which can end in a messy and viral public relations disaster. This is why it is important to address complaints, make amends as quickly as possible, and turn any customer frowns into smiles again.
The successful enterprise, one that achieves excellence, does not do so by chance. The path to excellence is fraught with obstacles, obstacles that may not be apparent. Some obstacles are unavoidable and can be dealt with. Others have to be avoided, else they create an environment or situation from which the organization cannot recover. This is why organizations that achieve success and go on to reach excellence actively and continuously look for ways to improve everything they do along the path to producing the product or service that eventually reaches the customer. They seek out ways to improve every aspect of their business, even those that seem to be running perfectly because an excellent organization knows that there is no perfection and that anything can be improved. Excellent management dedicates themselves to becoming better at everything they do every day.by