Quality, quality standards and controls
How can one define quality in business?
How can we set realistic and achievable quality standards? To whose standards and how can we keep up with these quality standards over time?
Quality separates a business from its competitors.
That extra attempt to serve an excellent product or service will put a business at the forefront of others in the same industry.
Quality is critical to long term customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty.
Quality leads to increased long term revenue, business stability and profitability.
A way to keep quality is standardizing products and services i.e. setting Quality Standards.
There are industry governing bodies that set quality standards for organizations like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and National Agency for Food & Drug Administration & Control (NAFDAC) etc.
Apart from the standards set by these industry governing bodies, you’ll need to build in-house standards that would reflect the vision of the company and also bring you closer to achieving your business goals.
Excellence should be the watch word in defining quality standards in a business and you have to keep pushing our definition of excellence to improve on quality.
Quality can be understood differently to different people but excellence is universal.
A business’s quality standards must reflect the behavioural patterns of its potential customers.
We can also be strategic in setting quality standards by having standards that will give the business a competitive advantage.
For example, one can go a step further in ensuring the pH value of drinking water produced is more ideal than that of its competitor’s as in the case of Lasena Water produced in Osun State.
Also, one way to ensure quality is to set up quality control procedures and checks.
It is just as important to having quality controls procedures, to checking the quality standards.
For example, when a product or service is not up to the quality standard, how can one know and who checks.
Quality control is a set of procedures used in making sure products and services meet the quality standards of an organization.
For an SME, every employee should be a quality control officer.
Define and find pointers to check quality of the products or services.
Simple quality control checks in a food processing company is checking the color, smell and taste of the processed food.
Quality control checks in a service delivery company can be mystery shopping, immediate post service rating and customers follow up survey.
It is important to keep quality standards throughout the length of the business.
Fact, several factors could influence the quality of product or service i.e. cost of production, time management, raw materials sourcing, staffing etc. We have to set precedence to quality in order to keep top notch throughout the business.
For cost of production, there is the battle of constantly trying to reduce cost of production versus keeping quality at it.
When the cost of production goes up, it is better for the product or service pricing to be increased than to cut corners that may affect quality and furthermore affect customer satisfaction.
When you start out with a particular quality standard, you have to keep at it regardless of an increasing cost of production.
The business can take on reduced profits in order to keep the pricing or perhaps do a slight price adjustment.
Customers certainly feel disappointed when there’s a reduction in quality more than an increment in price to keep quality standards.
Convey the price increment message in a subtle, concise and emphatic way.
Find ways to manage time efficiently and make use of processes that will preserve energy and help keep quality. Processes should yield a symphony of efficiency and not waste of motions or energy.
Stick to sourcing raw materials from vendors that deliver on quality continuously.
A drop in quality of raw materials will eventually lead to a drop in the quality of finished products or service.
We have had to boycott some vendors because of the quality of raw materials delivered at Smoothie Express.
A team can either make or break a business. Ensure the employees are well trained to build and keep quality delivery.
Make sure they have a deep understanding of the business’s quality standards and excellence.
There can be a reward for a streak excellent products or services rendered to ensure they deliver always.
There is the age long battle of quality versus quantity.
As a startup SME, we often start off by giving the best quality and when things get very busy i.e. quantity increases, the quality tends to reduce.
While the goal is to rapidly increase in quantity of products and services sold as a startup i.e. revenue, it is more sustainable and profitable in the long run to also grow in quality or at least keep to quality when growing.
With good quality and consistency you can ensure continuity of your business.