A growing number of approaches focus on greater understanding of and interaction with customers. The two types of customer-driven quality, reactive and planned, are proving to be successful in improving quality but still do not guarantee customer satisfaction (Foster 1998). Reactive customer-driven quality (RCDQ) responds to customer requirements after the fact. Planned customer-driven quality, on the other hand, is anticipatory and proactive in that it assesses customer needs and seeks methods for satisfying those needs before the fact. Any organization wanting to meet customer expectations is pursuing a moving target. The reactive nature of the RCDQ approach will cause the supplier to fall behind the moving target.
Planned customer-driven quality is best accomplished using some form of strategic quality planning (SQP). This is not necessarily the same as the strategic planning process, however, and is one reason that the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award changed the name of the SQP category to strategic planning to counter the sense that some quality professionals had too narrow a focus on company competitiveness in the marketplace.
With any given effort to become a customer-driven company, an organization needs to study what they do and how they look to their customers. One list of top 10 key characteristics of customer-focused companies includes:
1. Total consumer experience. The ability to look at the customer from all angles of how the organization’s products and services are experienced in the real world. Look for every possible point of contact with the customer to collect information on what is happening in the field.
2. Product hits. Use of the Kano model to continuously delight the customer with new products and services, some of which the customer may not even have known that they wanted.
3. Consumer loyalty. Building a sustained momentum over time to the point where the customer will only use your product or service, even waiting if necessary, to get the “real thing.”
4. Retailing and distribution. Creating a win–win–win for your organization, distributors, and customers. Your distribution system is a customer as well.
5. Brand process. The creation of recognized products or services that are sought after in the marketplace.
6. Logistics. Providing just-in-time and just what is needed/wanted in the marketplace at point of usage.
7. Build to demand. Creating a lean process that is capable of rapid changeovers to give the customers the needed products and services as they want them (just in time). This process has to be built into the entire system from suppliers, through production to the ultimate customer.
8. Consumer knowledge system. Continuous information gathering of customers’ expectations and wants that feed into the system; used to look for continual improvement opportunities.
9. E-commerce. Becoming interactive, offering distribution, selling, and constant communication with customers online.
10. Growth. Continually improving with faster service, better value, and higher quality to create a culture that uses creativity and innovations to improve customer satisfaction.
To summarize : there is no sure way to always satisfy or delight customers because we cannot talk to every individual customer that we have and because customers are constantly changing their minds about what they need or expect. So we must find ways to continuously talk with many customers using the techniques we can.
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Read : Elements of resistance to Quality Management