I have been asked to write this blog regarding quality and decided to re-share it on our webpage. While I’m always overly excited to deliver quality from the customers’ point of view. I realize there are quite some more perspectives which need to be considered. While customers focus on the specification of the quality of a product/ service, the producers will focus on conformance, and support personnel may measure quality in the degree that a product is reliable, maintainable, or sustainable. The difficulty in quality is the fact that it’s a subjective attribute which can be interpreted differently by different people.
Let’s study some interpretations of quality first, just to give you an idea of how differently it can be defined let alone interpreted:
- Deming: “Quality is defined from the customer’s point of view as anything that enhances their satisfaction”.
- Juran: “Fitness for use. Those product features which meet the needs of customers and thereby provide product satisfaction. Freedom from deficiencies”.
- COPC: “Quality is defined as knowledge of agents that would enable them to provide accurate and consistent solution to the customer at the very first attempt”.
- ISO: “Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics, of a product or service, fulfill the requirements”
In my blog I will touch quality from a Lean perspective, with Lean we always look at services through the eyes of the customer. How can lean tools can help any service organization to improve quality. Specifically the part where human beings do the work.
For customers quality is just another word for ‘am I willing to pay this price for this service’ and/or ‘what would the competition charge me’. The goal of lean is to eliminate waste (the non-value-added components), and to create value for the customer. Value is always defined by the customer’s needs for a specific service. For example, what is the timeline for the handling of my insurance request or the lead times for granting my claim? The customer will at some point compare elements with performance of the competition and measure quality in lead times, customer friendliness, waiting times, responsiveness, defects in the process and even tone of voice of the employee attending the customer. These aspects enhance the value of your service and are vital for defining quality. To be more specific service quality.
The following are common types of service quality:
- Reliability; are lead times within the company steady,
- Responsiveness; is the service responsive to the need of the customers,
- Empathy & tailoring; are customers attended to the way they prefer e.g. personal or by mail,
- Competence & diligence; are the employees equipped with the right set of skills,
- Safety & security; is the service or are the platforms used safe e.g. personal data,
- Environments; is the environment in which customers are serviced of good quality e.g. clean, safe,
- User interfaces; are interfaces such as websites and standalone booths easy to use,
- Tangibles; tangible elements such as quality of coffee or the quality of forms which need to be filled by customers,
- Experience; the overall intangible customer experience e.g. tone of voice of the employees,
What Lean tools can be used to improve quality?
- Poka Yoke; make your service mistake proof, prevent human error by design. The insurer I work for has an online shop for customers to buy their insurance. While in the back office employees do a lot of re-working the data, customer data enter the system on different formats, This could have been poka-yoked at design, eliminating re-work in the back office.
- Value stream; The purpose of value stream mapping is to identify and remove or reduce “waste” in value streams, thereby increasing the efficiency.. In the insurers’ case the re-working on data was flagged as waste and could be analyzed and removed.
- Fishbone diagram; visualize the causes of the problem with the teams and deep dive in the causes. This discourages the common tendency to assign a single root cause to problems that may have deeper causes such as a human error that could have been prevented with controls.
- Standard work and training; This is the foundation for everything that follows when applying the Lean approach. Standard work is the detailed definition of the most efficient method to perform a service to achieve a desired output rate. It breaks down the work into elements, which are sequenced, organized and repeatedly followed. Logically this standard work has to be trained and maintained within the organization.
Quality to me is the valuation of something. It can include tangible elements such as durability, but also intangible elements such as employee friendliness. As an analytical person I always try to make quality requirements tangible and measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
About Peggy: LEANnovator, ProcessGeek and VisualFlow-er,
I’m a Lean Six Sigma master black belt at heart, a people’s people and bridge builder. I’ve worked at large multinationals in service and production industry. I am creative, analytic with a touch of geek. I have two lovely princesses, a wonderful husband and we live in sunny Curaçao. Want to read more Lean blogs? Please follow us at www.leancuracao.com.