As customers we expect high quality. It’s an expectation we should all keep in mind when the tables are turned and we’re providing a product or service. High quality equals higher customer satisfaction and a greater chance of continued partnership.
In Part I of my blog on Effective Quality Control to Support Your Customer, I described three principles that people supporting Federal customers can follow to ensure quality control and high satisfaction: Understand and Beat Deadlines; Know Your Audience; and Start Early for Success. Here, I offer three more to consider before, during, and after working on a product to ensure high quality:
- Due diligence
- Preliminary Review
- Lessons Learned
Do due diligence Before and Throughout the Work
Due diligence is doing your homework prior to jumping into something. There are many questions to ask yourself: Do you have enough information/data to get started? Are you sure about what you are putting on paper? Do you know what to do/where to go if you need additional information or data? What member(s) on your team might be able to give you more insight? Is the information/data you are using accurate; are you sure; how can you make sure? Are you rushing through this? Are you doing periodic quality checks of your own work (i.e. spell checks, read-throughs)? Are you keeping track of deadlines/milestones? What are your customer’s expectations and preferences (how they like to see something presented, in what format, etc.)? Do you have a backup in case of an emergency?
Find out what information is established/set and what else you would need to research more (when in doubt, check it out!). When people do not do their due diligence, there is a good chance the product will have inaccuracies. When information/data is available, and you didn’t push through the layers to find out, the perception of quality is lost.
A simple example would be assisting the Government with a memo that includes name, address, phone number, email address, etc. A person doing his/her due diligence would confirm the information directly with the POC and not make any assumptions that the information is accurate/up-to-date.
Mistakes made by not doing one’s due diligence happen more often than most of us would like to admit; however, when a customer sees the wrong information in documents, his/her perception of the quality of your work is definitely damaged. Eventually (and it doesn’t take much), customers feel that they cannot trust your work (they would rather do it themselves), and that’s not good business.
Seek Out a Preliminary Review
Ask a colleague to review your work and see if the customer will do a preliminary review. Know when you are going to follow up with the receiver(s) of the product to see what they think of what you submitted. This will help you better prepare for any negative feedback and avoid hearing about it for the first time in a meeting, teleconference, or in the hallway in front of other customers or Government leaders. It’s okay to critique yourself. Ask what you could do differently.
Although you want to avoid lower quality work at all times, slip-ups do occur. When you receive a negative response, try to find an opportunity when you can have some face-to-face time with the customer (not putting them on the spot in front of anyone) and let them know you want to exceed their expectations. Find out what they believe you should have done differently, and tell them you are going to make a note of it “for next time.” Sometimes the slip-up merits an explanation and/or an apology, but try to fix the problem as soon as possible. Ask for an opportunity to revise your product based on their feedback. Take the criticism, move on, and get the work done!
Note Lessons Learned
Any issue, error, mistake, oversight, miscommunication, or misunderstanding is never to be repeated. The customer needs to be assured of this, and you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You do this by noting how something happened and work at ways it can be prevented from happening again in the future. Remember to share your lessons learned with your fellow teammates. The customer sees you individually and as a team. It doesn’t matter if one team member made the mistake and another team member never made that mistake before. They expect that there is enough communication going on among the team members that the same mistakes will not be repeated. Customers get very impatient with the same mistakes, and it negatively affects their perception of the quality of your work.
Noting lessons learned is important for positive outcomes as well. When an activity has gone extremely well, prepare an After Action Report (AAR) or some other similar document noting what you did, when you did it, who was involved, how you prevented mistakes, how you mitigated risks, etc. Hold a brown bag with your team; write a blog; or perhaps ask your supervisor to hold a working group session/seminar to teach others how to ensure the same success in the future.
Quality Control Leads to Customer Satisfaction
Quality control is a primary factor in customer satisfaction. Customers demand high quality and consistency. Achieving this requires practice and ongoing focus. Unfortunately, any diversion from your regular practice of quality control is long-remembered, and it takes a lot of work to build up that confidence again. Take every opportunity to bake quality control into your processes so your team saves time and delights customers.
What about you? How do you work on quality control to achieve customer satisfaction?