You might think of quality assurance (QA) as something needed for manufacturing, not customer relationship management. But as G.M. Hostage of Marriot says, “For a service organization, quality control of employee attitude and performance is pretty much the equivalent of product quality control for a manufacturer.”
Quality Assurance Checklist
No matter the size of your business, you need a quality assurance program. Even at its most basic, it should include the following:
An approved supplier list
Your suppliers should undergo a vetting and testing process to make sure you can depend on them for consistent quality.
Standard operating procedures
Whether your business model is for product or service, following a consistent process helps ensure a consistent end-product. Even in creative fields, certain procedures must be followed to ensure quality if the end results are to stand up to close inspection.
Ongoing employee-training programs
The business landscape is changing fast, and you’ll need to keep moving to stay abreast of the competition.
Standards for equipment and software
Know exactly what you need your equipment to do, from desks and chairs to the software programs you use. How do you calibrate them and make sure they’re performing up to par?
If and when a problem comes up, how do you go about solving it? Are there dispute-resolution procedures for disagreements between staff members? What are the procedures for reporting an issue?
Measuring performance in relation to the customer
A model of what constitutes excellent customer service and how to deliver it successfully.
Soliciting and tracking customer feedback and satisfaction
Getting customer feedback should happen as a matter of course. With a QA system, the procedure is thought-through beforehand, all your team needs to do is follow it.
Adding a quality assurance program to your customer relationship management system allows you to monitor your staff performance and make sure they keep to the standards you have set. It enables you to know that you’ve established the right benchmarks and when these need to be changed.
A good QA system is a necessary component of your business success, especially nowadays, when unhappy customers are just a click away from multiple social media outlets. A negative review can spread exponentially, becoming visible to thousands of people in a matter of minutes.
The whole world is watching. Quality assurance helps make sure they see you at your best, rather than your worst.
1. Prevent brand and reputation damage
When your customers think of your brand, certain images, feelings, and expectations come into their minds. Quality assurance for your customer relationship management ensures that the association is a positive one.
In 2011 the telecommunications company Research in Motion (RIM), which originally designed the Blackberry, experienced an event with significant negative impact on their brand. Their email system went out for three full days. Customers all over the world were inconvenienced and upset. RIM had to deal with lawsuits and canceled subscriptions, not to mention the embarrassment and black mark against their brand.
RIM’s primary and backup email systems somehow managed to fail at the same time. A good quality assurance program could have prevented that. It maintains a set of standards, regulations, and procedures that everyone must follow. In customer relationship management, as in everything else, what is measured improves.
2. Maintain ISO compliance
An International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification improves your business credibility, especially with foreign companies. Some businesses require suppliers to have up-to-date quality certificates. Even banks, investors, and potential employees will see it as a sign of professionalism and stability in your company.
ISO 9001 standards require companies to set up processes to determine customer requirements. These requirements then need to be made known to everyone else in your organization. Customer satisfaction is consistently tracked and analyzed with direct relevance to customer relationship management. To meet these standards you need to actively pursue customer feedback and make changes to solve any issues they might raise.
To build strong customer relationships, performance needs to be good, but – above all – it needs to be consistent. When you implement quality assurance for customer relationship management, you make a regular commitment to your customers that you instill at all levels of the business.
3. Know what your customers really want
You might think you know what your customers want, and you might be right. However, an intuitive understanding of your customers is not a good basis for investment. You can’t go to the Board or the bank and ask for money to fund programs based on intuition.
A QA program gives you real data on what your customers want, straight from the source. You’ll be able to identify pain points in your customer journey and areas where your customer relationship management needs improvement.
4. Promote higher productivity
By gathering actual real-world data on your processes, you’ll gain a clear, step-by-step idea of how they work. No more throwing money at problems and hoping they’ll go away – you’ll know exactly what needs to be done and who would be the best person or team to do it.
5. Have better-functioning teams
Once you have everything written down it’s easier to train and coach staff. You’ll know how everything is supposed to work and how each team member meets, exceeds, or falls short of the standard. Clear, specific feedback makes a good guide to improvement. Each staff member will know exactly what is expected of them and how they fit into company strategy as a whole.
With a culture of quality running through your company, staff will find it easier to contribute their own ideas for process improvements and best practices.
6. More efficient and realistic planning
Goals are achieved when we know what steps to take and follow them consistently. It’s the same on a personal level, and a corporate level as well. Once the path ahead is clearly visible it becomes easy to follow it. With the data necessary to evaluate the status of your projects you can predict the completion timeframe, as well as be able to do damage control if a project should run off the rails.
A quality assurance program might seem expensive and time-consuming, but can you afford not to do it?