Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

The next installment in the QUALITYtweet series is: 7 tips for acting on customer feedback

Here are the first fourteen posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture
  13. Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)
  14. Quality #14: Process improvement and 3E’s

#QUALITYtweet Critical Question:

You have taken your customer’s feedback; have you REALLY acted upon it?

Formal Customer Feedback is a proven tool for bringing about meaningful improvements in your business and offerings. Typical methods of collecting customer feedback include surveys, feedback forms, listening to customer in one-to-one meetings or just watching customers use your products and services. But all improvement starts when you start listening to the voice of your customers and act upon it. It is easy to analyze customer feedback and create good looking charts, but the key is to identify what feedback really means to you as a business.

A few years back, I interviewed a candidate for a process improvement position. His resume’ indicated that he had worked on designing a customer feedback collection system. I was impressed and curious to know more. Further in the interaction, the candidate revealed that his boss (Quality Manager) treated “customer feedback collection” as a task. Once feedback came in, he would send a report to the top management and strike the task off from his task list.

Collecting customer feedback and not acting upon it is a huge waste – as it might appear that you collected the feedback to make the other party feel good about it, which is flattering, but not meaningful. Smart customers will remember their feedback and take a notice when you serve them next time.

Mature organizations devise an integrated customer feedback program which includes both internal customers (people) and external ones. Internal customer feedback program ensures that you identify improvement areas from within.

Here are a few ideas for you to ensure that your integrated customer feedback initiative delivers what is intended to – i.e. meaningful business change:

  1. Seek feedback on overall experience: Most companies seek feedback limited to a product, service or department. Ask the right questions to gauge the overall experience including communication, systems, ease of use and pricing. With the right questions, customers will think broadly and give more constructive feedback.
  2. Acknowledge the feedback and thank them: Once customers share their feedback, acknowledge the receipt and do not forget to thank them. Make it personal. This is the starting point of post-feedback communication.
  3. Reward: A lot of companies offer discounts or freebies when customers share their feedback. This is a good way to ensure involvement and initiative. This works even better when seeking feedback from internal customers.
  4. Keep them involved: Share feedback with customers about their feedback and what you are doing about it. Most companies make the mistake of never going back to the customer after the first feedback cycle. If customer spares valuable time sharing the feedback, it is your obligation to inform them about your follow-up actions and status. In case of internal customers, you can also involve them in solution definition.
  5. Treat Customer Feedback Program as a project: This is very crucial to ensure that actions are followed through. After feedback is received, create a mini-project on improvement actions with defined deadlines and expected outcomes. Creating action log helps maintain momentum and focus on improvement actions.
  6. Ship Results: Show customers how their feedback has helped you improve your processes, delivery methods and service offerings that positively impacts their business. Implement improvement actions on your customer projects and allow them to experience change.
  7. Consider a follow-up feedback: Now that your customers have experienced improvements, consider a follow-up feedback to ensure that they acknowledge your efforts and share their comments.

Customer feedback is never a one-way street – but a two way lane that can allow your customers to become your partners in process improvement.

Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement

by Tanmay Vora on November 16, 2009

Qualitytweet_6Welcome to the sixth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first five posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”

#QUALITYtweet The first step of your

process improvement journey is to

know what really needs improvement

In modern day sports, players and their coaches have sophisticated facilities to learn from recorded versions of the game with some great analytical tools. When reviewing these recorded versions with the team, an important job of a coach is to tell the player:

  • What is going right? How can we consolidate that?
  • What can be improved further? How will it help the game?
  • What needs to change?

Process improvement is all about improving your game with a thoughtful consideration to critical aspects of business.

You can do a lot of improvement in non-critical areas (and feel good about it). Just because you are improving something does not mean you are improving the right thing. The key to success of any improvement initiative is to pick the right areas. To get driven by operational nitty-gritty is one of the biggest mistakes most improvement managers commit. Process improvement can become an important business enabler provided all improvement initiatives are business oriented.

Do a quick reality check by answering following critical questions to gauge return-on-investment of process improvement initiative:

1) If a particular area of operations is improved, will it have a direct impact on customer’s satisfaction level or customer’s experience? (Focus: External Value)

2) Does the improvement in a particular area directly improve the productivity of team and enable them to execute faster? (Focus: Productivity)

3) Does improvement in a particular area directly have impact on revenues and business? (Focus: Revenue)

4) Does improvement in a particular area make it easier for people to generate qualitative outcomes and improved job satisfaction? (Focus: Internal Value)

How do you find out what “really” needs improvements? The answer is – by collaborating. You can never identify broader improvement areas by isolating yourself in a comfortable cabin. You have to actively collaborate with the following stakeholders:

1)      Customers : In a customer-centric process culture, feedback from customers are carefully assessed to identify customer’s expectations on what can be improved. Your customer can be your strongest ally in improvement journey. Seek feedback.

2)      Business Development Folks: They are the ones who have maximum face time with customers. These could be project managers, account managers or client relationship managers. They can give improvement areas that directly map with business.

3)     Middle managers and team: They are people on floor who get things done. They are best candidates to give suggestions on what can be improved operationally to deliver quality upfront and improve productivity.

The famous 80:20 rule applies to process improvement initiative as well. 80% of improvement happens by focusing on continuous identification of 20% improvement areas. It helps to adopt a clinical approach in identifying the 20% that really matters – yes, that much (20%) does make that much (80%) of a difference!

Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”

by Tanmay Vora on November 13, 2009

ProcessesWelcome to the fifth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first four posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes

#QUALITYtweet Look for and keep

excellent customers, for they will

drive your process excellence

A process-oriented customer will never prefer to work with a team that disregards processes. There is a natural alignment between process-oriented customers and process-oriented companies. When this alignment happens, your customer can be your strongest ally in process improvement journey.

I have seen a number of projects where customer introduces some very innovative and simple process elements that end up being a part of organization culture over a period of time. Somewhere, excellence of a customer does have a solid impact on quality culture of the organization. In this regards, an organization becomes as good as their customers are.

Companies typically begin their journey by serving small and then mid-sized enterprises. When they get to the next level, they aspire to get larger customers. Larger customers will invariably demand a certain level of process maturity. This aspiration to get larger customers can drive the process improvement journey of the organization, even if it is only from a sales perspective.

The key is to ensure that:

  • Processes help you gain larger/mature customers. (sales efficiency)
  • Processes also help you serve those customers the way they want. (operational efficiency)

When these two activities are consistently performed, processes attain a maturity and form the culture of an organization.

Core of a continuous process improvement culture is to seek constant customer feedback (formally and informally). The key objective of customer feedback is to identify processes that are effective (and consolidate them) and improve processes that are ineffective. In customer-driven organizations, customer feedback is taken very seriously.

Looking for and keeping excellent customers is a very sound strategy to drive your process excellence and create a strong differentiation in the marketplace.

How are you leveraging your customers to improve your processes?

Check your ego at the door!

by guest on August 12, 2009

check my ego at the doorWhen I look back over all the important lessons that I have learned during and related to my career, some of the most important came before my career even started.

First, some background:

I had the distinct advantage of being an engineering intern at a large aerospace firm while I was a sophomore in college. It allowed me a unique viewpoint in that I was surrounded by exciting technology and incredibly accomplished people (and I knew I couldn’t be laid off, which was a plus). I viewed this time as an opportunity to learn about careers in advance of starting my own. The world was bright and full of possibilities. I soaked up as much as I could about the profession, about corporate America, and about careers in general.

It was during this time that I experienced one of the most important lessons that I have ever learned – to check one’s ego at the door.

One afternoon I was asked to join an engineering review meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress and share ideas for improvement of the 8 major components that comprised the device we were making. Each component was represented by the lead engineer. In addition, there was a project manager and myself. The 10 of us entered a conference room at 2:00PM for a 2 hour meeting.

What ensued was a lesson that I still reference today.

The engineer of component #1 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated some of the challenges he was experiencing and how he planned to solve them. The other 7 engineering leads then suggested alternative solutions and constructive criticism (and the suggestions were quite good). Upon each suggestion, however, the lead engineer of component #1 immediately shook his head and responded that his solution was superior and that there was no need to consider alternatives. The other 7 engineers became agitated that their views were not being fully considered. But the engineer of component #1 concluded his presentation and sat down. Following his presentation, the lead engineer of component #2 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated the challenges that he was experiencing. Again, the other 7 engineering leads gave suggestions and alternative solutions, but they were similarly dismissed by the lead engineer of component #2. Again, the other 7 engineering leads became agitated that their solutions were not being considered. The lead engineers of remaining 6 components, in turn, gave their presentations, listened to the suggestions and criticisms, and dismissed them. And in each case, the 7 other engineers were agitated that their views were not being considered.

In all, the “2 hour” meeting took 6 hours to complete, primarily due to the length of time that each engineer took to refute the proposed suggestions. In each case, the lead engineer expended immense effort to prove that his ideas were superior to all the others. And in each case, the other 7 engineers expended immense effort to prove that their alternative solutions were worth merit. But in each case, the engineers were willing to provide criticism but not receive it… or one could also assess that each engineer was capable of talking, but none was capable of listening!

As an intern, I found myself amused and chuckling quietly to myself. If this had been a graded exercise for one of my engineering laboratory classes, we all would have failed because while we would have succeeded in communicating ideas, we would have failed in sharing and accepting ideas for improvement. What I didn’t immediately understand was that if I, a sophomore in college, could perceive the problem, why couldn’t the lead engineers? What was the specific problem that was preventing them from learning from one another?

What was the source of the problem?

And then it struck me!

It was not about the problem or the best solution anymore… it had become all about the egos! Each engineer had committed the same mistake of allowing their ego to interfere with the exploration of a better solution. Their egos were preventing the learning process from occurring.

It became clear to me, at that point, that the key to a successful meeting (and career) is checking your ego at the door so that your mind is open to other possibilities. Leave your ego outside the conference room (or office building).

I am so glad that I learned that lesson during that day. At each stage of my career following that meeting, I have allowed for the possibility that – “for every solution I have conceived, there may be a better one.”

The biggest takeaway for me:

I have recalled this lesson time and again and it has helped me to NOT avoid criticism. In fact, I have learned to seek criticism and feedback, whether it be good or bad, at all times. For if I reach the point where I think my solutions are the best to the exclusion of all other possibilities, then I have reached the point where I can no longer learn. And if I cannot learn, then I cannot progress as a person.

mike markey outside cropped Michael Markey has 16 years of engineering and software experience in various areas including aerospace, military, and commercial sectors. He currently leads a team of consultants that specialize in access control and commercialization of online content.