Customer Focus and Quality Organization


Customer Focus and Quality Organization

Quality organizations are those which recognize the importance of the customers. In these organizations quality normally begins and ends with customers. In these organizations all employees are one another’s customers and suppliers, who are linked in a chain that extend from within the organization to the external supplier and the external customer (Fig 1).

customer focus

Fig 1 Customer Supplier chain

In an organization only a small percentage of employees are in direct contact with the external suppliers and external customers. However all the employees depend on the other employees to do their jobs. Hence every employee is a supplier to the employee who depends on him for the input and is a customer to the employee who supplies him with his output. In this way all the employees depend on other employees for the products or services they need to do their jobs. This simple customer supplier chain structure support various work processes in the organization and represents natural flow of work across functions and between employees within the organization. In fact, work of an employee can be seen as a process in which as a customer he receives inputs (e.g. machine parts, data etc.) from his supplier employee, add value (e.g. assembly, data processing etc.) to the inputs and then pass output (e.g. assembled part, processed data etc.) to his customer employee. Hence the prime concern of each employee should be the meeting of the requirements of his immediate customer.

Alignment

There should not be any conflict of interest between company’s interest and the customer’s interest. The alignment between the internal customer and the internal supplier is the matching of the capabilities of the supplier with the needs of the customer. In a quality organization, customers and suppliers work together as collabolators instead of adversaries to achieve the alignment. This collaboration also helps in promoting the overall goals of the organization. When the alignment is achieved then customer satisfaction becomes a shared goal of both the supplier and the customer. To help in the achievement of the alignment an internal customer must make his needs known to the supplier. The goal of this alignment is to support the mission of the overall organization. Conceptually, alignment has three variables:

  1. Customer needs
  2. Supplier capabilities
  3. Organizational goals consisting of its vision, mission, values and strategies.

Alignment of these three variables is known as three way alignment which means matching of the supplier capabilities with customer needs to reach the goals of the organization. There can be four type of alignments as given below.

  1. Ideal alignment – In this type of alignment the supplier capability, customer needs and organizational goals are fully aligned. A quality organization will have such type of alignment.
  2. Two-way alignment – In this two way alignment there is misalignment with the organizational goal. The internal supplier meets the customer needs in a way that does not support the goals of the organization. In a quality organization, the alignment process is monitored carefully amongst the employees to avert the situations in which customer-supplier alignment does not promote the organization goals.
  3. Alignment with performance gap – Sometimes, supplier capabilities lag behind customer requirements. That is, while the customer’s needs are in line with the organizational goals, the supplier lacks the capabilities to meet them. This results in a performance gap. This situation requires rework to prevent customer dissatisfaction. In such situation, the supplier is to improve its capabilities for meeting the customers need. The customer is also to provide a clear and complete feed back to help the supplier close this gap.
  4. Alignment with opportunity gap – A gap can also occur when supplier capabilities exceed customer requirements. If an internal supplier is giving more than what his customer needs then there is a waste of effort from his side. This needs to an opportunity gap. This will show that additional investment is needed at customer end to utilize additional capabilities available at the supplier side.

These four types of alignments are shown in fig 2.

Three way alignment

Fig 2 Types of alignment

For a proper alignment of supplier capability with customer needs that meets the organizational goal, it is necessary that a customer supplier partnership is developed. The supplier and customer should meet to discuss the product/service, working relationship, integrity, delivery and the cost. An internal supplier should have complete clarity of his customer’s needs and expectation. It is not possible to have alignment with the organization goal without a proper understanding between the customer and the supplier.

In order to ensure that the internal customer requirements are objectively being constantly met by his internal supplier, it is necessary to carry out various measurements with respect to process, output or product and product performance at the customer end. Process measures help taking the corrective measures in time before it goes out of control for output to meet the customer needs. Further even if the customer requirements are being met presently by the internal supplier it is still important to stay in touch with the product performance at the customer end since customer requirement may change with time. Impartial and unbiased measurements leads to a an ideal alignment situation in the organization.