10 Things to Help the Quality Team Improve Customer Complaints

Customer complaints are a part of doing business.  That information you receive from people who spend money with your organization are giving you invaluable feedback.  They care enough to say something.  Just keep in mind the customers who do not say anything and take their business elsewhere.  They are important, too.

How can you take a team approach to reducingthose quality complaints?.  When I say team, I am not suggesting that only the quality department is to be involved.  I am promoting that quality is an organizational initiative, not just a department one.  Everyone from all facets of the organization (executive management, sales, operations, purchasing, etc.) should be onboard with the goals of making the best product or service available, thereby reducing customer complaints.

I have heard it said that one way to reduce customer complaints is to reduce the number of customers.  That is not a solution I would recommend, as no doubt those companies do not last long.  However, below are some things a quality team should implement to improve customer complaints by increasing customer satisfaction.

  1. Make it right the first time.  This cannot be stated enough.  If organizations spent the money they waste on rework, recalls, and so forth on the front end using statistical process control, they would save money throughout the entire manufacturing process.
  2. If you can’t make it right the first time, catch it before it gets to the customer. Prevent it from leaving the building if at all possible; if not, intercept it where you can prior to the customer.  Once implemented by the customer, they can incur more costs and reputation damage from using your products.  That is not a good thing.
  3. Do not let your suppliers dictate your quality.  Set a standard that both you and your suppliers agree on, and hold them to it.  Often times I visit customer sites that have implemented raw material specifications for their suppliers and they do not audit them.  I would much rather find a supplier who is willing to work together than lose a valuable customer.
  4. Team Concept.  Everyone is going to play a part – from the person ordering supplies, to the people working on the equipment, to the person stacking product in the warehouse.  All eyes have to be on identifying ways to build quality into what they do.  One person can derail the efforts of many.
  5. Educate your customers about your products.  Don’t just sell the product, inform the customer on how to use it.  Customers complain at times because of something they did.  It can come down to they just did not know what to do or how to do it.  If it is a common issue, update product literature or instructions to cover the preventative measure.
  6. Communicate between sites.  Share the knowledge across the organization.  If there is a problem, let other sites know because they might have it too.  Do not let the customer identify it for you.
  7. Listen to the customer if there is a complaint.  Listen – do not take it personally. They are providing valuable and useful information.  Respond accordingly and professionally.
  8. Do not send a replacement product without checking it first.  The worst thing you can do is send the customer replacement product from the same batch, lot, etc. without inspecting it first.  If you send the customer some more of the same, they will go somewhere else.
  9. Track the complaints.  Collect the data around the complaints and run pareto analysis on them.  Identify frequency and duration of the issues.  Attack the big hitters and also the little nagging ones that keep popping up over and over.  They might be small in cost, but they are repetitive and the customer is getting tired of them.
  10. Think about quality from a customer’s perspective.  Try to anticipate the customer’s needs.  If you were to identify a common element in the success of “World Class” companies, often times you will find those organizations have a customer driven focus.

Consistently making quality products (and services) is not easy; otherwise everyone would have a sterling reputation. Successful companies constantly strive for perfection knowing it’s not an attainable goal, but understanding that customers expect nothing less. Cultivating a quality mindset in your organization will go a long way towards the success that will benefit your customers and your company.

Britt Reid
By Britt Reid
Application Engineer
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