What is Continuous Improvement?

Improving customer service

Continuous improvement means to consistently strive to improve your products or service according to the highest standards. It is a process which, in the long term, achieves:

  • Customer focus

  • Enhanced quality of service delivery

  • Simplified processes and procedures

  • Attitudinal change

  • Recognition of customers, both internal and external

Continuous improvement is now a necessity. As companies compete for survival and for market dominance,they must consider:

  • Ever higher productivity

  • That customer loyalty is decreasing; customers now look for what product or service best meets their needs, not who is offering it

  • Product life cycles are decreasing

  • Aiming for zero defects

  • The effect of technology on business and customers

  • That those who cannot maintain improvement are falling behind

Through the continuous assessment and enhancement of products, processes, procedures and attitudes, an environment can be developed where all team members strive for greater levels of quality and customer service.

 

Quality:

'Quality' is normally defined in terms of what the customer needs or expects. This includes:

  • Timeliness: how long a customer must wait for service, and if it is completed on time; and whether a product is available when it is required

  • Completeness: providing everything the customer asked for or expected.

  • Courtesy: behaviour of the service-provider toward customers

  • Consistency: expectation that the service will be provided the same way each time

  • Accessibility and convenience: ease of obtaining the service

  • Accuracy: correctness of the service performed or information provided (particularly important for professional services, like accounting, physician, and lawyer services)

  • Responsiveness: reaction of service-provider to unusual or unexpected customer requests

  • Cost associated with the product or service and whether it is perceived 'value for money'

Because customers expect high quality at all times, the cost of poor quality goods or services can be far greater than the cost of 'doing it right the first time'.

There are different approaches to quality:

Quality Control

Standards are set which determine the acceptable quality of the product or service:

  • Products and services are measured against the standard

  • Non-conforming products and services are scrapped, reworked or changed until the standards are met

Quality Assurance

Quality controls and methods are fully documented to ensure that products and services:

  • Are fit for their designated purpose

  • Will meet the customers needs and expectations every time

Total Quality Management

Commitment to excellence by all levels of the organisation:

  • Incorporates all aspects of control and assurance measures

  • Continuous improvement is the cornerstone of the business

  • There is no endpoint to continuous improvement




activity

Try This

Complete this Service Quality Quiz which helps to define criteria of service quality.

Then:

Enter your Breakout Room and access the discussion group titled Continuous Improvement.

Discuss examples of work or products that you consider to be 'high quality'. Why do you consider them to be high quality?

What attributes make a product or service high quality?

What are the benefits to the customer and the company when a product or service is high quality?