“Sometimes the best offense is a good defense,” certainly applies to a company’s reputation. A business’s reputation is vital to its success. Every company wants to be known for producing stellar work consistently. When mistakes occur and quality slips, it is important to catch the error early and take the appropriate and necessary steps to minimize, if not eliminate the consequences.
One important defensive tactic is to build and continually adjust a best-in-class quality assurance plan. Such a program is a company’s best effort to avoid drops in service while providing data to avoid repeated mistakes.
Below is the step-by-step process we followed toward building and implementing our quality assurance program:
1. Recognize there is a problem and consult with your clients. Maybe it’s a construction issue that’s repeated on multiple projects, or repeated communication breakdowns. Whatever the issue, it’s important to understand the underlying concerns. Review similar projects and invite client feedback to learn about external experiences with your projects, addressing any concerns.
2. Meet with your insurance company to build a quality assurance plan or to improve the one in place. Zurich was instrumental throughout the process of establishing and implementing our plan, offering a self-assessment tool that helped us focus on our weakest areas and track progress.
3. Establish a quality assurance team within your company and clearly define a manager. Identify the best person to assume the oversight of this important work and provide authority to make the changes stick. This person’s ability to effectively oversee the entire firm’s operations is a crucial factor. The team should meet regularly to keep the group motivated and on track.
4. Identify and prioritize initiatives for various phases of your company. It’s important that the initiatives address current deficiencies. Creating a timeline to complete each initiative and the on-going periodic review provides a structured program. Initiatives can be structural or more task-oriented in nature.
5. Create a tracking tool to log deficiencies related to ongoing projects. Consider including the IT department during this stage in order to digitize the measurement system. Our IT team created a web-based tool to track deficiencies of the six projects selected to test the tool. We then converted it into a tablet application.
6. Roll out the quality assurance program. Rolling out the program in stages allows leaders to better manage each aspect of the program and to ensure that adequate training was provided before the rollout. Establish performance metrics to measure the progress of the quality assurance program and assess your projects or performance regularly.
7. Consciously utilize the quality assurance program and its data. Continue to test and adjust the program to ensure it’s constantly improving and meeting clients’ expectations. If its best-in-class status slips, take the steps necessary to adjust your quality assurance program. The job requires consistent attention and nurturing.
One crucial aspect to the success of a quality assurance plan is establishing commitment from all employees. To truly find success, a company must embody its mission and commit to the implementation and results stemming from its quality assurance plan.
While the process might seem daunting at first, it will serve as an essential tool for your business going forward.
Randy Myers is President of The Neenan Company.