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Finding Quality

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Demonstrating quality of work is task most frequently associated with performance reviews and the actions of an individual employee or team with in the organization. Yet for those of us selling services, the quality of the service we provide is the “cornerstone” measurement of our potential customer’s purchasing decision. By that we mean our potential customers will first seek out service providers that offer the highest quality service and use that as the foundation on which they will then consider other factors such as price and turnaround times.

This raises a couple pertinent questions; how can you demonstrate the quality of service you provide prior to providing the service and what attributes are the strongest indicators of a quality service? While each question has more than one correct answer, we’ve outline below several of the attributes that we feel indicate that a potential partner provides a quality service.

Defined Quality Control Procedures

Quality Control, as the name implies, is intended to assure that the product or service provided meets a certain level of quality. It is a commonly used phrase that many companies use as a marketing tool. Those of us of a certain age will remember the “Hanes Inspector #12” commercials from the 1980s. However, it is a phase that is subject to degrees and altering definitions. As evidenced by the more recent example of Takata Corporation’s air bag quality control practices being tragically below what their car manufacturing customers expected.

When it comes to quality control, we look for two items. First is a highly defined, written Quality Control plan. When quality control procedures are in writing, we know exactly what procedures are being followed and can more easily measure and compare how potential partners assure quality. Second, is that quality control occurs throughout the process and not just when the process is complete. Addressing quality issues mid-process will reduce processing time and improve the quality of the service provided. By way of example, at String we employ a four-step quality control process that starts once an order is received and assures that each file is reviewed multiple times before the completed file is returned to the customer.

Ongoing Internal Investments

There is a saying that quality does not come cheap but it is well worth it. Like many sayings it has a double meaning. The more frequent used is that purchasing higher quality services cost more than a lower quality offering. But it also addresses the fact that it is not cheap to provide quality services. Those service providers that continually invest in their operations, specifically in the areas below, are more likely to offer high quality services

Investment in Innovation & Process Improvements

Innovation and process improvements breed efficiencies which result in a higher quality offering. How innovation and process improvements are fostered within an organization can have a variety of different looks. At String, it takes the form of a 360-degree Process Improvement program that includes Time and Motion Studies, Workflow Analysis to identify value added processes, Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, Resource Assessments and Pattern & Volume Studies. This level of analysis, while not cheap, does help us optimize processes, staffing and technology to provide the highest quality service to our customers.

Investments in Training & Retention of Staff

The quality of the service provider’s staff directly correlates to the quality of the service provided. High staff turnover saps experience and all too often results in a lower quality service. Service providers that can keep employees over the long-term benefit from the higher level of experience and, thus, can provide a higher quality service.

Hand in hand with employee retention is employee training. Service providers that regularly invest in staff training are more likely to retain staff over the long term and realize the benefits mentioned in the paragraph above. We at String are strong believers in the value of a highly trained staff. In addition to workflow training, String has three certified black belts and 12 green belts in support of our commitment to process improvement.

Reviews

Customer reviews are a great indicator of the quality of the service that a company provides. With the advent of social media and the anonymous nature of posting on such, reviews and comments have exploded in recent years and are no longer difficult to find. Analyzing these reviews and comments can give you a feel as to whether a potential partner provides a quality service. Granted, the ease of posting reviews and comments has led to fake comments, paid-for comments and companies self-commenting, however we are not preforming statistical analysis with the findings. Instead, we are looking for an overall direction, whether positive or negative, of the reviews and comments to give an indication of the quality of the service provided.

Referrals

There is nothing like gaining new business through referrals. It is a direct reflection on an existing customer’s view of the service you provide and their wiliness to risk their reputation to refer you to a colleague. Since people generally do not refer a company unless they find value and quality in the service provided, referrals are an excellent indicator of a quality service.

When looking for a service provider, most of us wisely seek out referrals from colleagues. Unlike customer reviews where we are looking for general trends, when it comes to referrals more is always better.

Stands Behind Their Work

While you don’t see them as much anymore, “No Return, No Refund” and “All Sales Are Final” policies were a sure sign that what you were buying was a low-quality product. So low that once the seller lured you in and took your money, you were stuck with the product no matter what happened.

When it comes to service providers “returns” are not a viable option, but a provider of a quality service will find ways to stand behind their work product. Often these take the form of guarantees – satisfaction guarantees, service guarantees, money-back guarantees – and convey the service provider’s confidence of the quality of their service and willingness to mitigate the customer’s risk in retaining their service. Here again, when a service provider stands behind their service with a guarantee or the like it is a good indication of a quality service.

While we have discussed these attributes as indicators to look for when seeking quality, they can also be used, as we do here at String, to help demonstrate quality to potential customers.

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