By Whitney Robare, Guest Contributor
Have you ever felt ignored as a customer? Have you ever felt like quality wasn’t the company’s main objective? Are you tired of spending your hard-earned money on products which don’t cut the mustard?
It’s safe to say everyone has felt this way a time or two.
Organizations must always place an emphasis on the customer. It’s the customer who will be the primary component of success. When customer importance is a top priority in all stages, from design to delivery, customer satisfaction and repeat business is sure to follow.
For those seeking answers, there is great news to report.
A robust best practice which concentrates on customer satisfaction from design to delivery is available for all. It’s called Quality Function Deployment (QFD).
A structured approach and set of tools used to define customer requirements and convert them into detailed specifications and plans to produce the products and services which fulfill those requirements. – One definition of Quality Function Deployment
Quality Function Deployment was developed by Japanese Professors Akao and Mizuno. It was developed during a time when statistical quality control became a major factor in Japanese manufacturing. During this time, experts in Japan had developed Total Quality Management (TQM) and other quality control mechanisms.
QFD may sound new, but it has been around for over 50 years.
Developed by Akao and Mizuno in the late 60s, it was adopted in the US and Europe in the late 80s. The US and Europe began utilizing QFD in response to the popularity of Japanese vehicles in the late 70s. In order to compete, companies in the US joined the quality craze and mimicked the Japanese routines in the hopes of reclaiming their rapidly declining market shares.
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” – Aristotle
The purpose of QFD is to bridge the gap between product design and customer satisfaction. QFD begins before product design. Other popular quality methods, of the time, only dealt with quality issues after production had begun.
QFD places the focus on customer satisfaction before, during, and after product development. In order to stand out, organizations translate customer needs and expectations into actionable tasks and requirements.
Placing the customer first and constantly circling back to a customer focus during the design phase is the cornerstone of QFD. This ensures all requirements take the customer into account.
Beyond higher customer satisfaction, there are many additional benefits of QFD. These include higher levels of innovation and rewarding product design jobs.
“There is only one boss. The customer can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton
QFD Pillar 1
Just as our definition suggests, the process begins with defining customer requirements. This first pillar is called voice of the customer.
Typically, these customer requirements are captured through surveys, interviews, focus groups, benchmarking, direct observation, and other methods. A relatively new and powerful technique is using social media to collect ideas from raving fans and other stakeholders.
The goal of the voice of the customer is getting the stated and unstated customer needs. This idea of getting unstated needs is one of the factors which has made QFD a best practice.
Henry Ford is alleged to have said that if he asked his customers what they wanted – they would have wanted a faster horse.
“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” – Peter Drucker
QFD Pillar 2
The next step is to convert the voice of the customer into detailed specifications and plans. This second pillar leverages a concept called house of quality.
While this concept uses a complex looking matrix, the goal is the simple need to translate the “what” or needs into the “how” or specifications.
Converting the stated and unstated needs into specifications and plans involves fours stages:
- Product Planning: translate customer needs into design requirements
- Product Design: translate design requirements into product characteristics
- Process Design: translate product characteristics into process parameters
- Process Control: translate process parameters into process quality control standards
As each stage is completed, the rooms in the house of quality are filled with furniture, appliances, pictures, and everything required to make a house a home!
The complex matrix helps simplify the large amount of information required to ensure product design will close the gap and deliver a high level of customer satisfaction.
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.” – John Ruskin
QFD is a great way to make sure you’re keeping your customer in mind. Too many organizations forget the customer is the core piece of their success.
By leveraging voice of the customer and the house of quality, QFD is a great way to deliver quality, value, innovation, and other components of customer satisfaction.
Defining customer needs and translating them into specific products will ensure you are bringing products to market which customers want to buy.
About Whitney Robare
Whitney is a military wife, mother of two, and an MBA student at Louisiana State University Shreveport. She is a travel lover, a planner of all things, and a fitness enthusiast. Her days are controlled chaos which involve coordinating her family’s busy schedules, trotting the globe on grand adventures, and studying for exams.
Whitney also works in Airport Operations Management and has done so, off and on, for the past 10 years. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Aviation Management from Hampton University and has served on their Aviation Advisory Board.
“Quality means doing it right, when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford
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What is Quality Function Deployment? from the American Society for Quality (ASQ)
Quality Function Deployment from ScienceDirect