Quality in the Service Industry Is Job One – Your Service Must Be Quality

I have long been conflicted about what exactly quality means. Is quality in the eye of the beholder? Is quality impossible to achieve if you manufacture or sell cheap/inexpensive products or services? Is China or Mexico or Taiwan or Russia universally synonymous with poor quality? What does it mean to say, “You get what you pay for”? Is there a market segment where poor quality works? Is a quality product or service more expensive? Is a JD Powers ranking becoming another certification for quality?

Quality is becoming a almost a common theme. It has even become self proclaimed and anointed. Go to most any website or peruse literature and you will note most copy proclaims something to do with quality. Most people are in awe when they see a company producing product under an ISO Certification, but do they know what ISO Certification really means to them? In addition to ISO you find quality certifications for most industries/economic sectors. There is Six Sigma, CRM, TQM, Deming and even variations within these programs.

Frankly, it all boils down to a simple fact: Did the customer get what was expected for the time or money expended; was the client satisfied with the exchange-their time and money for the service or product? Further, satisfaction can also be achieved through quality programs, it’s called Customer Service.

Over the years I have been party to major ISO certification efforts and attended Deming Seminars on achieving quality. In the 1980’s the Navy got involved in quality improvement. The theory was, everybody outside of your department that came to you looking for help had to be looked upon as your ‘customer’. Further, periodically your customers were ask to rate your delivery of services. But, the simple fact remains: Did you give the client/customer at least what was expected relative to value in a product or service? Quality issues are still talked about today, just not as much in your face. Look at the slogans-Job 1, quality goes in before the name goes on, 98.6% customer satisfaction rating. Then look at the success of iPhone built in China. I would compare that quality with any product in the rest of the world relative to quality.

Before we move on let me ask another question, “does the purchase of product or services from the internet limit the consumer’s ability to buy and receive quality?” Let me illustrate with a recent experience. I recently bought a car charger for my cell phone from an on-line seller. The picture of the product looked great, seller advertised it as being quality and all the customer ratings were great. Guess what? It was an absolute disaster relative to the product experience. The quality was poor and it did not work. Sure, I could get a refund but the hassle of filling out forms, time zone issues, no phone contact, etc.; that total experience was just not good!

The father of quality innovation is Dr. Edwards Deming. Dr. Deming is known for his work in Japan following WW II. He was known to General MacArthur and was brought to Japan to help revive Japanese industry. Japan did in fact turn out some very quality war products with exceptional engineering such as the Japanese Zero aircraft. But after WW II the future was in consumer products. Therein was the problem for the Japanese…cheap and volume was their mantra.

He was a statistician by training and that experience was the foundation upon which all industrial quality programs were based. I submit that the philosophy of production quality also applies to the service sector. Dr. Deming’s task was to set a course for Japanese industry to move from cheap and shoddy, to innovative and quality products. It took time before quality was recognized in the Japanese automobile, aviation and consumer electronics. Are names like Toshiba, Sony, Mitsubishi, Honda, Nissan, and Lexus, just to name a few, familiar to you as quality today? I can remember when Datsun (today’s Nissan) was laughed at as a rust bucket automobile.

My point is: Quality matters to the majority, but there is still room for the cheap products. I read a report several years ago that stated that buying cheap products and replacing them with new cheap products was a cycle that was extremely expensive. But obviously, sometimes quality is out of the reach of some people or for even a specific application. For example, I do not need to buy Snap-On tools. A socket set I buy at Wal-Mart is perfect for my applications at about 1/10th the costs.

But let’s ask a simple question: Is quality that much more expensive to produce and deliver? I submit the short answer is- No! This short answer is based on some assumptions in the areas of: volume, product life cycles, designed use, government regulations, automation, and distribution. Even Six Sigma has proven quality improvements in the service sector can save costs. Simply retaining clients because of good service is 5 times cheaper than replacing dissatisfied clients.

I am in the service sector and I want to illustrate why potential clients should look for vendors and service providers that deliver quality. I believe we will discover that it benefits everyone.

If you are committed to having and maintaining a reputation for quality of service, you should strive to work with clients who want, understand and appreciate quality. Conversely, if you are a client demanding quality look to providers that have processes in place that will deliver on your quality goals. It is a fact that in a ‘high touch’ industry the quality of service is expensive to deliver. Therefore, knowing what the client expects will dictate the level of quality all parties agree upon.

My definition of Quality, in the service arena, is delivering services that satisfy the client’s expectations. Part of the satisfaction equation is managing expectations and that means not over committing and/or under delivering. Do not compromise an ability to deliver quality bu lowering the price for the sake of getting a client.

To ensure you are constantly improving on your quality commitment:

  • Always strive to improve processes and communication throughout.
  • Match the right vendors and employees with the delivery of service.
  • Partner with vendors who have the same quality motives.
  • Document informal agreements and discussions where practical.
  • Take actions to support quality, it speaks volumes.
  • Seek out clients who appreciate and demand quality because those are the relationships that build your reputation.
  • Pleasantly surprise clients in anticipating conflicts and quickly address issues.
  • Use checklists for a project; never rely on memory
  • Debrief with all vendors and the client. This will ensure that the client can air concerns and it gives you the chance to resolve problems. After all, satisfying the client is the goal.

In the service arena 96% of unhappy clients/customers do not complain to the provider of the service. But, they are 3 times more likely to give a poor recommendation versus those clients that did complain.

Whether it is a vendor or client, be inordinately fair and respectful throughout the process. I work with a vendor that refuses to address anyone by their first name or nickname. Familiarity deprecates the client’s perception of professionalism.

This sector is more ‘touchy feely’ and by definition is very labor/time intensive. It requires a high level of personal interactions. To be successful it must be based on personal reputation, trust/relationships, and an unspoken contract of-“I will trust you to do what you say you will.” There are many stories in business about people who did deals on handshakes alone. Today however, we need contracts to provide continuity as people move from job to job and position to position. Wouldn’t be nice for people to say about your service company; I got more than I expected and contracted to receive.

There are some similarities between the product (manufacturing/goods) sector and service sector. For example, there is a perceived value of quality relative to the specific price of goods or services, and both have an element of customer service value that adds to the quality experience. Availability is a critical element to the perception of quality in separating a premier provider versus also ran.

In essence, if you are a client look for providers who present well organized plans and suggestions, listen well to your stated and even unspoken requirements, offer ‘wow factor’ alternatives, have a reputation of excellent delivery and a group that you can easily relate with.

Getting Started in the Computer Service Industry

When pursuing a career in computer services, you will find many different jobs to consider that place you with constant customer contact or behind-the-scenes managing the daily operations of a particular department. Today, computer repair services are also in high demand when it comes to computer service careers. With varying levels of education and experience, a person interested in computers can easily locate employment within the United States and Canada.

Common Computer Service Career and Jobs

For starters, a Computer Operations Manager is responsible for planning, directing, and managing the day-to-day business of a computer department. They are in charge of creating department policies and procedures. Usually, an associates degree in a related field and at least 8 years of experience are required for this position. Reporting to a senior manager is often expected. The typical salary for this job is seen between $65,880 and $96,211.

As a Computer Aided Design Drafter, one learns how to master the transformation of the beginning stages of a rough product design by using computer-aided design (CAD) to produce helpful documents. Some companies demand an associates degree in a related area and 0-2 years of experience to land a position as a CAD Drafter. While working under immediate supervision, a drafter typically reports to a supervisor or manager. The average annual salary for a Senior CAD Drafter is between $38,831 and $50,323.

With an average base salary of $36,062 to $44,738, a Level I Computer Technician will maintain, analyze, troubleshoot, and repair computer systems and other components. This type of job often requires an associates degree or its equivalent with 0-3 years of experience within the field. Sometimes, this job title is also referred to as a PC Maintenance Technician I.

There are also many positions available on the college or university level as professors apply for computer science jobs in the fields of computers and information sciences. Instructors often prepare and give lectures to filled classrooms, which then break into discussion regarding the material. Hands-on computer exercises and laboratories are led by professors to help students grasp the material. A professor must possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in area of specialty, accompanied by 2-4 years of experience in the field of computers. An instructor in computer science usually receives an average annual salary between $36,811 and $68,932. Depending on the college or university, this figure may vary.

With all of the viruses, spyware, and malfunctions threatening computers, becoming a computer repairer can reap a decent salary. Many computer repairers also go on to own their own businesses, where they mend and maintain PCs and laptops, as well as audio and visual equipment. A high school diploma and 2-4 years of experience is needed to perform the duties of this job position. Usually, the completion of an apprenticeship and/or formal training is required. A Computer Equipment Repairer typically makes between $41,582 and $52,769.

Working in Computer Services: United States & Canada

When becoming a part of the Hewlett Packard family, employees receive a competitive base pay, as well as enter a satisfying performance-related pay program called Total Rewards. It is through this program that employees are offered the chance to share in the success of HP, which comes as a direct result of worker performance. Comprehensive benefits are offered through health plans, retirement and savings packages, as well as income protection. Stock ownership is given to HP employees through the Share Ownership Plan.

Microsoft is a well-known computer services company that has earned awards and rankings as one of the top 100 companies to work for, as well as earned high honors in the training department. A Software Developer at Microsoft earns an average annual salary of $118,500. They are also one of few companies that pay 100% of their employees’ health-care premiums.

As an employee at Intel, workers enjoy the Employee Cash Bonus Plan that offers a profit-sharing plan with cash rewards given to employees that takes place twice per year. These figures are based upon a percentage of net income or pretax margin (whichever number is greater). A wide-range of comprehensive medical plans is available to employees, providing cost-effective and flexible choices. Dental benefits come in the form of two different dental plans.

Best Buy is known for selling consumer electronics and other products dedicated to computer software, cell phones, and cameras. Computer-related majors may find a home as part of the “Geek Squad,” which is responsible for helping others with their computer problems. Common duties include performing system checkups and maintenance; hardware and software installation; crashed hard drive repair; virus and spyware removal; and setting up digital devices. Additional companies to seek decent employment in computer services include Dell and IBM.

E-Commerce Website Development and the Indian Service Industry

The internet as a medium has become a powerful voice in the global village and satisfies the aspirations of millions of lay individuals. Brand awareness among consumers is constantly increasing and it is important that companies connect with customers via various media to stay relevant and market their products. E-commerce has emerged as the key to business engagement and survival in a globalised world where boundaries are being re-drawn and the end user is magnified. Individual empowerment and a proportional increase in disposable income and has resulted in an e-commerce explosion. A purchaser in any part of the globe with the right purchasing capacity can command any product of his or her liking at will thanks to the internet.

E-commerce solutions are extremely advantageous for companies since a physical brick and mortar is avoided. Employee salaries, rent, electricity and other overheads are minimal thus translating into better deals for the end customer. All payment transactions are immediate and virtual offering best terms for a business in terms of cash flow and security. For consumers, the advantages are that they can get any product they desire at will irrespective of seasonal availability for a reasonable price. Travel time is eliminated and comparison shopping gets them the best deals with a few mouse clicks.

Web design and development plays a key role in determining the fate of a business in the online world since the first step in retail e-commerce is the development of a catchy website. It should have an aesthetic look and feel, easy navigational features and proper security. Further, all the products must be showcased effectively. Payment gateways must be secured against malicious attacks and servers programmed to accept heavy traffic. The aim is to master the art of delivering perfect solutions that leave a pertinent and positive impact on end users without compromising on security. A right mix of creativity, technology and strong business acumen goes into the development of successful e-commerce solutions and websites. It is thus a highly skilled and knowledge intensive process that slowly transforms rustic thoughts into world class solutions.

The Indian service industry has grown from strength to strength over the years and has built a solid reputation based on efficiency, timely delivery and cost effectiveness. It encompasses a broad gamut of operations right from software development to back office processes. Many Indian companies have specialised is in the development of e-commerce websites and solutions. They cater to clients from all corners of the globe and have developed cutting edge solutions with their mastery of various programming languages. It is thus no wonder that the services sector has clocked rapid growth over the last few years. The secret of their success has been their ability to adapt and quickly master rapidly evolving technology that is continuously changing n a daily basis.

E-Commerce is a powerful tool that can engineer an instant change to the entire business structure, merchandising, pricing, marketing, and sales process in an organisation and the Indian service industry is playing a pivotal role in ushering this transformation.

Is the Training Services Industry on the Rise?

During the recent economic downturn one of the first industry sectors to suffer was the training services industry.

With many organisations making redundancies, staff laid-off and companies looking to make cost savings, many chose to reduce spending on the provision of both in-house and external training. In many cases training staff numbers were cut and the services of external providers reduced or eliminated. Add this to the cutbacks in the Public Sector and training companies, agencies and training providers in general have been hit badly by the recession.

Why then are many training providers now reporting an upturn in their business with many reporting significant increases in business turnover? The smaller independent networks in particular appear to be benefitting from this upturn, as organisations having reduced their in-house expertise during the recession are now looking to outside experts – in areas such sales training and bespoke management training – to fill their skills gap. Many of these smaller companies have seen a doubling in both inquires & bookings and a leading training company recently reported that last year was their best on record.

On theory for this apparent growth in the training services sector is that companies want their remaining employees to have the necessary skills to help them climb out of recession and take advantage of any economic upturn as it happens. Management training in particular is seen as an area for growth with companies wanting to ensure their mangers get the best from their staff and assist in staff development.

Organisations emerging from recession will also be keen to ensure that all front-line, ‘customer-facing staff’ are ‘skilled-up’ and ready to drive the business forward via enhanced sales and customer service skills. Sales training and sales management training will be key to helping businesses drive revenue growth from both their existing customer base and new customers.

Management training and sales training courses can also help businesses to retain key staff as, not only does training enhance employee skills, but it is also often highly motivational for those attending, with individuals perceiving the training as the organisation investing in them.

Providers of bespoke solutions, where external specialists both design and deliver training to meet a business’s specific requirements, are the most likely to benefit from this upturn. Company Training Managers will want to ensure value for money and that they get the most from what are still, in the main, limited training budgets; i.e. if they are to bring in outside expertise in skills-based management, negotiation, telesales, and sales training etc. they will need to ensure that the specific needs of both the organisation and the individuals attending the courses are met.