Kenya: When Total Quality Strategy Pays

opinion

Sometimes back accessing funds in your own bank account was lengthy and tedious.

These days it takes a short time to withdraw money even if it is domiciled elsewhere, thanks to technology and business process re-engineering. Bankers' cheques are purchased from cashiers almost instantly, unlike before when one had to wait for long due to refer backs.

For one to get a bank loan or an overdraft, one had to undergo thorough vetting by senior bank officials. These days, for those in formal employment, there are loans sales persons who entice them at the convenience of their work environments, or even along streets, to secure loans.

In a competitive business environment, commercial organisations strive to outdo each other in terms of market share retention and expansion. In order to achieve this, the organisations should re-examine their service delivery strategies in addition to motivating their work force as a key driver to growth.

Customers derive satisfaction from quality service.

Satisfied customers enable a business to survive and remain competitive. Organisations that strive to be competitive regularly review their service levels on the basis of quality.

An organisation's service delivery systems may have some flaws that lead to customer dissatisfaction, consequently prompting them to secure services elsewhere. Total quality service enables an organisation to successfully respond to customer demand for improved service.

Total quality service as a strategy of improving processes, products and services involves continuous upgrading of quality, reliability and performance, by addressing all aspects of service quality that give the customer utmost satisfaction. This is achieved through re-evaluation of existing service delivery systems.

Service delivery to the customer should be fair and free from practices such as soliciting for bribes and promoting vested interest. Employees providing service should empathise with customers and pay attention. Empathy allows the employee to internalise the customer's predicament, leading to fair and honest service delivery.

Timely and accurate service delivery ensures reliability and customers develop some degree of dependability of the service.

Customers tend to trust some employees to perform, whenever they require service from an organisation. They feel assured of confidentiality and safety while securing services from an organisation.

The extent to which the customer feels secure, while obtaining service from employees of an organisation, is an indicator of support derived from the organisation. The dress code of the service provider's employee and their neatness are important aspects of total service quality.

These tangibles that a customer is exposed to at the service area significantly contribute towards attainment of total service quality. The strategy is more customer friendly and efficient. The realisation of total quality service calls for changes in the work environment and structures for service delivery.

Frontline staff should be empowered and trained to positively and effectively respond to customers' needs. Thus, organisations should set up adequate employee incentive schemes for better services to customers. Otherwise staff would view customers as recipients of services paid for by others.

The organisation hierarchical structure and centralised authority must be eliminated. Leadership roles should be redefined and a business process re-engineering be carried out expediently.

For total quality service to be effective, internal changes in the organisation are necessary. Such changes should be well calculated and with full backing of shareholders and managers as key stakeholders.

The structural changes should be accompanied by employee incentives such as adequate funding for training and employee compensation as a means of sustaining the quality improvement objectives.

Thus, total quality service is a process that requires minimal funding, but the outcomes are monumental. It calls for focusing on customer needs and employee participation. It allows an organisation to set its own quality standards and lay out strategies of exceeding customer expectations, with the aim of increasing the market share and productivity in addition to achieving a competitive position.

Some of the key elements of total quality service include strengthening customer relations, increasing employee participation and empowerment, monitoring feedback from customers, adopting continuous quality improvement and identifying and reducing poor quality cost practices.

Organisations that have adopted the total quality service approach have made considerable gains in the market share and productivity.

The writer works for a financial services provider in Nairobi.

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