Total Quality Management or TQM (noun): The continuous improvement of products and processes which produce customer satisfaction. While that is short for a dictionary entry, there are a lot of important messages packed into that brief and seemingly simple definition. Among those messages are:
- TQM is a continuous process. It is not a one-off shortcut to consistent quality.
- The focus is on the processes that you repeat over and over to produce a product.
- If you can improve a process, then you reap the benefit of that improvement every time you perform that process.
- Producing Customer Satisfaction is the primary goal.
But even though Customer Satisfaction is the goal of TQM, Customer Satisfaction does not mean giving away the store to meet those needs. You could just give your products away for free and have the happiest customers in the world, but then, you’d soon be bankrupt. Instead, you need to work with the customer to identify valid customer requirements. Then improve your process to meet those requirements. And as those requirements change, continue to hone your processes.
What happens when your customers are not satisfied with what you do? They go to another supplier that can meet their needs. Even if your customers are satisfied today, you can’t just be complacent. Someone else will eventually figure out how to serve your customers better and you will lose them.
This is why Customer Satisfaction is the primary focus and goal of TQM. Quality is a matter of survival.
“Listening to customers must become everyone’s business,” writes Tom Peters in “Thriving on Chaos. “With most competition moving ever faster, the race will go to these who listen (and respond) most intently.”