Continuous improvement is a key characteristic of the most successful customer experience. Successful service organizations realize that no service initiative is perfect and have a framework in place to capture results and analyze them for potential improvement towards better customer experiences.
Many of the quality management practices the Japanese manufacturing system is well-known for can be traced back to statisticians like W. Edwards Deming, who introduced the concepts of eliminating defects in production systems and established frameworks for organizations to analyze production and improve the quality of outputs produced.
The human system of delivery customer service experiences faces some of the same parallels of traditional manufacturing. No organization wants failed service interactions, yet the human element of service means that mistakes take place and processes fail to capture all possible customer circumstances leading to decisions being made in the dark that in hindsight were not in the customer’s best interest.
The same system of Total Quality Management (TQM) introduced into Japan after World War II to establish its manufacturing perfection focus can be applied to customer service teams to ensure continuous improvement of customer service experiences.
The Deming Cycle of Continuous Customer Service Improvement
The Deming Cycle, also known as the PDSA cycle, is an effective model for continuous service improvement to develop higher quality experiences. The cycle establishes a logical sequence of four steps for continuous improvement and organizational learning.
- PLAN. Plan ahead for customer service interactions. Analyze and predict the results.
- DO. Execute the service plan, take small steps in controlled circumstances.
- STUDY (check). Study the results of service interactions, capture customer feedback.
- ACT. Take action to standardize successful practices or improve the service actions.
This continuous wheel of processes or improvement spiral ensures that organizations follow a careful process as they implement service initiatives and review service processes and frameworks for its effectiveness while modifying and learning from its less than desirable service interactions.
The Benefits of The Deming Cycle of Customer Service Improvement
- Provides a daily routine for service management actions for individuals and teams
- Establishes a framework of reporting to senior leadership
- Creates a clear problem solving process
- Provide project management guidance
- Natural continuous development cycle
- Easy to integrate vendors into service process by cycle category
- Reportable to human resources for people development
- Focused on trial and error, can be implemented in real time
Continuous Improvement is a Lifestyle
While it’s natural to judge individuals or processes based on results, it’s more effective to realize that people and processes are fluid and naturally evolving. No individual or process is perfect from the onset. With careful study, learning, and application, people and processes can be improved. Everything we do, can be more than we think it to currently be. Development and improvement are not only a paradigm for people, but also for processes and technologies. Improvement is a choice. Continuous improvement is a lifestyle.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, you can believe in your capabilities, establish context, drive action, and build successful service operations. Develop awareness for the needs of service and be agile in your implementations and re-implementations based on what you have learned. Commit to a continuous improvement lifestyle. Your commitment will be the key to avoiding the dysfunction that arises from lack of structure or organization. As you remain committed you will secure improvements and ensure that you don’t fall back to old habits and failed service actions.