Every small business owner frets over the costs associated with running a company. Yet, according to recent studies, labor remains the number one cost for businesses at 70% of their spending, followed by inventory, which, on average, consists of 17-25% of a business’s budget. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Did you know quality control can help you save money throughout your business and improve your customer service?
What is quality control?
When you think of quality control, you probably think of manufacturing businesses inspecting products for flaws. But, in reality, quality control processes can be used in all types of companies, whether they are product-based or service-based, B2B or B2C.
Quality control is a critical component of a well-run business. A quality control program helps ensure your small business delivers a consistent product, service and customer experience. In addition, developing quality control processes allows your business to operate without your daily presence, so expanding to new locations, delegating responsibilities and even selling your business when the time comes is easier.
Business growth requires paying careful attention to dollars and people, and quality control helps ensure you’re monitoring both. If your products or services are of poor quality, you’ll spend a lot of time and money redoing them, cutting your profit margins. If customers aren’t happy with the quality of your products and services, they’ll stop doing business with you. As word spreads, you’ll gain a reputation for poor quality, making it harder to attract and keep customers and employees.
How to Implement Quality Control
There are numerous methods to design and implement a quality control process in your company. To simplify, we’ve laid it out in five basic steps.
Start by defining the quality standards that you need to control and improve. In some industries, many quality standards are determined by a regulatory agency. For example, quality control begins with food suppliers in the food industry. However, restaurant owners also have quality control standards to maintain, including responsibilities for kitchen cleanliness, food preparation and storage, and staff training.
No matter the type of business, each department (sales, accounting, customer service) has its own quality control processes to implement. For example, do you expect all calls to be answered by the second ring? How quickly should social media inquiries be answered? And so on.
If you’re just starting, focus on the most critical measures affecting your profits and customer experience. You can get results quickly and keep you and your team from becoming overwhelmed.
Once you’ve developed quality standards, it’s time to train your team to implement the processes. Quality control specifics should be documented in readily-available formats, including an old- fashioned paper version and a digital format that can be accessed from anywhere. A paper version can be helpful since not all employees may have access to a computer if they’re on the spot with a customer.
Quality standards should be taught throughout an employee’s onboarding, and continued training should be carried out throughout their tenure. However, it’s essential to listen to employee reactions. They are your frontline and know if a process needs tweaking or won’t work. Use visuals in training materials as much as possible to clarify what is expected at each stage.
No matter how careful you believe your team is, some quality control processes are inherently at risk for human error. Automation reduces mistakes in quality control workflows and consequently increases production. Automation in manufacturing is critical for quality control, but it can also be beneficial in many other types of businesses.
Automation is vital for quality control in sales, for example. Sales teams rely on having the most current information available to show customers. So requiring each salesperson to follow the same processes will help customers get better service. In retail, point-of-sale software decreases pricing mistakes and improves inventory control standards.
We all know that customers care about quality, but not enough businesses let their customers know the company has quality control processes. Small businesses can significantly benefit from including a quality control message in their marketing to reassure customers that their company is just as good (or better) than larger, more well-known businesses.
If you market your business as one that cares about quality standards, show it across your marketing platforms. For example, a disorganized website or misspellings in social media posts says your company does not care about quality. Use high-resolution photos and a professional copywriter to ensure your marketing reflects your commitment to quality.
Using phrases such as “We care about quality” may seem trivial, but it also encourages feedback, which is vital to the quality control process.
Soliciting customer feedback is the next step in implementing quality control in your company. Whether customers fill out follow-up surveys in person or on your website, feedback is crucial to help further address quality control. Feedback provides valuable insight into how your quality control processes are improving or hurting customer relations. Also, check Google, Yelp and other review site ratings to see what customers say about your business.
Automation can help you review many of your quality control processes in other areas of your business. For example, did you experience a jump in the number of clients serviced after you eliminated some unnecessary steps? What about financial control improvements? Did expense reimbursements lessen once you made it mandatory for your sales team to provide receipts for each expenditure?
If you’re unsure if your quality control processes are working and want to narrow your focus to areas still needing improvement, consider hiring an auditor to conduct a quality control audit of your company. An unbiased third party can review all your processes and give you a detailed look at areas where you excel and where you need improvement.
The Final Step
Once you receive feedback on your quality control processes from employees, customers, and the automated data, it’s time to make improvements. No matter how well your operations are running, quality control typically shows the areas that need improvement and how small changes can pay off significantly.
Need some help in setting up quality control processes for your business? Set up a free meeting with a SCORE mentor to help you design and implement quality control standards today.