The customer centric focus of Six Sigma methodologies cannot be sidelined for any reason whatsoever. Although the end results of Six Sigma implementation (such as improvement of bottom line profitability and lean management) are quite significant, the ultimate value addition comes in the form of the return of satisfied customers. In the business world, constant pressure for innovation stems from increasing changes in customer demands and global technological challenges. Companies that get to the top and stay there are there in the first place because of their commitment to change through Six Sigma initiatives.
Six Sigma And The Customer
Six Sigma, a quality management tool founded on statistical approaches and devised by Motorola, helps improve customer satisfaction through significant changes to cost and product utility. The entire approach is innovative; with the implementation of Six Sigma, instead of attempting to fight with mechanics, the focus shifts automatically to strategies and integration of efforts.
Some companies are taking initiatives to take the Six Sigma methodology to customers, outside company walls and actively involving them in an effort to integrate them into the process. This approach is proving to be a resounding success by placing these corporations ahead of competition.
Engaging The Customer
Today’s customers are wary that they get nudged into buying products by customer savvy marketers in the clutter that we call “the market”. Six Sigma works to make things clear to the customers by sharpening the cutting edge (value) that customers are looking for in a product.
The customer is engaged strategically at a stage when plans are being drawn up. By listening to customers and involving them in the process, the company can gain an in -depth understanding of why they are moving in the direction that they are moving, locally as well as globally. This approach also helps in building trust and loyalty.
Companies like Motorola, who implement Six Sigma, go beyond product development and profits in their commitment to customers. In addition to their regular help line, they have established another line dedicated to this purpose. Customers can use this line of communication for more detailed questions relating to either product or service, and track the status of their original question. This is a classic example of individual level quality demands being met through Six Sigma implementation.
Another strategic approach has been taken by GE Commercial Finance, and is a true revolutionary step in the commercial lending business. The ACFC initiative (At the Customer, For the Customer,) clearly showed what the customers needed and why, with over 30% of them answering, they needed Six Sigma. Effective communication with customers has made GE a favorite among consumers. GE has successfully implemented the initiative and in addition, is now sharing its Six Sigma experiences with smaller customers who can’t afford to implement Six Sigma in their own companies.
With the “belts” working from the front, companies can get into a win-win situation with their customers because of the feedback they receive. If this approach directly benefits the customers, it benefits the companies too. However old or large the company is, it gets to interact with its customers one-on-one. The positive result of this is seen in further building of a company’s customer base and increased profitability. The goal of matching people with projects, made possible with Six Sigma, brings about a win-win situation for all.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.