High-quality products and services might leave your customers satisfied after your first encounter. However, if subsequent purchases leave a nasty taste in their mouths, you’ll lose countless dollars in future revenue. Many of the businesses I work with focus on getting it right the first time. That’s not a bad idea, but I encourage you to think more about consistent quality than a slam-dunk first impression. Maintaining a consistency takes work, here are four strategies to ensure consistent quality in your small business.
1. Fine-Tune Your Supply Chain
Turn up that dial!
From sourcing materials and manufacturing goods to arranging shipping and maintaining inventory, your supply chain impacts every facet of your business. Let one ball drop, and the rest come crashing down.
Find reputable partners so your supply chain doesn’t hit any inconvenient snags. You don’t want your customers to try a product, then return to buy it again only to find that the shelf has been empty for a week. Worse, you’d hate to hear from your customers that substandard materials have reduced product quality.
If your suppliers, logistics company, or other vendors fail to meet your expectations, find someone new. Don’t be afraid to terminate poor business relationships. Otherwise, you could end up with any unhappy customers.
2. Create Processes and Protocols
It sounds boring, right? That’s what everyone tells me. However, if you don’t take the time to establish standard practices for your employees, you can’t maintain consistent quality in your products, customer service, or other aspects of your business operations.
Begin with internal audits. You can conduct them yourself, or you can hire a third-party company to do them for you. In the retail sector, for instance, businesses often use mystery shoppers. These “planted” customers visit the store, buy merchandise, and report on their experiences.
Internal audits prove useful for all types of businesses. Find out what happens when an online order is placed. You also want to know whether your employees use machinery safely, know how to operate computer software, communicate with customers appropriately, and record transactions correctly. I’ve known entrepreneurs who have found glaring problems in their workplaces during an audit. Bottom-line, you want your customers to get the same answer every time, and if you don’t train for it you’ll never know about your customer experience.
3. Know Your Audience
I tell entrepreneurs over and over again that they need to focus on a niche market. Otherwise, you try to market to everyone. And that doesn’t work. You can’t just pick a niche out of a hat, though. You need a carefully targeted strategy to find your niche and understand it better than anyone else in the industry. Of course, that means getting to know your audience as well as you do your best friend.
- Where do they shop?
- How do they spend their money?
- Where do they live?
- Who influences their buying decisions?
- How will they use your product or service?
- What will make them walk away from a purchase?
- Where do they hang out online?
If you can answer these questions, you’ll find yourself better equipped to improve your products or service quality. You’ll know exactly what your audience wants, which means you can deliver that very thing. Plus, you’ll know when you’ve made a mistake or a wrong assumption.
4. Keep Searching
It’s tempting to look at your business and call it good. After all, you’ve spent months or years fine-tuning your approach, so now you get to fold your hands behind your head, lean back, and enjoy the rewards.
Well, not exactly. In my experience, the most successful entrepreneurs don’t stop at good or even great. They keep pushing boundaries to improve the quality of their products and services, and they strive to continually exceed their customers’ expectations.
It’s tempting to focus on a narrow facet of business, but improving overall quality — and making quality consistent — can mean the difference between sudden failure and long-term success as an entrepreneur. For even more insight into building great business practices, sign up for my weekly newsletter and join other entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses just like you.