One of my favorite business books of all-time is the autobiography of Sam Walton, the patriarch, and founder of Wal-Mart. Sam was a brilliant businessman who truly understood what made his retail business successful. At the end of his book, he lists the “Ten Rules That Worked for Me.” All of his observations (and the book) are worth your time, but the one that impacted me is this:
“Rule 7: LISTEN to everyone in your company… The folks on the front lines—the ones who talk to the customer—are the only ones who know what’s going on out there… To push the responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.”
There is a strong message about delegation. There is an even more powerful recommendation about listening. But for you to hear, your employees must first be willing to talk.
The Problem with Feedback
It is my observation that the feedback collection process that is described by the senior team is grossly different from reality. There are people in your organization that will go to great lengths to insulate you from the dirty details.
I also know that your front-line colleagues are very reluctant to tell you the unvarnished truth. No employee wants their boss to think they’re ungrateful, so complaints are often watered down if they’re voiced at all.
To create the best possible product or service, you need feedback from your associates on the front lines. The best way to draw out this feedback is through the total quality management theory.
Creating a Total Quality Management Model
Total quality management is the prioritization of quality goods and services at every level of the company. Customer satisfaction should be everyone’s priority, from the bottom of your organization all the way up. To create a total quality management model for your business, you need to establish a culture of quality.
Your total quality management model begins by asking yourself a few key questions:
Have you created an environment that embraces timely feedback from the front lines?
Do you encourage and reward honest feedback and promise that there will be no judgment, rebuttal, or retaliation?
Does your company have the mechanism and processes to collect feedback from your team? Is there a system in place to easily report input, or is it a clunky process?
When info gets pumped uphill to HQ, does your firm have the courage to do something about it?
Once you commit to a total quality management model, you must communicate this to your teammates. Get to know their key concerns and be ready to hear the harsh truth. Ask line employees, what would you change if you were running this business? What frustrates you about client feedback? What is the customer telling us that we might not know?
You will begin to notice trends emerging among the feedback you receive. At that point, you can take action to correct the problem and streamline your processes. Your customers—and your colleagues—will thank you.
Putting the customer first requires you to remove your ego from the equation, but it’s worth it to develop a total quality management model. If you’d like to discuss putting this to work in your business, fill out my contact form to schedule a free video call with your favorite business coach.
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