Dell: Total Quality Management Survey

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Total Quality Management (TQM) is a comprehensive and structured approach to organizational management that seeks to improve the quality of products and services through ongoing refinements in response to continuous feedback. TQM requirements may be defined separately for a particular organization or may be in adherence to established standards, such as ISO 9000 series.

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Another common definition of the term is Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management approach that aims for long-term success by focusing on customer satisfaction. TQM is based on the participation of all members of an organization in improving processes, products, services, and the culture in which they work.

The culture that an organization works in is largely determined by the sector in which a particular organization or company operates in. As such it is convenient for us to look at TQM from the perspective of three sectors namely the non profit making, service and manufacturing industry. This paper thus discusses and looks at TQM in various case studies for better understanding.

Dell computers

This is one of the most pronounced computer manufacturing companies in the world today. Founded by Michael S. Dell the company has registered tremendous growth since inception. As the chairman and CEO of the giant corporation, Michael has gone forward and admitted the use of TQM strategies to take the company where it is today.

If the egoless corporation is characterized by a customer focus, then other companies have to look at how close they are to their customers to match Dell’s success. But even going direct or getting closer to the customer is no guarantee you will successfully navigate dangerous water. Dell’s direct business strategy, for example, is underwritten by a huge investment in our customer relationship, research and development, information systems and, above all else, terrific workforce.

For Dell, direct is not a religion. Direct is a strategy. Customer satisfaction as per TQM is the company’s mantra according to the Chairman in his speech after receiving an excellence award from the Empire club Foundation. “Direct is the best means we know of satisfying our customers–therefore, we’ve embraced it”, said Michael.

Implementing a tactic like direct marketing or another popular tactic like TQM will not deliver if you’re not customer-driven. The slickest tactical program or strategy will fall flat on its face if the customer’s requirement does not drive the company’s innovation engine and fan product improvement initiatives.

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Dell’s innovation in PC marketing as it is in technology or product quality is evident in their narrow product range that offers room for specialization with a more specified target market. Listening to customers, identifying their needs and acting to meet these needs is the basic approach at Dell. The CEO says that the secret, however, is that they listen better than the competitors.

“We identified a better way to sell to customers–by getting closer to them and listening to their wants” Michael says. “One important thing we learned from all this listening is that customers’ needs do not change, their priorities do”. Time has brought the death of premium pricing for PCs, as users place a higher priority than before on overall value.

Price relative to performance has become a major driver for customers, but it’s not the only one. And this is where many of Dell’s “direct” competitors have got it wrong. Customers of any product or service are knowledgeable enough these days to know what they are paying for. They understand the difference between “purchase price” and “cost of ownership.”

What they buy is a certain core competence from a PC manufacturer; and price is not a core competence. In this we learn that there is a difference in customer satisfaction and product quality. What’s the trick then? under-promise and over deliver to exceed customer expectation that rates the product among consumers highly.

American Red Cross

As a branch of Red Cross- international organization offering humanitarian aid in times of crisis, American Red Cross is one of the many nonprofit making organizations in America and the world today. What makes this organization different from a galaxy of many others is that its involvement in offering humanitarian assistance in times of crisis is vulnerable to a lot of criticism. This is because during such times, emotions are high on the side of the staff and the affected masses in this case their customers, thus they end up making haste decisions that may not conform to the organizations code of action.

  • Key elements of TQM are based on
  • employee involvement and training
  • problem-solving teams,
  • statistical methods,
  • long-term goals and thinking,
  • Recognition that the system, not people, produces inefficiencies.

Alamo Rent a Car

This is one of the many companies in the US offering a wide range of cars for hire to the public. As a service company its marketing strategies and customer satisfaction requirements are totally different from other fields. In employing TQM the company has achieved a lot as shown by the company’s market share and expansion programs. Service companies such as Alamo can benefit from TQM in three ways:

  • breaking down interdepartmental barriers;
  • redefining the beneficiaries of car hire services as internal customers (staff) and external customers (patrons);
  • Reaching a state of continuous improvement (Christine and Diane, 2005)

Alamo focuses on providing the best services possible, and willing to change to serve its customers where necessary. To determine if changes need to be made, the management might ask: What are our niche markets? What do the customers come in for? How can we look at the efficiency of our company? How do we serve the current customers that exist today? (Total Quality Management, 2005) First learn about the customer, and then solve the problems.

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At Alamo the issue of staff rarely comes into the picture as there is reduced direct contact between the customers and the staff. The ball therefore lies not on the personality and attitude of staff but rather on the side of service deliverance that meets customer requirements in terms of performance and pricing of rented vehicles.

In serving their customers the company has gone ahead and conformed to changing times by introducing an online reservation facility that offers priorities to a members program. The management attributed this introduction of online reservation after realizing that business men like to make their arrangements in advance which may not afford one time to do so in person.

The company has also programs that offer special rates and services such as the meeting and convention program. In this program, members will enjoy

  • Special rates guaranteed up to one year in advance at more than 100 participating locations in the United States and Canada
  • Unlimited mileage
  • Convention rates available one week before and one week after the meeting
  • Earned complimentary cars (based on volume)
  • Post-convention reporting.

Other programs are small groups and events, federal and local government etc.

As a sign of the knowledge of variation in customer needs and requirements the company’s fleet has a wide selection of vehicles that suit different occasions and tastes.

Leadership and TQM

TQM gurus tell us that the best way to instill effective TQM measures in our organizations has to start from the top downwards. Senior management staff should be the first to receive training on TQM so that they can instill the discipline on their subjects. A company that has a good leadership structure is more likely to effectively embrace TQM in their operation than a company where leadership is shaky and not wholly reliable. (Christine and Diane, 2005)


Though there is a difference in the mode of delivery in product of service whether for money or not, some issues are common across the various sectors: Being in touch with the customer’s needs and designing products and services to serve the purpose is the underlying factor that TQM emphasizes on.

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Claude W. Burrill and Johannes L. (1998). Achieving Quality through Continual Improvement, New York, John Wiley & sons

Christine, A. and Diane, Z. (2005). The Quality Management Sourcebook, New York, Taylor & Francis Alamo rent a car. Web.

Dell computers. Web.

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