Quality, cost, flexibility, and delivery are four critical aims of business operations that play a role in producing quality products for the customer, a duty that demands the cooperation of the whole firm and keen monitoring of management and quality (Shroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). Quality implies that customers’ requirements are met or exceeded now and in the future (Shroeder et al., 2013). Total quality processes entail organization-wide management efforts of “continuously improving the quality of the products/ services/processes by focusing on the customers’ needs and expectations to enhance customer satisfaction and firm performance” (Sadikoglu & Olcay, 2014, p. 1). These practices include adequate leadership, knowledge and process management, staff training, supplier quality management, customer focus and strategic quality planning (Sadikoglu & Olcay, 2014). Currently, customer expectations are heightened across every industry. Customers’ choices have diversified; they want expedited service provision and well-trained customer service providers. Further, corporations need innovative solutions to achieve higher business efficiency (Brian, 2014). In this paper, an assessment of how two companies, i.e., 3M and Best Buy, meet their customers’ needs, the extent to which the two firms adopt total quality (TQ) processes and whether they have a bearing on customer satisfaction is done.
Meeting Customer Needs
To ensure that customers’ needs are met, it is important for a firm to link its strategies to those of customers since a customer-centric mindset is created not only by products/services provided but also by behaviors/culture cultivated. 3M is an international company involved in providing goods and services in the areas of health, electronics, telecommunication, energy, safety, etc. The multinational’s innovative culture ensures that it comes up with products that meet its customers’ needs. The firm has invested heavily in sustainable materials and efficient energy sources, adopted community-wide methods to water management and strategies aimed at helping the customers reduce greenhouse gas emissions (3M 2017 Sustainability Report, 2017).
The company’s Customer First initiative examines the customers’ business models, needs of the customers’ clients, and role of 3M in the value chain. The firm strives to create strong internal relationships among its processes, staff, and data systems for improved customer service. Its innovations arise from a convergence of customer and market research, technology and the culture of entrepreneurship and collaboration (3M 2017 Sustainability Report, 2017). The company has deployed software solutions that can handle future growth in users and improve value proposition in response to market changes (3M 2017 Sustainability Report, 2017). Therefore, 3M’s most fruitful products are impregnated with strategic customer insights all over the whole product development process. The company acknowledges the robust sustainability and corporate responsibility expectations that its consumers have, and it works tirelessly to be their supplier of choice.
Best Buy is an electronics and entertainment store chain. The company’s annual sales income averages around $40 billion, and its stock price is currently on the rise (Schulze & Eddleston, 2013). Best Buy has a strategy of retaining customers; it promotes consumer experience and invests in staff training and development (Schulze & Eddleston, 2017). The company’s sales associates are trained to function as sources of information for their customers to enable the consumers to make the best decision while purchasing. To achieve this, the company leverages the ability of its employees who are helpful in “identifying customers’ pain points, understanding the features of the company’s products, making innovation and ensuring the firm remains competitive” (Schulze & Eddleston, 2017, para. 2). To fortify customer satisfaction, the company offers competitive prices and provides more services to customers than its competitors. These include staff training, 24-hour support services for electronic appliances, provision of after-sale services like installation, technical support, and repairs (Schulze & Eddleston, 2017). Through these approaches, the firm can demonstrate its care for customers and dissuade them from buying at the competitor stores.
Total Quality Processes and Customer Satisfaction
Previous studies have indicated that successful implementation of total quality processes increases production and manufacturing operation, employee contentment, quality and innovation performance, customer satisfaction, competitive advantage, market stake, financial accomplishment and cumulative firm growth (Sadikoglu & Olcay, 2014). Customer focus is a total quality management (TQM) practice that positively implicates operational performance, customer results, market and financial performance of a firm (Sadikoglu & Olcay, 2014). Accurate and timely knowledge of the customers’ needs and expectations by the firm enables it to produce high quality, reliable and timely delivered products or services.
Thus, close monitoring of the customer communication and feedback is essential as the information derived is useful in product/service delivery or process improvement to enhance customer satisfaction. At Best Buy, the chain store invests in training its associates and employees to groom a long-lasting relationship with its customers. The company has adopted strategies such as centralized buying, improved information system, treating its internal and external customers well, and building strong relationships with clients as some of the total quality measures. Other practices include recruitment of customer-minded staff, offering more services to customers, soliciting ideas and information from employees and customers, and encouraging innovation (Schulze & Eddleston, 2017). Comparatively, 3M embraced the Six Sigma approach for process improvements. The overall objectives of the strategy were to “lower costs, increase sales, satisfy customers, develop managers, increase cash flow, and generate returns from R & D investments (Shroeder et al., 2013, p. 469).
Total Quality Processes and Company Status
Successful implementation of TQM processes depends on whether the organization is local or international. The firms are expected to know their customers’ expectations and requirements and endeavor to provide the products and services accordingly. With the help of fruitful customer focus efforts, production is orchestrated in line with customers’ needs, expectations, and complaints. This approach enables companies to produce high quality and reliable goods/services on time and with increased efficiency and productivity. However, customers’ requirements and expectations for locally-based and international firms vary.
Firms employ diverse technologies, share different histories and background, attend to various markets with multiple products, and recruit employees from different cultures; therefore, the initiatives to improve quality cannot be managed similarly (Shroeder et al., 2013). Also, total quality processes are easy to implement in an organization with one site than in one with several. The more associates a firm has, the greater the difficulty of controlling TQM implementation and developing an approach that is integrated.
Many American firms, including Best Buy, suffered defeat in international market, due to a lack of understanding of foreign market demands and buying habits (10 Successful American Businesses, 2013). In many cases, sticking to the Americanized total quality practices and business approaches was there undoing as people in other countries are dissatisfied with products, services, and strategies unsuitable to their cultural tastes (10 Successful American Businesses, 2013). For instance, Best Buy failed to impact the European and Asian Markets due to inability to differentiate its product lines from the local competitors and for not aligning with customers’ shopping preferences (10 Successful American Businesses, 2013).
Proper implementation of the total quality processes establishes mutually beneficial ties or relational behaviors that improve both customer satisfaction and company benefits. The TQM simplifies consumers’ purchasing chores, information management and promotes emotional comfort and cognitive consistency.
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Schulze, R., & Eddleston, R. (2017). How Best Buy engages employees in putting customers first. Web.
Shroeder, R., Rungtusanatham, M. J., & Goldstein, S. (2013). Operations management in the supply chain: Decisions and cases (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
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