iSixSigma

Voice of the Customer: Have You Asked Enough Questions?

To drive improvement through Lean Six Sigma and other continuous improvement projects, it is imperative for practitioners to determine first what is important to the customers who are affected by the process. Customers can take on a variety of different views. Listed below are examples of typical customers identified in a SIPOC diagram (suppliers, inputs,…

Knowing Who Your Customers Are

When a company has multiple types of customers, a key factor in generating accurate voice-of-the-customer (VOC) data is the development of a unified VOC collection process. In my article, “Nice Doing Business With You” (iSixSigma Magazine, January/February 2011), I discussed various methods to ensure that all types of customer information is gathered from various departments…

The Customer Talks Back: Musings on Call Center Efficiency

Running a call center is like handling a job interview: First impressions are critical. Good intentions do not make up for tardiness, ill-fitting clothing, dirty shoes, the inability to reasonably pronounce the interviewer’s name or ignorance about what the company does. The primary purpose of a call center is to increase the profitability of the…

Five Myths That Can Undermine Customer Loyalty

Market share depends upon an organization’s capacity not only to acquire new customers, but also to keep them. It makes no sense to invest resources to capture new customers only to lose them to competitors. This is where customer management comes in – a strategy focused on creating loyal customers by providing superior value. Unfortunately,…

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The Influence of Empowering Healthcare Workers

“What kind of care would I want for a loved one who is fighting cancer?” This is the question that Julia, an outpatient clinic nurse at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), asked herself as she observed the following process: Mrs. Smith, a patient, arrives early to the clinic to meet with her oncologist, Dr….

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Using Six Sigma in Marketing Requires Fundamental Changes

Six Sigma promises a path for a firm’s long-term success. However, a company cannot really have this Six Sigma journey without the road running through the marketing department. It is through the deployment into marketing that Six Sigma evolves into a strategic process. The synergy between “good marketing” and “good Six Sigma” creates a holistic…

10 Marketing Myths and Service Slips

As everyone knows, myths have a way of becoming more than they are. The same is true for marketing and service. As the following list of conventional wisdom, beliefs and marketing clichés illustrates, while many myths may have a solid empirical basis, it is possible to carry them too far – and other common beliefs…

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A Day in Photos at Virginia Mason Medical Center

For patients of Virginia Mason Medical Center, trips to the hospital can actually be pleasant – or at least free of discomfort and waste. The center is a private, not-for-profit organization offering integrated health services, including a 336-bed hospital in Seattle and a network of primary and specialty care clinics throughout the Puget Sound region….

To Identify CTQs, Listen To The Voice of the Market

Successful quality initiatives rely on understanding what quality actually means. The meaning of quality resides in the minds of those who judge it and use it to make their purchase decisions – in other words, the market. Divorced from the market, value or quality has no real meaning. Uninformed definitions of value or quality become…

Holding Black Belts Accountable for Positive Project Results

As a Black Belt, I know it is easy to fall into the trap of working only on projects that cut costs. I also know that this type of “accounting” is a slippery slope that can cloud essential business goals by creating unfounded visions of savings. Don’t get me wrong – cutting expenses is important….

Six Sigma’s Battle Over Marketing

There is a battle being waged on the fringe of the Six Sigma community. The battle is over how to apply Six Sigma to one of the last frontiers of business – marketing. There are two sides to the argument: those who favor a direct application, and those who feel the method should be modified….

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Three Simple Questions: How to Focus Your VOC Research

A lot of time can be saved in the planning stages of a survey research project by simply answering three short questions. By the time people from organizations have contacted me about a Six Sigma voice of the customer (VOC) study or research project, they have usually spent at least a fair amount of time…

To Save Cost, Set Product Warranties Based on Quality

Imagine you are the quality manager for a consumer electronics manufacturer. At the previous staff meeting, the CEO asked the management team for ideas that could help the company become more competitive and increase profits. It is now one month later. During the staff meeting, members of the marketing department present some research that shows…

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Implementing a Customer Satisfaction Metric

Organizations evaluate themselves by measuring customer satisfaction with their products or services. As organizations evolve, the measurement of customer satisfaction across the entire organization becomes imperative. The first step is for an organization to implement a metric for tracking customer satisfaction. To develop a metric, an organization should explore these questions: Who are its customers?…

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Is CRM the Six Sigma of the New Economy?

The Internet has not only lowered the barrier of entry into markets, but in many cases also allows companies to offer products and services at much lower prices. Customers now have the choice and, more importantly, they are aware of their choices. As the economy moves more towards the e-conomy, customer expectations and the ability…

Scorecard Can Balance Different Measures of Success

Lean Six Sigma can be overwhelming to an organization if implemented without regard for an organization’s change management history, culture and readiness. That said, the starting point for Lean Six Sigma – as well as any organized approach to effecting change that both enhances customer experience and impacts profitability – is actually having a strategy that includes…

Voice of the Business, Customer, Process and Employee

Business could not have been better. Customers were reacting positively to the company’s new and enhanced service portfolio, the company entered the market without much competition and customer satisfaction was at an all-time high. Profitability continued to rise, and the company’s efficiency rate was impressive. But then things changed. New account numbers abruptly fell. Some…

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The Futility of Call Center Coaching

One-agent-at-a-time coaching is the go-to method in call centers for trying to improve center-wide output measures. But it is less valuable than many believe. Through the use of mathematical modeling and simulation, it is possible to see that coaching, even in moderate turnover environments, does not offer a return on investment (ROI). More-effective improvement strategies…

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Customer Winback Concept Begs for Use of Six Sigma

“Customer winback” is becoming a common marketing practice in many businesses. The process is aimed at winning back disgruntled customers and then retaining them. Businesses restore the relationship with old customers through a combination of diligent investigations and follow-up, promotion and targeted improvements specifically addressing customer concerns. Companies willing to make the commitment to customer…

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Finding the Sigma Level of Customer Complaints

In the beginning of a deployment, many companies set a goal of 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO) using Six Sigma quality concepts in production, and later extend this concept to other operational areas. Fewer companies, however, have extended Six Sigma from a manufacturing application to manage customer satisfaction or customer complaints. But it is…

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Case Study: Optimizing Patient Flow at Fort Drum Clinic

A project to optimize family practice patient flow at the Guthrie Ambulatory Healthcare Clinic, part of the U.S. Army Medical Activity (MEDDAC) at Fort Drum, N.Y., was initiated in November 2007. The goal: to reduce process cycle time while maintaining the same quality of care and to increase patient satisfaction from the time the patient…

Process Improvement and Technology: The Virtuous Cycle

Because of information technology’s unique role as a support function in most organizations, process improvement means improving both the processes of its internal management system and the business it supports. As a matter of fact, for most organizations today information technology (IT) infrastructure and management is the backbone of all critical processes. Combine that with…

Six Sigma Strategy: Understanding the Customer Process

Many companies which choose not to utilize Lean and Six Sigma as key components of how they implement change in their organization say it is because the methodologies are too complicated for their business environment. They claim that they do not have the time to build an infrastructure, train Black Belts and Green Belts and…

Six Sigma in Government: Focusing on the Customer

Six Sigma, with its emphasis in many cases on hard, current-year results, is often not associated with government agencies and their processes. One reason is that a government’s mission is as much about providing services to the public and other stakeholders as it is about cutting costs and realizing efficiencies. In fact, there is frequently…

Trailblazing Efforts Drive Strategic Objectives

Turning strategic stretch goals into daily behavioral change has never been easy for big companies. While executives talk about customer focus, what passes for intimate financial interactions in a busy call center is often laden with tedious work-arounds, risk-adverse rules, hopelessly complex technical redundancies and platform interactions. At one of the world’s largest mutual fund…

TQM Case Study: Newspaper Focuses on Customer Service

Quality in the total quality management (TQM) method is defined as customer delight. Customers are delighted when their needs are met or exceeded. The needs of the customer are: Product quality Delivery quality Service quality Cost value Improving customer service was the focus of two projects within the deployment of TQM in a mid-sized newspaper…

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Aligning Army Call Center Goals to Improve Performance

Product Manager, Transportation Information Services (PM TIS) is an Army program under the auspices of the Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). The PM TIS organization includes the Customer Service Center (CSC) which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions and resolve issues related to software that…

Make Better Use of Survey Data with Kano Analysis

Nearly all medium and large companies spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, on customer surveys every year. Customer survey results are used to amend strategies, design new products and services, and focus improvement activities. Gathering customer data is only the first step. The second step involves making best use of the data – analyzing…

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Cost of a Process with Poor Quality Can Be Very High

The definition of quality can differ depending on whether it is associated with products and services or with the processes used to generate them. The quality of a product or service is measured in terms of the satisfaction that the customer derives from using it. The quality of a process depends on its ability to…

Six Sigma Tools for Every Day Projects and Processes

During a Six Sigma symposium, speaker after speaker presented good information on Six Sigma concepts, tools and approaches to use when working on a Six Sigma project. If these Six Sigma tools, approaches templates, etc., are good for Six Sigma projects, why not use them in day-to-day software development and IT processes? Learning Objectives It…

Promises of Brand Strategy and Design for Six Sigma

“99.44 percent pure” “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” “The ultimate driving machine” “We bring good things to life” For recent generations of Americans, the slogans above have become synonymous with the high-profile brands they represent. But these words are not simply clever taglines. They…

US Fuels Improves Invoicing Accuracy Using Work-out

US Fuels is responsible for the wholesale fuels operations in the United States for its parent company, BP, one of the world’s largest energy companies. US Fuels supplies branded gasoline to company-owned gas stations and branded fuel jobbers, and diesel fuel to commercial accounts such as railroads, trucking companies, transit authorities and truck stops. The…

Value Matters as a Key Metric for Six Sigma Initiatives

A key measurement of Six Sigma effectiveness is the application of appropriate metrics. Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder, two pioneers of Six Sigma, state in their book Six Sigma that, “An organization’s profitability is determined by what it chooses to measure and how it measures it.” They point out that most companies need to change…

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Software and Systems: The Disciplines of CRM

  The total customer relationship management (CRM) market will reach $12.1 billion by 2004, representing an annual growth rate of 29.9 percent, according to the 2000 CRM Market Forecast and Analysis prepared by IDC, the world’s leading provider of information technology data and analysis. It is highly unlikely, however, that the CRM market will reach…

A Leadership Roadmap for Managing with Metrics

Nine practical steps that focus on facts and data can provide a roadmap for business leaders at all levels on how to use the Six Sigma method to drive strategy implementation. 1. Start at the Finish Line: Define Strategic Objectives By far the worst use of Six Sigma is on non-strategic issues. Chartering projects with…

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