Establishing Commitment to Quality

A small company has great potential advantage over larger companies in implementing a TQM program with employees. There are fewer people to communicate with, and the manager in charge of implementing the TQM program is generally the owner or CEO. The CEO can make timely, binding decisions about TQM programs.

A unified and committed team. Personnel in all jobs must understand and commit to the TQM program and work as a team. Company personnel must have permission to go beyond the normal barriers between functional jobs (or departments, if you have them) to communicate in a timely manner on behalf of providing quality and customer satisfaction. All employees, regardless of job, status, or tenure, must understand and commit to customer satisfaction as a number one priority.


It is not enough for a CEO to tell employees that they are "empowered" to put customer satisfaction as a number one priority.

One small company CEO summed it up by saying,

"If you are really committed to building a strong, customer-oriented company and want to get that same commitment from your employees, you have to take the risk of encouraging and showing them how to act entrepreneurially, and reward them for it."

TQM program commitment steps. Small or large companies serious about making the commitment to TQM and customer satisfaction must:

  • provide specific programs, written guidelines, and training sessions for all company personnel
  • allow for decision-making and mistakes by all company personnel
  • provide a specific timetable for training, behavioral modification, and feedback
  • follow up with customers to obtain feedback on the success of the new TQM programs
  • commit to weeding out uncooperative company personnel

The smaller the company, the more visible the CEO and top management are to all employees. Top management must not only commit to TQM and set daily examples, they must also give explicit permission to employees to act in the same manner. People may also need training and written guidelines to fully empower them. This also reduces the personal risks of adapting new behavior within the company and towards customers.

What about employees who do not have direct customer contact? Some company employees who do not have regular direct contact with customers (e.g., shipping and receiving, plant workers, financial analysts, etc.) may be confused about what their new role would be with a TQM/customer satisfaction program. The answer is the more everyone in your company knows about your customer's business, needs, complaints, and sources of satisfaction with your company, the more motivated, productive, and efficient they will be.

Day-to-day activities of an internal staff employee, who has never even spoken or met with your customers, also affects the quality of your company's products and services. And ultimately, all company employees affect customer value and satisfaction. For example, if customer invoices do not go out on time or there are shipping mistakes due to poor internal communications, you may not hear about the problem from your customer. Your customer may simply switch to a competitor as a way of solving this problem.

Therefore, owners or managers in a small company must commit to sharing and communicating customer information and customer feedback with all their company personnel. This information should consist of the customer's business description, personality, expectations, problems, opportunities, and periodic survey feedback (keeping in mind, of course, that your particular business may demand that certain information about customers should be kept confidential). Managers must also allow employees to share and discuss this same customer information, where confidentiality is not essential, to encourage fellow employees to improve quality and customer satisfaction.