The most important thing in communication is hearing which isn’t said: Peter F Drucker
As per Indian mythology, saints had the power to communicate with God without speaking! In coming years, technology will help us to communicate with each other even without saying a word! But till such time, verbal/nonverbal and written communication will continue to impact our lives immensely.
Effective communication ensures that the customer understands what the organization can or intends to provide. It also enables the organization to understand and confirm the needs and expectations of the customer.
Purpose of Customer Communication
- To showcase the products and services of the organization
- To understand customer requirements
- To understand any changes in the requirement
- To share any major change in the organization like Strike, financial instability etc.
- To get feedback related to complaints, positive/negative comments etc.
As per ISO 9000: 2015 (Clause 220.127.116.11), the following is the definition
Communication: Planned and effective internal (i.e. throughout the organization) and external (i.e. with relevant interested parties) communication enhance people’s engagement and increased understanding of the context of the organization; the needs and expectations of customers and other relevant interested parties; the QMS.
FCA, USA: Electronic communication through eSupplierConnect
Ford: SREA for organization-initiated process change proposal
Peugeot: Foqu@lis or PLM for SQA, MACSI for Material restriction and declaration, Amadeus for list of incidents, EDI for logistics, Madig for the incident of field return and warranty cost, SPOT for KPI and certificate status
VW: Formel-Q-Capability Appendix
As per ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 Clause 8.2.1, there are few specific requirements related to Customer Communication. They are
- Information related to Products and Services: The organization generally shares information about its products and services to the customer in the form of email, Telephonic discussion, Websites (online sale), Brochures etc. The intent is to communicate the existing/new customer about organizations capability and capacity related to product and services. Example: Designing, Rapid Prototyping, Maintenance of utilities etc.
- Handling Enquiries, Contracts & Changes: Organization should have a process to communicate with the customer about any query related to product and services like the type of product and services offered, Development time, availability of Competency etc. During the contract review process, the customer may have many questions like development time, coting etc. The organizations have to develop an effective communication network with customers and other relevant interested parties so that the seamless flow of information to organization and related interested parties can be ensured. During product development and mass production, the customer may demand changes in the product/process specifications, packaging, logistics etc. The effective communication process has to be established as to how the change management process will be effective.
- Customer Feedback: During product development and after mass production, the customer will continue to offer their feedback. Effective communication mechanism has to be established for it. The organization can define a Single Point of Contact for the customer so that they can interact with that person directly on different parameters. For any Customer Complaints, communication should be clear and fast. Internal communication to all the relevant stakeholders should also be ensured. For any feedback related to Customer Satisfaction (good or bad), the communication channel should be well defined and its response should also go back to the customer within the agreed time frame. Some of the possible channels may include direct email or phone calls, online surveys, customer support channels, face-to-face meetings etc.
- Customer Property: Customer provides their property to the organization like Drawing, Technical specifications, Samples, Tooling, Master samples, Software etc. The organization has to develop a communication mechanism to update the customer about the status of their property like consumption, physical condition, damage, misuse, identification etc.
- Contingency Actions: The intent is to have an effective communication channel to communicate the customer for any situations such as natural disasters, weather, labour disputes, shortage of raw materials or unplanned plant shutdown. So that customer can take appropriate action wherever possible.
- Communication Language: Organization must agree to communicate in the language which customer prefers like English, Hindi, Japanese, German etc. For software too, the organization must be equipped in the customer-friendly language like CAD data, Electronic Data Interchange etc.
Benefits of Effective Customer communication:
- Build trust & transparency among each other
- Enhances customer satisfaction
- Transmit and receive information quickly & act effectively
- Helps to identify areas for improvement
- In many cases, the customer continues to struggle to talk to the right and responsible person in the organization.
- In a few cases, the customer provided drawing is in the language not known to the organization (Example-Japanese) but still, no translation is done. Drawing is understood and the product is developed!
- Very few organizations share contingency plan with their customers.
- Communication about the condition of customer property is shared only when it is demanded by the customer.
- How often organization share poor health of their finances with their Customer?
ISO 9000: 2015
ISO 9001: 2015
ISO/TS 9002: 2016
IATF 16949: 2016
This is the 61st article of this Quality Management series. Every weekend, you will find useful information that will make your Management System journey Productive. Please share it with your colleagues too.
Your genuine feedback and response are extremely valuable. Please suggest topics for the coming weeks.