If you want to gain new customers and impress existing ones with your commitment to delivering quality work, there is an art to the sell. Think about an area where you have some level of experience—woodworking, cycling, car repair, etc. Now think about times when you have had conversations with other people about that topic. You can usually tell if they know what they’re talking about. Guess what? Other people can do the same. When a current or potential client asks about quality management, you must be able to talk the talk. If you don’t, they will know that you can’t walk the walk.
Lessons in Language
Virtually every construction company says that they focus on quality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a quality management process in place. Convincing your customers, especially the ones who are more quality-savvy, that you have the systems in place to ensure first-time quality requires using the right language.
Have you ever used one of these phrases when talking to a customer about quality?
- “I’ll put my best guys on the job.”
- “We do quality work.”
- “I’ll oversee the job myself.”
- “You’re my top priority.”
While all of these statements might be true, they say nothing about how you actually achieve first-time quality and improve processes over time. This type of language might work with a homeowner, but if you’re bidding on jobs in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, or data centers, your customers will know right away that you don’t have the necessary quality management systems in place because you’re not speaking the language of quality.
Provide the Right Information
A common mistake is to tell potential customers what you think they want to hear, when it is actually very different from the information they are trying to gather. For example, if your customer asks you for a quality control process and you provide them with a work procedure for a specific task, it is a telltale sign that their knowledge of quality management is greater than yours.
Another common approach is to respond to a question about quality management by describing a recent success to demonstrate that you completed a project on time and on budget. While this is valuable information, it’s not quite enough when it comes to a discussion about quality. What your prospective customer really wants to hear is how you ensure first-time quality with crews and subs, and processes you use to continually make improvements over time.
Tell a Story
It’s not enough to just throw out key words and phrases that resonate with quality-minded customers. You must also elaborate on how you operate to demonstrate that you are following the same quality management processes that they are. For example, you might say that you follow procedures based on ISO 9001 standards, but it will be more meaningful if you call out specific examples of your quality management practices such as:
- Required inspections are listed and organized in an inspection and test plan
- Subcontractors undergo a qualification review process before they are assigned to a project
- Checklists are used to verify and document compliance to project requirements
- A formal process is in place for handling deficiencies and preventing them from recurring
- How quality is measured and used to monitor performance
These are just some examples of how you can tell the story of quality management in your company. Even if you are still in the process of rolling out a new quality management system, this level of knowledge and commitment to quality will resonate with your clients.
Quality is a Competitive Advantage
One of the advantages of implementing a new quality management system is that even if you don’t yet have data to share, you do have the processes in place that your customers are seeking. This goes a long way in landing a new project in a quality-oriented industry when your clients may be concerned about having to step in and manage your quality if you can’t.
It’s never too late to start when it comes to quality management. In fact, as customer expectations increase and the market responds, it is incumbent on construction companies to embrace quality management in order to stay competitive. If your customers are starting to show more interest in quality, stay ahead of the game by committing to first-time quality and putting the systems in place to help you achieve it.