Impartial Quality Review
Summary: Unbiased review is one of the easiest and fastest ways of revealing insufficiency and giving opportunities to improve in your activities.
The person who wants to improve should, as much as possible, seek and encourage impartial feedback. Searching for opportunities to improve and reveal insufficiencies is related to all of the main topics of this web, that is, project management, IT and marketing. As well as almost any other activities. At the beginning, when you start doing something, on your own or with the help of someone, you find your way of doing it. Then you gradually alter it – according to your experience and to enhance your clients' satisfaction.
However, it would be naive to assume that the present system is always ideal and fully meeting your requirements. Therefore, it is right to verify and occasionally critically evaluate it. By the system is meant e.g. your equipment, as well as your entire inner work procedures, which influence your effectiveness, quality of your services or production etc.
The main reasons to impartially review your practice are as follows:
- In order to succeed in your business, you need to meet your client's expectations.
- Your routine might work well for you but is it optimal for your customers too?
- Comparison with others or a professional's judgement can bring interesting ideas and considerations, which lead to improvement.
- Circumstances are changing and suddenly your routine does not fully have to comply with new conditions. For instance, the company could significantly expand and have more employees, the market develops etc. When the changes of the circumstances are slow and continuous, there is a risk that you might not even notice them in time; and you realise the disadvantage of the current procedures only when the first bigger problems occur.
To make it clear what kind of improvement we can talk about and how exactly an impartial feedback can look like, let's have a look at two different examples. Both of also show different ways how the feedback can be accepted and how it effects the assessor's feelings.
Example of impartial quality review: Priessnitz spa
This summer I went on a very pleasant active holiday in Priessnitz Spa in the city of Jeseník. Being it a fascinating place where you can excellently regenerate and fill up your batteries in the enchanting nature, I do not mind praising them here. In spite of this, I noticed a few things, which could be done better and thus make my and my girlfriend's experiences even more pleasant. I do not say, these are necessarily big insufficiencies, but sometimes they might affect many guests, so it is worth the consideration:
- While checking in we received a number of oral information. Many of which could be printed and handed out on paper. For me personally, it would have been more convenient not only because I absorb better written information but also I could have concentrated on the most important information (e.g. the way to get to our room)
- Having explored several wings of the beautiful hotel and still not finding our room, I thought to myself that the navigation signs on the corridors do not quite fulfil their task; and we had no choice but to turn again to the busy reception.
- Upon arrival everyone receives a spa pass with his / her name written on it. Well, at least I had my name and surname on it, however, my girlfriend only had a mysterious number and my surname on it – "0877233410 Vlach". Since every time you attend a spa treatment they often call you by your name, in my opinion, the spa could make sure to have the right name on every card. Even though I could understand this from personal point of view, from the marketing point of view I consider this as a serious flaw. People tend to be rather sensitive about their names and like to have the feeling of being appreciated and paid enough attention to. When the spa does not take care of it, then it is up to the guest to choose either tolerate being called by a set of numbers during the entire stay or take the action in their hands and demand that the name is corrected by the busy receptionists who do not seem to correct it just by themselves.
- In case you pay extra for lunch or dinner, you get to choose from a big offer on the menu. You need to choose the day before. The chance of this choice was once unnecessarily taken from us, because no one told us beforehand that if you do not choose straight away in the morning, the personnel chooses for you instead.
- My last remark which I also regard as more serious is that nobody encouraged us to give feedback during our stay.
The Priessnitz hotel could be an even more pleasant place, if they listened to their guests' needs
I would like to emphasise that despite the small rebukes we enjoyed our stay very much due to the fact that the personnel were willing and kind, though they were busy. Having written them for the article anyway, I sent these remarks to the hotel quality manager, whose contact I found at their website. I believed I would do the spa a service in that way. Even after a fortnight, there was no reply to my e-mail, so my impressions are rather perplexed. And though I would like to visit this place again, I will know better than to take the trouble to share my opinion with them again.
Update: After publishing this article I have received an answer from the person responsible after all. She apologized for the time it took to respond and explained what precautions had been implemented upon my remarks.
Example of impartial quality review: my presentation of project management.
The second example is when I personally received very inspiring feedback to my project management presentation. As an occasional guest I take part in Trainings for successful freelancers, where I speak about project management for freelance professionals. I try to get feedback every time. After my second presentation one of the participants shared his impressions from my topic. Among other things he mentioned:
- what was not clear to him from my presentation
- what he was missing from the content and could be added in the future
- suggested that I should apply the topic more for the freelancers
- that it would have been good to show a planned project example
- his impressions on my presentation and what I could improve
Even though he was de facto pointing out my insufficiency, I was glad he had decided to share this with me. He also mentioned that he had been thinking for a long time, whether there was a point in writing this – though he had been asked to do so. I did my best to show him in my reply that I appreciated his ideas and that was exactly what I wanted from them. For him to see that I meant it sincerely, and because he took the effort to write concisely to me, I have given him a significant discount for my other presentation where this topic will be presented in more details. I must say, thanks to him I have significantly changed the content of my contribution and he helped me improve my own project management training.
Review by a Customer or a Professional?
There are two most common basic ways of getting a feedback of good quality – directly from the customer or by paying a professional. Each of these has its own place and is suitable for various things.
The customers or users can share their ideas continually or when they are purposefully asked and motivated to give feedback as a part of a short-term survey. The assessment has these attributes:
- They can best judge the suitability of products or services and can express their satisfaction.
- The consumer mostly will not tell you what the problem actually is, and how to tackle it. He will tell you that the ice-cream does not taste good, and you have to find out the reason.
- Customers do not have to be able to express their preferences and ideas exactly, it is therefore necessary to take assess feedback cautiously.
- An amateur cannot tell the difference between the system faults and sporadic mistakes: from his point of view it is not important whether only his engine has broken down or if there is the defect in the whole series of cars.
- For the customer, the feedback is unpaid job, so it is recommended to encourage them to give it.
- It is important to get feedback from many people in order to have reliable and not only random results.
- Examples of feedback from the consumers' point of view are e.g.: satisfaction questionnaire, book of wishes and complaints, website user testing, tests of different ads etc.
A professional, on the contrary, is a person with great experience and insight in the fields you want to inspect. Thanks to that, he can judge not only your products or services but also assess your work techniques. To work with a professional has these attributes:
- At the end he should give you clear assessment and possible recommendations on what would be good to change
- He or she is able to look at the situation in the company from a distance
- A consultant of a good quality will not give you advice on how the system should work under optimal conditions, but he will be able to take into account the company's possibilities.
- In case of need, professional should be able to inoffensively criticise unsuitable practice and thus give a significant stimulus towards changes.
- Professional is used to work on his initiative and co-works as an equal business partner, so he is able to ask for the necessary information.
Professional may be costly and the co-operation may not be necessarily economic
The way of co-operation can be done by means of consultation, audit etc.
Further possibilities for achieving impartial overview of a company can be e.g. comparisons with competitors or comparisons with books or other publications, which describe the best practice. It could be for example about a ISO standards, ITIL books for IT services management etc.
How to get the most out of the impartial review
The following principles describe how to get as good a feedback as possible and use it in practice:
- try to make sure that all remarks are direct and specific
- give your evaluators freedom to say whatever opinion, there are no bad answers
- thank them even for the opinion you might not like to hear, and avoid excessive explanations or excuses
- thank them even more for criticism than for the praise
- apologise for fundamental errors in your products and accordingly offer compensation
- try to judge the results of the review with open mind
- repeat your assessment in case of unclarity
- not every assessment has to be right: customers have various preferences and even the professional can be wrong
- keep in mind profitability and overall impact before accepting proposed changes
- decide individually how often it is needed to have an impartial review done
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