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Handcrafted With Pride: Put Quality First

Every successful businesses places great emphasis on managing quality control - carefully planned steps taken to ensure that their products are consistent and reliable and truly meet their customers' needs. Multinational corporations have entire departments of highly trained specialists to design and implement their quality assurance programs. For a small independent crafter, as for other small businesses that make unique, handcrafted products, quality control is just as essential. Your craft business cannot rely on a staff of trained experts or the standardization of mass production to take care of quality control. You, as a crafter and a skilled artisan must manage it yourself, along with every other management function that comes along with running a business. That is part of being a small business person.

It is all too often true, though, that crafters rarely test all their products, as the crafter who is making the item always assumes that he or she followed their own steps correctly.

Here's a few steps that you can take to maintain quality and customer satisfaction:

Call each and every customer a few days after delivery of an order to ask whether the customer is fully satisfied. Act promptly to resolve customer concerns. Listen with great care to every one of your customer's ideas and suggestions, and thank them for their input.

You must understand and agree that quality management is essential to the success of the business. Every effort must be made to purchase materials and supplies that start out in good condition and from reputable sellers who you can contact with problems.

Approaching customer satisfaction as key, look at functions such as sales, ordering materials, special orders, storage, delivery, billing and even show setup and display. You can manage your customer’s expectation with error-free ordering, a clean display, neat packaging and great service.

Problems resulting in customer dissatisfaction or financial losses most often occur when you take a custom order, repair a problem piece or don’t respond in a timely manner to a complaint.

Note chronic problem areas. The attitude that says, "I've always done it that way" is the enemy of continuous quality improvement.

Keep accurate records, and more importantly, analyze that data. Rely on the training and technical support offered by the manufacturers of your materials and machinery. Read the product sheets, attend seminars, view the videos, take classes and listen. Your suppliers are part of the team that enables you to satisfy the needs of your customers.

It seems that I'm describing very basic principles here. I can assure you that the level of quality analysis used in the product development departments of large companies is difficult for a layperson to comprehend. In a small business setting, much of it simply seems like common sense. Unfortunately, many well meaning crafters never get around to thinking about the quality of their craftsmanship. As a result, they produce poor quality work, lose customers, perhaps get sued and then go out of business. Don't be among them. Be a survivor. Put quality first.

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