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Mike Richman

FDA Compliance

Quality Digest Interprets the Voice of the Customer

Our latest user survey offers a wealth of information and opportunities for improvement

Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 16:34

Last month I wrote an article entitled “Being Comfortable in a World of Never-Ending Change.” Editor in Chief Dirk Dusharme and I also covered this story on the April 29th edition of Quality Digest Live (QDL). QDL, by the way, is our live video show wrap-up of the week’s top industry news and stories, which appears on our site every Friday. If you haven’t already checked it out, I encourage you to do so tomorrow. We start at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern. Click here to access the player page.

My recent article discussed the ongoing need to accept and manage change within any successful organization. As a case study, we used our experiences here at Quality Digest, in particular the redesign of this newsletter. As part of that discussion, I mentioned voice of the customer feedback that we received from you via our recent user survey, for which we received well in excess of 1,000 responses. I’d like to take a closer look at the results of that survey and what that information meant within the context of our ongoing evolution.

Editorial preferences

The majority of the questions on the survey asked about your editorial preferences, and how efficiently we are delivering the kind of content that you want. For example, in the scaled response section, we asked you to rank, from 1 (best) to 5 (worst), how useful you found the different types of content that we present. Here are the top five “most useful” responses:

Topic Avg.
1. Quality management articles 1.96
2. Articles related to ISO 9001 and other QMS standards 2.28
3. Statistics articles 2.35
4. In-house columns 2.41
5. Off-topic articles not directly related to quality 2.85
   

Certainly, there were really no surprises in the top two on this list—quality management and quality standards have been our “bread and butter” for a number of years, and we continue to offer regular coverage of these topics through feature articles, columns, and news items. It’s good to see that we’re on point here.

Statistics is another topic area that we’ve covered for quite some time, but we’ve really put an added focus on it over the past 18 months or so. With regular contributors such as Donald Wheeler, Davis Balestracci, and Steven Ouellette, to name just a few, we feel that no one covers SPC as well as Quality Digest.

Checking in at No. 5 are pieces not directly connected to the world of quality, but that educate, provoke thought, and/or entertain. This is an area that our editorial staff debates—earnestly and often. Should we stick as close as possible to topics relating purely to “quality” (a term that its meaning may itself be changing within the business world) or venture out—as we recently have—to tangential subject areas that have a bearing on industry and your professional life. From your responses, it seems that we should continue on that venture and run these pieces with a fair degree of regularity; and we will.

Detailed feedback

In addition to the scaled preferences, we gave you the opportunity to answer some open-ended questions about how we’re doing and why you support us. The responses were fascinating—complimentary in many cases, and bluntly suggesting change in others.

We had several thousand responses combined from these five questions, and it therefore took our management team a long while to peruse, analyze, and take action on the feedback.

Let’s go through each of the five questions, highlight the most frequent responses, and discuss what we gleaned from your answers.

1. “What would you like to see added to our content?”

With a 17-percent response rate, the most frequently given answer was that we’re fine as we are (or some variant of such). Of those that provided a critique, the three most frequently requested additions were as follows:
• Case studies (12 percent)
• Industry-specific articles (10 percent)
• General quality and quality tools such as lean and Six Sigma (9 percent)

We’ve interpreted this to mean that you read Quality Digest media for practical reasons, and so you want practical information. You want to benchmark, keep in touch with the industry’s latest developments, and learn. In recent weeks we’ve run an abundance of content of this type, such as Mike Chamberlain’s “Covenant Adopts Lean Management in Health Care” and “Turning Point for Food Safety” by Cor Groenveld. As per your wishes, we’ll continue to emphasize applications, tools, and solutions going forward.

2. “Do you feel that the quality of Quality Digest media has decreased in any way?”

Fully 85 percent of respondents answered, “No” to this question, which is deeply gratifying to me and all members of our team. Of those that that replied in the affirmative, the following were given as perceptions for our decline:
• Too much content/Too frequently sent (4 percent)
• Enjoyed the printed version more (3 percent)
• Weak content (2 percent)

Providing an overabundance of good content is a nice problem to have, but we never want to “blow up” your in-box with unnecessary e-mail. We hope that everything we send is well received and of value to you; if you find that you’re getting too much e-mail from us, you always have the option of switching from our daily newsletter to a weekly delivery. For those that enjoyed us in print, note that all of our same great content is available online, and we’re constantly seeking easier and better ways to present it to you, including mobile applications and websites. You can always print out just want you want to read from our site, as well. In terms of the quality of the content itself, we constantly examine our editorial mix to ensure that we’re presenting fresh and interesting articles. We also carefully scrutinize every reader note for comments and suggestions on how we can improve. Please let us know what type of content you would like to see in Quality Digest media, and we will do our very best to get it to you.

3. “What is it about Quality Digest media that you like the most?”

The top answer here was out in front by a healthy percentage. This question provoked lots of smiles and good feelings among our team. The top three responses were:
• General content (40 percent)
• Quality (15 percent)
• Layout (7 percent)

You seemed to feel that we are doing a good job of presenting relevant editorial with a high degree of quality, which we interpret as meaning that our content is clear, concise, and well edited. A good number of you appreciated our layout as well, particularly with regard to our flagship property, Quality Digest Daily (QDD). Now that we’ve undergone a redesign of QDD, we hope that those of you who liked our content before will appreciate it even more now.

4. “What is it about Quality Digest media that you like the least?”

This survey wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, nor should it have been. It is human nature that questions like this one are scrutinized more closely than others, and I believe that we spent more time going through the responses to this question than in all others combined. When it came to the elements that you least enjoyed in our media, you responded:
• Too-specific content (32 percent)
• Ads (18 percent)
• Layout (15 percent)

If you look back at question No. 1, you’ll see that one of the elements that you wanted to see us add to our editorial content was more industry-specific articles. Yet here, you state that our editorial is too specific, not only in terms of industry, but also in topics, or applications, or usage of tools. A survey like this one always reveals crosswinds, and making sense of them and course-correcting appropriately is always a daunting challenge. We have recently attempted to maintain a portion of very specific content serving specific audiences while also broadening out with general pieces such as Mike Micklewright’s “Why Trump Is Bad for U.S. Business” and “Take the Plunge” by Robert Wilson.

The presence of advertising in our media was also a point of disfavor with many of you, as it has been pretty much every time we do a user survey. Given that Quality Digest doesn’t charge users for access to content the paid advertising is necessary. We’ll continue to try to keep the marketing to a dull roar.

In terms of your concerns about our layout, once again, the crosswinds are blowing. In the previous question, many of you said that the layout was one of the things that you liked most about us. Still, since, more of you disliked our layout than liked it, a change was definitely in order. Let us know how you like the new QDD. Later this year, our website will be getting a facelift. We welcome your thoughts on that, too.

5. “What was your primary reason for completing this survey?”

As my dad used to say, honesty is the best policy and you, dear reader, are honest to a fault. For proof, check out the responses to our fifth essay question:
• To provide feedback (37 percent)
• For the opportunity to enter the prize drawing (23 percent)
• To participate in a continuous improvement effort (12 percent)

Many of you referenced the fact that you think it is important to walk your talk, and thus, you jumped at the chance to provide voice of the customer information. Some even said that you wished that your organizations sent out surveys like this one. This article represents a part of our effort to close that feedback loop and honor your investment of time and effort by publishing the results. Almost a quarter of you added, with virtual smiles, that you were in it for the prize, but the value (about $100) belied this as your primary motivation. We know that you completed the survey just because you love us—admit it!

Finally, coming back to the “walk your talk” angle, a sizable number of you completed the survey simply because you wanted to participate in a continuous improvement effort. Ultimately, isn’t the opportunity to chart a course for improvement what got all of us into the quality space in the first place?

Net promoters

The final section of our survey simply asked you if you would recommend Quality Digest to a friend or colleague. We gave you a scale from 10 (highly likely) to 0 (highly unlikely).

A total of 46 percent of you gave us a 9 or 10 on this question; those of you that did so are considered to be a “Net Promoter.” Meanwhile, 16 percent of you gave us a 6 or below on this question; if you did so, you’re considered a “Net Detractor.” Subtract the detractors from the promoters and you get 30, which is a metric called the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

NPS is not a perfect metric, and it does have its critics, but it offers a quick snapshot for scaled surveys of this type, and shows you in a general way how you’re doing, particularly in comparison to previous surveys. For example, in 2009 (before we moved to our digital-only format), our NPS was 19. Note that an NPS of 0 is considered unacceptable in most industries. A score of 19 is a little above average; 30 is good. Generally speaking, when you achieve an NPS of 50, you’re really onto something. That’s the direction that we’re heading, and your regular feedback makes our improvement possible.

Voice of reason

Everyone in industry talks about customers all the time—how to get them, how to keep them, how to give them what they want before they even know it. One of the best ways to ensure the proper care and feeding of customers is to simply listen, and not just to what they say. Actions always speak much louder than words, and cultivating the ability to listen and interpret the voice of the customer is one of clearest differentiators between organizations that are successful and those that are not.

You are our customer, and we highly value your voice and your actions. Surveys are great, and they tell us a lot, but an occasional survey is no replacement for regular, informal communication between us. Do you like what you see in Quality Digest Daily? Write in and tell us. Hate something that we said on Quality Digest Live? E-mail us while we’re on the air and we’ll comment on your comment. Shocked by something you’ve seen on our website? Call me personally at (530) 893-4095, extension 1003. Let me know how we can serve you better.

We’re standing by, eager to listen, ready to break new ground in this emerging digital publishing age. 

Discuss

About The Author

Mike Richman’s picture

Mike Richman

Comments

Thanks for the improvement efforts...

I personally have enjoyed watching the evolution to digital format, expanded content, broad editorial appeal and foundational information that can be used to direct readers to more specific information where appropriate. I particularly enjoy Bill Kalmar's shared perspectives and look forward to one day reaching retirement age myself. Overall I believe this is a better product than Quality Progress, and I have seen continual strides over the past couple of years.


That said I have a few constructive criticisms that might prove helpful. Business decisions and practical applications of continuous improvement programs change based on business sector and company size. It would be nice to see more information from the perspective of small business operations (where lean isn't a mantra but rather a requirement to remain profitable and stay in business) and/or defense contracting (which is substantially different from automotive or health care industries). From time to time there should be recognition that continuous improvement can still take place without big business bureaucracy, buzz-words or overhead... there might actually be times when small business approaches are still the best way to eliminate waste and ensure fiscal health using old-school process development and customer service techniques.


My only other comment relates to advertising. While I certainly understand the use and placement of ads within the online articles and editorial columns (you have to pay the bills), it's a bit of an irritant to have the ads appear when printing an article I particularly like. It would be much preferred to have the ads filtered out when the option to print is used. I have already seen the ads by the time I elect to print and would really like a "clean" copy to retain for historical purposes.