How one company goes the extra mile to make a different for its customers.
Varflex makes electrical insulating sleevings, twisted and plied and braided yarns. While it’s a medium-size company, it delivers for customers that represent a wide range of industries. It’s been doing that for 94 years, and with that experience comes wisdom. One piece is that there’s no resting on success, says Dale Rashford, Varflex Sales Manager. If there’s a way to improve, you do it. If there’s a way to make the customer feel confident, you also do it.
Varflex did that in June of 2017 when they achieved ISO 9001:2015 certification. It’s an International Quality Standard for meeting both customer expectations and measuring customer satisfaction. It means a company is delivering on its promises. Varflex has posted their promises in their plant facility for everyone to see: Achieve measurable customer satisfaction. Do so with honesty, hard work and implement continuous improvement to deliver products on time, at fair prices, with quality that meets or exceed industry standards.
It sounds like what any company would strive for, and in truth, those have always been Varflex’s goals. The difference is that in order to receive ISO 9001 certification, a company can’t just make claims. It had to document and prove everything that it does, says Bob Page, Varflex Operations Manager and ISO Coordinator. To do this, Varflex compiles and logs data on all parts of its manufacturing processes. Any misstep or customer complaint is recorded, so Varflex can pinpoint areas that need improvement. These internal assessments enable Varflex to make corrections where needed and this in turn improves customer satisfaction.
Do What You Say; Say What You Do
Any new policies or procedures needed to be established were implemented through plant meetings and training. Management had to show to an independent third-party auditor that the company’s actions matched its policies. With any finding of non-conformance, Varflex had to make a corrective or preventative action within thirty days. That was the threshold to gain certification and ultimately what ended up being verified was a straightforward message. “Do what you say and say what you do.”
Before working for the ISO certification, when any problem arose, the company would just take care of it, but, as Page says, “Now we dig in and find the root cause.” The results are simple: Learn and make sure it doesn’t happen again. To continue the improvement, Varflex annually asks for customer feedback in five specific categories: quality, delivery, pricing, technical support and ease of doing business. The results are then recorded. Each specific category gets a score and then all scores are added together that provides an overall customer survey score. Customers can see it and Varflex has those numbers to improve upon. “It’s a benchmark that we previously didn’t have,” Rashford says.
While it doesn’t change the company’s approach, the quantification has had an effect. For one, it provides a sense of comfort, “When customers place their orders, they know we’re going to deliver it on time, every time,” Rashford says. Companies can’t afford to lose time or money. They have choices, and if any problem arises, they’ll exercise their options and find someone else to do their work for them. “If you don’t constantly improve, your competition will walk past you,” he says.
The certification is also a verifiable commitment. It’s a quality piece of paper on the wall. Customers see it when they visit and their employees look at it every day. “Everyone had to buy into this from the company president on down,” Rashford says. Varflex employees always have worked under the unwritten expectations to satisfy their customers, but now our overall accountability is even higher. Once again, “We do what we say and say what we do.”