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Quality management for small businesses guide

Implementing a quality management system (QMS) can help you drive down costs, improve productivity for small or medium-sized enterprises, and increase customer satisfaction. Learn how quality management matters for small businesses and where a QMS and ISO 9001 can help.

With smaller businesses facing a range of challenges – from the impact of energy bill rises to logistics, interest rates and softening customer demand – it can seem like focusing on quality management is a secondary priority.

However, implementing an effective quality management system can boost customer retention, open the door to winning new contracts, reduce wastage and help shore up your bottom line, strengthening business resilience.

Quality management helps SMEs implement effective processes, monitoring and improvements throughout the organisation, which can help boost productivity and business reputation.

Read our guide to discover what becoming ISO 9001 certified can bring to your business.

What is quality management?

Quality management is a process that helps organisations to ensure consistency in the delivery of their product or service.

It involves setting quality objectives and targets, and then developing and implementing plans to achieve these objectives. Quality management also involves monitoring and measuring progress and taking corrective action when necessary.

Organisations implementing quality management systems typically see improved customer satisfaction, reduced costs, and improved organisational efficiency.

Underpinning an approach to quality management is effectively implementing a quality management system (QMS).

A QMS is a valuable tool for organisational efficiency and effectiveness. By introducing a consistent level of quality across an organisation, organisations can instil confidence among customers, investors and other stakeholders.

A QMS certified to ISO 9001 – the global standard in quality management systems – demonstrates your commitment to customer quality and that your QMS meets the specifications determined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

quality management plan processes and strategy

Why does quality management matter for small businesses?

Customers are at the heart of small businesses, and implementing a robust QMS can help enterprises to serve customers better. A QMS provides a way to measure and track progress, identify improvement areas, and establish quality thresholds.

There are significant commercial benefits from implementing a QMS and achieving certification to ISO 9001 standard.

Benefits of quality management for small businesses

1. Reduce costs

Having a QMS in place and becoming ISO 9001 certified can cut costs by helping your business run more efficiently.

Investing resources into quality management can help structure your business and implement more efficient processes. A consistent production process can help reduce product or service failures, making your business more profitable over the long term.

2. Customer satisfaction

A QMS is critical to helping maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.

By ensuring that every step of the production and operational capabilities of an SME focuses on producing a high-quality product or service, customers may be more likely to trust your brand, increasing loyalty.

Customer loyalty can help a business make more significant savings in the long term. According to research by KPMG, most customers (74%) said that product and service quality was the single biggest factor in brand loyalty.

3. Increased customer confidence

Quality is both production- and experience-based; if a customer has a positive experience, they are more likely to return – and it can even help build resilient brand affinity with customers if they encounter a bad experience.

The same research by KPMG found that when customers are loyal to a brand, 86% will recommend a company to friends and family, and 46% will remain loyal even after a bad experience.

Quality management helps unlock customer loyalty and build confidence that your organisation can consistently meet their expectations and deliver quality products and services.

4. Stay compliant with regulations

A structured QMS helps your organisation comply with relevant legislation and regulations that affect your organisation. Centralised, accessible records – such as a Legal Register – and the ability for employees to record quality processes and outcomes can help provide evidence of compliance.

A QMS can make it easier to adapt to changes or improve processes when necessary and deploy regulatory and process updates to teams across sites in an organised way.

5. Enhances your reputation

A robust QMS certified to ISO standard can help increase your organisation’s reputation in the marketplace. It highlights your commitment to quality and shows potential customers that your business has achieved global certification in your approach to quality.

An ISO certification is internationally recognised. This makes it a good endorsement when working as part of a global supply chain or with partners in different international markets.

6. Benefits employees

When a company has a system for organisational structures, roles, and responsibilities as part of a commitment to improving quality, it provides a better work environment for operations.

A crucial part of quality management is recording and measuring how operations and processes work, with the aim of continual improvement. That can lead to investments in training, workplace environment, safer and more effective processes, and better reporting – reducing injuries, improving learning and development, and boosting workplace morale.

7. Opens up new markets

Becoming ISO 9001 certified can open your business to new customers and markets, as some businesses will only work with certified companies.

Achieving ISO 9001 certification can give your organisation the edge it needs when competing for new contracts and tender opportunities. Certification is seen as a stamp of quality by many businesses and can be the deciding factor when all other things are equal.

Read our guide on how being ISO 9001 certified can help your business win more tenders.

quality management

Getting started implementing quality management

Implementing a QMS for smaller businesses needn’t be expensive or time-consuming, and the benefits can significantly outweigh the costs. A QMS system can help you improve your processes, product quality, and customer satisfaction.

Smaller businesses often see more significant benefits from implementing a QMS than their larger counterparts, as it’s a keystone of their quality culture, and improvements can be quickly rolled out.

Being ISO 9001 certified shows that you are dedicated to quality management throughout the business process, supplying a product or service that consistently meets customers’ requirements.

Continuing to review and improve systems can help your business ensure a high level of customer satisfaction and increase the effectiveness of your operations. In turn, this can provide opportunities for more orders, increased profitability and stability in the business.

Find out more about how to begin getting your business ISO 9001 certified.

Picture of Holly Fitzpatrick
Holly Fitzpatrick

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