This is a package of buns I started to put in my shopping cart at a Walmart store near me recently.
When I realized what was actually in the bag, I laughed and put it back. But while laughable, the packaging mistake is a sad example of what happens when employees don’t review their efforts before moving on to the next task, or just don’t care.
In this case, the error could be attributed to two companies: the manufacturer who placed the wrong product in the hot dog bun package, and the store that had multiple packages of the mislabeled product on the shelf. If people at either company had been paying attention to what they were doing, the mislabeled buns wouldn’t have been offered for sale.
Why quality control matters
Customers rely on your business to deliver what they are expecting to buy. When that doesn’t happen they lose trust in your brand. Even when errors don’t result in any physical or monetary harm, they make your brand look unprofessional, or in this case, laughable, to your customers.
Fortunately, this particular packaging error wouldn’t have caused anyone physical harm. But it might have annoyed customers who bought the product based on the label and didn’t notice what was inside until they got home. Heck, anyone who’s ever had kids who are finicky eaters can imagine the conversation at dinner:
“I want a hot dog roll, not a hamburger roll!”
“It’s just like a hot dog roll – just a different shape.”
“No, it’s not!”
“It tastes just like a hot dog roll!”
“No, it doesn’t. And it doesn’t cover all the hot dog.”
The customer might momentarily blame themselves for not seeing that the buns in the package didn’t match the label. But that feeling would quickly give way to annoyance or anger at both the manufacturer of the hot dog buns and the store that sold them.
Quality Control is even more important for small business
Because Wonder and Walmart are big, well-known companies, it’s unlikely that the packaging error would make any consumers stop shopping at Walmart or stop buying Wonder brand buns. But small businesses – and particularly very small and one-person businesses – need to be more concerned about quality control than large companies
That’s because they live and die by their reputation. Word of mouth and referrals are key drivers of business for many small businesses. A lapse in quality control – or worse, a failure to implement any quality control procedures can lead to bad reviews or stop customers from making referrals.
Quality Control Steps for Small Businesses
While errors do occasionally happen, there are steps you should take in your small business to boost quality control.
- Set quality standards and be sure your employees are aware of them and their importance.
- Standardize procedures. Have a written checklist of what needs to be done, by whom, and at what stage of production.
- Add review procedures at critical points in production, packaging, and shipping to minimize errors.
- Remind employees and contractors to review their own work when they have finished an assignment. Do the results match expectations? Have all the procedures been followed?
- Fix errors, even if it slows down work.
- Pay attention to negative customer feedback. First, find out why the customer is unhappy and fix the problem for that customer. Then, consider whether the problem might be affecting others, or impacting your sales.
- Praise and reward employees for taking pride in their work and making your company look good.
- Always treat employees with respect, even if they make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally. Don’t yell or comment publicly about the mistake. Talk to them calmly in private. Tell them what you want done to fix the mistake. When appropriate, give them advice on how to avoid making the same error again.
The time and effort you put into delivering quality products and services to your customers will set your business apart from your competitors. It will build customer trust, loyalty and repeat sales.