Indeed, as defined, TQM is “a person-focused management system with the main target of continually increasing customer satisfaction at the lowest possible cost” (Scharitzer and Korunka, p. S943). While TQM is targeted at improving customer satisfaction, the literature also indicates that TQM involves “massive change for employees,” and these changes can result in “feelings of threat and fear” as well as “loss of control, feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, change of routine habits, disruption of the social network” and more (Scharitzer & Korunka, p. S943).
Unlike traditional models of change, moreover, such as Lewin’s model of unfreezing, change and then freezing, TQM requires a new ethos where change becomes a “constant value” (Scharitzer & Korunka, p. S943). As a result, TQM necessitates designing job descriptions in such a way that employee expectations take change into consideration. More importantly, a major area of TQM research explores “the impact of organizational changes on customer satisfaction” (Scharitzer & Korunka, p. S944).
Customer satisfaction, studies have shown, has been found to provide “an early-warning system for positive or negative customer attitudes toward a company” (Scharitzer & Korunka, p. S944). In a study of a public agency that has adopted TQM, it
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The findings indicate that only organizational redesign and placing the service of the organization at every level under scrutiny can lead to a truly “customer-oriented service organization” (Scharitzer & Korunka, S944). In order to do so, continuous service quality data must be developed and monitored, using benchmarks that measure customer satisfaction at several points. The results of the study indicate that this data must be “analyzed carefully to prevent negative effects of these changes for the employees” (Scharitzer & Korunka, p. S951).
The results of these benchmarks should not only be used by employers to improve employee performance but also communicated to customers to let them know that their views count. The results of the study indicate that employees will change their organizational and behavioral procedures if they fear negative criticism from customers. TQM-based interventions are even being used by public service agencies to determine the best locations for service centers in any given locality (Marianov & Rios, et. al. , 2004, p. 631).
A number of location models, including the Location Set Covering Problem, and the Maximal Covering Local model, are used to situate centers in optimal areas to capture the most opportunities for public service (Marianov & Rios, et. al. , 2004). The public service that maintains roads in Northern Ireland has also adopted a variant of TQM to ensure that its service is fast and responsive to the public’s needs (MacFarlane, 2001).
A WIC program designed to inform women about elements of pregnancy and childbirth and thus reduce the infant mortality rate in North Carolina presents another case study of a TQM-based intervention to improve service (Chance & Green, 2001). The program was already developed on the basis of the idea that customer service was important, but women being served by the program still found a number of problems in the implementation of the program, including being unable to travel long distances to get to the WIC centers, waits that were too long and inconvenient, and “problems with getting time off work to pick up food checks” (Chance & Green, p. 3).
After an intervention involving the introduction of TQM into the service, it was found that TQM “tended to improve customer focus in terms of a decrease in waiting time, convenient hours of operations and customized food packages” (Chance & Green, p. 2). Overall, the study found that “services to customers improved, resulting in an increase in program participation” (Chance & Green, p. 2).
TQM served not only to help front-line employees serve customers more effectively, but it also, as TQM does, redesigned the organization of the program, and discovered that while some program elements were of marginal values and should be dropped, other programs were simply hampered by policies, including “eligibility requirements, accessibility to services, and an overwhelming application process” (Chance & Green, p. 2), that “contributed to nonparticipation in these social programs” (Chance & Green, p. 2).
As a result of the TQM-based intervention, WIC is now considered to be a highly effective program. A variant on TQM-based interventions involves simply reorganizing a public service agency in a manner that by itself changes the way business is done. In one case study two agencies pooled budgets, a simple act that resulted in profound changes. The pooling resulted in two different staffs, one health-related, the other a social care staff, being brought under one management structure.
Training and issues regarding employee culture had to be addressed. In case studies in England and Sweden, however, the most important effect of budget pooling was that it “changed traditional ways of thinking about and delivering services” (Hultberg & Glendinning, 2003, p. 436). More importantly still, managers began to experience a change of perspective, away from a culture which blamed different employees for this or that failure, and “taking responsibility for the whole system of service…. and recognizing the interdependencies between the whole range of local services” (Hultberg & Glendinning, p. 436).
Eventually the cultures of different types of employees, which at first caused negative attitudes between them, also vanished, replaced by new management structure in which all employees were “reorganized into interdisciplinary teams” (Hultberg & Glendinning, p. 537).