From Customer Needs to Customer Satisfaction Quality Counts

'Quality' is a word with many different shades of meaning in everyday use, but at Volvo Construction Equipment (CE) - it has just one, very specific sense, whatever the language, whatever the context: customer satisfaction. Only if the customer is happy, can the company be sure that it is producing 'quality' products and services. The pursuit of the highest quality is the motor that powers the evolution of a Volvo CE product from beginning to end: from its conception and development, through the manufacturing and sales phases and beyond to customer support and feedback.

For all its 175 years in engineering, in all its historical incarnations, customer satisfaction has been the primary goal and the only acceptable standard at the company. Today, this constant focus on the customer is expressed in the company's Quality Vision: 'Customers and competitors view Volvo Construction Equipment as a company that delivers products and services that are clearly superior in the marketplace.' In order to deliver this excellence, Volvo CE goes to great lengths to find out exactly what it is that customers and end-users want and need to run their businesses more effectively and profitably. How is it possible for a company to provide satisfaction to its customers if it doesn't understand the real needs of its customers?

For Volvo CE, it has become a golden rule to get it right from the start; to visualize and understand the exact aim of the enterprise before setting off in search of it. This process begins and ends with consulting and listening to the customers through a host of different channels including Customer Clinics, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Dealer Satisfaction Surveys, Total Market Understanding Surveys and Voice of the Customer Clinics.

In an effort to give more substance and definition to what it means by 'quality', Volvo CE has adopted Total Quality Management, a multifaceted concept which embraces every aspect and minute detail of delivering satisfaction to the customer. By applying the holistic principles of Total Quality Management (TQM) to every single detail and every stage of the life of a product or service*, Volvo CE aims to meet the high expectations of customers and remain an organization in which they can always trust. The company's operating process - starting with Product Portfolio Development, moving forward to Sales To Order and Order to Delivery and finally to Delivery and Repurchase - form the platform for the TQM framework.

It is impossible, in these few pages, to mention every last instance of quality in action in every single stage of a product's life, but take any area of Volvo CE's business at random, and you will find evidence of this commitment to excellence. Take for example, the Volvo Care Cab, which is the best in the construction equipment industry, a fine example of quality in all respects: overall design, sophisticated technology, enhanced safety and ergonomic comfort, all created with first-class materials and workmanship. One of the main reasons behind the success of the Care Cab is the fact that the designers took on board the wealth of feedback they sought from equipment owner and operators through the clinics and surveys.

Over 250,000 people around the world go to work in a Volvo Care Cab every day, some working for huge construction companies, others for small family-run operations. All the cabs share this one striking feature - quality - but in the construction equipment industry, the maxim that 'one size fits all' does not apply. Each customer has different needs, which is why Volvo CE goes to such great lengths to gather frank and honest feedback from end-users.

Volvo CE offers a full range of solutions and bespoke packages to suit the individual requirements of its customers. Another concrete example of how this commitment to quality is translated into practice is illustrated by Volvo CE's Customer Usage Profiles, a system which provides the product development engineers with invaluable information for analyzing, designing and testing new equipment. Likewise, Life Cycle Monitoring helps the engineers understand how equipment ages by measuring the service life of the entire machine. The knowledge derived from the monitoring is then fed into the development of new products to increase reliability and quality. It is this keen attention to the smallest detail that guarantees customers receive the quality they have come to expect as standard over the years.

This quest for quality is also manifested in Volvo CE's worldwide dealer network where a great deal of effort behind-the-scenes ensures that customers receive a quality of service, knowledge and skill from their local contacts that is every bit as high as the equipment in which they have invested. Every year, for instance, Volvo and its dealers conduct more than 300,000 hours of specialized service training at 20 regional schools in order to make sure that quality continues to reach the customer.

In recent times, the relentless pursuit of quality in all areas of Volvo CE's operations has extended far beyond the production of a shining, state-of-the-art construction equipment machine. As Mats Deleryd, Senior Vice President Quality Development, explains: "Traditionally, it has been the prevalent approach to offer the basic hard products, i.e. the construction machines. However, going forward it is clear that Volvo CE is committed to even better support for customers in terms of the combination of both hard and 'soft products' such as extended warranty, spare part supply, financing solutions, rental services and so on. In order to support customers in the best possible way Volvo CE is committed to developing a mixture of both hard and soft products."

'Quality' is one of Volvo CE's core values, alongside Safety and Environmental Care. For Deleryd, these principles are three inseparable parts of one whole. "As we see it the core values go hand-in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Volvo is an organization that supports the development of a sustainable society. The core values provide guidance on this journey." In order to help achieve this, he adds: "The products and services needs to be of the highest quality, offering what the customers really want and ask us for. At the same time the products need to be safe to operate and as well suited as possible to support a sustainable environment."