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Less Talk, More Action

Ask Doug Betts, senior v.p., Total Customer Satisfaction, Nissan North America, about quality measures and he’ll say: “The most powerful quality measure you can have is for a customer to tell his next-door neighbor how much he likes his vehicle.” Betts also believes speed is of the essence in rectifying problems that can lead to customer dissatisfaction.

Ask Doug Betts, senior v.p., Total Customer Satisfaction, Nissan North America, about quality measures and he’ll say: “The most powerful quality measure you can have is for a customer to tell his next-door neighbor how much he likes his vehicle.” Betts also believes speed is of the essence in rectifying problems that can lead to customer dissatisfaction. To wit: “A 60-second discussion around a table is much more efficient than months of exchanging e-mails.” These discussions—codified in Nissan’s Customer Satisfaction Team (CST) process—are key to his goal of rectifying potential problems quickly and correctly. By gathering the interested parties around the table, it is much easier to get to the cause of a problem, and its resolution, Betts believes. While a buzz, squeak, or rattle problem may land on the doorstep of manufacturing, under the CST approach the team leader comes from design. This ensures there is oversight from a group with an interest in the proper resolution of the problem, but no conflicts of interest. Once the entire team agrees a problem is fixed, the solution is sent to a quick implementation team that includes people from the purchasing, logistics, and parts ordering departments. This guarantees the changes are implemented with minimal waste. Preventing problems from happening at all is also high on Betts’ to-do list. In order to address concerns earlier in the process, improve relationships with suppliers, and prevent as many quality concerns as possible, Nissan recently instituted a Parts Quality Engineering (PQE) program. “This process improves parts quality at each phase of the launch, from trials to start of production to mass production,” says Betts. PQE assigns an engineer to be an advocate for each supplier, and act as their product manager and liaison into Nissan. “This person works with suppliers to address and correct part design and quality issues, focuses on new model development, and is given a manageable area of responsibility,” says Betts. PQE was first implemented during the initial design phase of the 2007 Altima sedan.—CAS