Who, us? Yes, you! Here's how one company got its ISO act together.

Author:Sherwood, Rick
Position:Promotion agency adapts quality standards to improve client services

Now let me see if I've got this straight: You want our company to adopt a quality assurance system like they use in places where they make widgets?

Those were my thoughts when a major auto manufacturer invited a small group of its "marketing services" partners to participate in a pilot quality certification program in 1996.

The quality assurance program in question had been implemented more than a decade earlier to right manufacturing quality wrongs. But injecting a manufacturing-oriented quality system into a service company? You've got to be kidding!

Well, that was almost six years ago. That was thousands of dollars in staff time and out-of-pocket expenses ago. That was before we hired experts and created a quality department.

That was also about 18 months before we conducted a simple ceremony to signify our becoming the first of the pilot group to earn the quality program certification.

In the years since, two things have become crystal clear:

* Establishing a legitimate quality system is not cheap.

* It appears doing so can be a measurably profitable

venture. For example, our overall revenue has increased 300 percent; productivity gains and operating cost reductions have allowed us to hold most service fees steady for years; employee turnover has been reduced to less than 20 percent annually.

But that's only part of the story. Is it the right thing to do? I'm thinking it is.

Campbell & Co. was founded 19 years ago as a motor sports promotion agency. Over time, our skills and client base have broadened. Today, we're handling a diverse mix of marketing service business from basic projects to sophisticated PR programs.

The company that originally motivated our quality interests, like many major corporations, has set strict goals...

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