Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Celebrity Endorsement v ISO 9001 Certfication

Celebrity endorsement is a tried, and tested, method of promoting a product. It can give it a veneer of quality.

A presenter of a television programme associated with the product range can be regarded as a great find. They can lend an air of authority to the endorsement.

Of course, it is worth remembering, that many presenters get their role because they are good at presenting television programmes, not necessarily because of their in-depth knowledge of the subject.

In a society that is obsessed with celebrity, fame is fickle. Life as a celebrity can be very short-lived. Which is why “PR gurus” like Max Clifford are employed to maximise the earning potential of their clients during the short period that the public are still interested in them.

Celebrity endorsements rarely come free of charge. They tend not to be unsolicited testimonials. In many instances, a PR agency will have actively promoted their client to obtain some kind of payment, in return for an endorsement, and may well be using an endorsement in the process of developing their client’s own brand. For example

I am not anti celebrity endorsement. I believe that it is a perfectly valid form of promotion. It is just one, of the many tools, a company has, to promote their products. Who wouldn’t want to say “This is the exact same (insert product name here) as (insert celebrity name here) has in his/her house.”

The key phrase in that last sentence is “exact same.”

How can I be sure that the widget that is in my house will be made to the same standard as the one in the celebrity’s? Any craftsman can make a special effort to produce a perfect, one-off, hand-built special. In a volume production environment, there has to be a system in place to ensure consistency in each of the processes that are carried out.

ISO 9001 is one of the most well known standards in the world. Together with ISO 14001, it has been implemented by more than a million organizations in 175 countries. (source: www.iso.org )

According to the International Organization for Standardization,

“The ISO 9000 family addresses ‘Quality Management.’ This means what the organization does to fulfil:

  • The customer’s quality requirements, and
  • Applicable regulatory requirements, while aiming to
  • Enhance customer satisfaction, and
  • Achieve continual improvement of its performance in pursuit of these objectives”

ISO 9001:2000 certification, and registration demonstrates to an organization’s customers, and suppliers that an it has successfully implemented a quality management system which adheres to the principles of the standard.

Certification and Registration can only be achieved by successfully carrying out a series of audits by an independent, accredited body. The audits are carried out regularly, and cover all areas of the business, which affect the quality of the final product.

For the last 30 years, I have only worked for companies that were ISO 9001 or BS 5750 (its UK predecessor) certified. This has not been a conscious decision, but happened simply because, the kind of organization that achieves certification, is more likely to be one which can produce a genuinely better quality product, more consistently, than one that isn’t certified. As a result, it is more likely to be successful, in the long term, than one that isn’t.

Without certification, there is no nationally, or internationally recognised standard, by which I can measure the success of an organization’s quality management systems. So, an uncertified company has to rely on word-of-mouth, or create what appear to be, independent endorsements from nationally, or internationally, recognised celebrities, But which are, in the main, to all intents and purposes, a service which has been paid for.

How can I, as a consumer, be confident that a company will deliver a finished product, that meets my requirements, both aesthetically, and functionally, and will provide satisfactory customer service? The short answer for an uncertified company is that I can’t. Even if I have heard great things from someone who has a good experience with an uncertified company, how can I be sure that they will be consistently good? If they don’t have a quality management system in place, they don’t even know what my experience will be.

I have seen statements like, “manufactured to ISO 9001” on promotional material. But, without the approved ISO 9001 logo and certificate number, the statement is worthless.

If a company has a quality management system, which meets the requirements of ISO 9001, why not get certified?

Crittall Windows is ISO 9001:2000 certified and registered. The company is currently working with BSI to achieve ISO 9001:2008 certification. The regular audits that are carried out cover all areas of the order process, from Site Survey and Design, through Manufacturing, and finally to on-site installation.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

How I use Twitter, and why I won't be following 30,000 people either

There have been a lot of comments today about @MarkShaw performing a mass un-follow of many of the > 30,000 "friends" he has built up on Twitter. I thought I'd add my point of view.

Mark has been described as a Twitter guru, he offers advice to companies and individuals on how best to use Twitter.

I'm sure his advice will have changed over the time he has been using Twitter. He says himself, he started with a policy of automatically following anyone who followed him.

That may be a fine idea when you are trying to build a network of friends and followers, and trying to understand how people are using it. However, over time (if you are successfully using Twitter), as your reputation grows, your follower count will grow. If you autofollow, the stream of tweets that you are presented with each time you enter the site will become increasingly irrelevant, it will be difficult to engage with your network, and many of the benefits of Twitter will be lost to you.

Of course, I want to promote my business using Twitter, but I try to achieve that by adding value to my followers, and those whom I'm following. No one is going to walk up to Crittall Windows' reception and say, I was so impressed with John's tweets that I want to give you an order. I tweet links to news items, and to things I find of interest, I retweet requests for help, I engage in conversations about current issues, I enjoy some light banter, and where I have relevant knowledge or experience, I offer help and advice to anyone who needs it. In short, I am networking, as I would in the real world, but using a tool which provides me with the ability to reach more people, in a wider geographical area.

I'm also trying desperately to win a year's free pies from @HollandsPies!

My objective is to build a network of people with common interests, from whom I can learn, and with whom I can share my experience. If I follow too many people, then that just wouldn't be possible.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

My Introduction to Steel Windows

I am the IT Manager at Crittall Windows Ltd, the UK's largest supplier of steel windows and doors.

Although my job title is IT Manager, I have a responsibility as a manager of the business, as well as in my own particular specialization. This means that I need to understand the markets in which the company operates, and the products and services that the company provides to meet the demands of those markets.

This blog will be drawn from my experience within Crittall Windows, and, of course, many of the examples I provide will be based on Crittall products and services. However, I will, wherever possible, give information from and about other suppliers to the market.

Without realising it, I became a supporter of the steel window quite early in life. As a teenager, I was brought up in a town in the North West of England. We lived in a row of imposing Victorian semi-detached houses. At the end of the row was a typical 1930s modernist house with flat roof, white rendered walls, curved corners, and curved steel windows. It had always been a talking point, and, for some reason, I liked the fact that it was there.

Eventually, of course, I moved away. I went to university, then worked in London. On one of my visits home, I was absolutely horrified to see that someone had, in my view, desecrated the house. The white render had been pebble-dashed, the flat roof was now a pitched roof, and the steel windows had been replaced with PVCu. The beautiful curved windows were now faceted with vast expanses of white plastic. The whole effect was to destroy the original design.

It's clear that some designs just don't "work" without the slim profiles of steel windows, and shapes that can be created. This is as true of some modern buildings, as it is of older ones.
A little later, it was brought home to me again, when I visited a friend who was renting a large detached 1920s Arts and Crafts-style house in West Sussex. As it was a rental property, it had not been updated by the owner, and still had the original single-glazed, standard metal windows. Next door was identical in design and layout, but was privately owned and had the original windows replaced by PVCu.

The contrast between the 2 houses, from the outside, was striking. The unadulterated house looked so much better, the PVCu windows seemed to completely dominate the whole elevation, whereas, the steel windows blended in to the building.

Today, it is possible to replace original, single-glazed steel windows with a double-glazed replica with improved performance, which will maintain the integrity of the original design.