Improving Customer Service by Implementing ISO Systems

Improving Customer Service by Implementing ISO Systems
by Erik Reslock, Chief of External Affairs, California Prison Industry Authority

CALPIA Furniture enterprise inmates at the Correctional Training Facility, Soledad, California

CALPIA Furniture enterprise inmates at the Correctional Training Facility, Soledad, California

Succeeding in a market where customers have declining budgets means providing excellent customer service. In the midst of one of the worst fiscal crises in California’s history, the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) had to find ways to both retain its customers and gain new business by improving customer satisfaction.

CALPIA found the model for continual improvement with the application of the
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) principles.

Implementation of ISO principles helps organizations establish sound quality practices. It provides ways for organizations to achieve and demonstrate quality performance to customers by providing organizations with a practical Quality Management System (QMS) model. One benefit of ISO process is how it can be integrated with existing systems, making it a fairly easy solution for correctional industries to implement. CALPIA identified its most criticized product line to launch the ISO campaign. Furniture products were the cause of more complaints than any other product, and furniture customers the most vocal with their dissatisfaction.

Performance measurement requirements go along with the implementation of the QMS model. CALPIA’s tracking and measurement methods were not adequate to identify or document problems. CALPIA now follows an ISO process that requires the reporting of all identified customer quality concerns, the establishment of action steps to be taken to resolve those concerns, and the resolution of the identifi ed concerns so that the customer is satisfied. Steps taken to resolve quality concerns include product repair or replacement, manufacturing improvements, product or service re-design, and additional staffing resources.

Upon notification by a CALPIA customer that a product or service is not performing as
needed, CALPIA follows an established ISO process to coordinate the repair, replacement, or required improvement. All product repairs and replacements are logged and a report is created and distributed monthly to managerial staff in order to identify how product or service quality can be improved on an on-going basis.

CALPIA achieved ISO certification for furniture, modular buildings and modular systems furniture factories in our first year, 2007. Customer satisfaction data for the first three years after ISO implementation show a large reduction in returns due to quality concerns and a dramatic reduction in complaints. Improving the quality of the furniture enterprise and changing our customers’ perception of the product line was challenging, but the effort yielded much higher customer satisfaction with our furniture products and greater confidence in the CALPIA brand.

CALPIA is committed to improving the overall quality of its products and services by expanding the application ISO principles. During Fiscal Year 2010/11 CALPIA expanded application of ISO principles to fabric and mattress enterprises. CALPIA is one of two state correctional industries in the nation that is ISO certified. Also, CALPIA, to date, is the only ISO certified state agency in California.

CALPIA inmates at Mule Creek State Prison were the first inmates in the nation to become certified ISO Internal Auditors in a state correctional industry.

CALPIA is the largest Correctional Industries’ program outside UNICOR. It operates 60
manufacturing, service and agriculture industries in 22 California correctional institutions, providing employment and programming for approximately 5,400 inmates. CALPIA’s programming saves the State of California millions of dollars annually through lower recidivism.