Pride key to maintaining standards

WHEN it was announced that Crown Motors had achieved ISO certification at the first attempt, the management was justifiably proud, but there was also a sense of relief.

All managers had been gathered together to hear the announcement from the external audit team and, because previous internal audits showed failure during preparation, there was doubt whether everything was thorough enough to satisfy the careful testing and probing of the audit team.

Pride at the achievement permeated throughout the company.

''Our 1,300 staff in our 27 branches were really excited,'' managing director William Tsui said.

''There was a great sense of accomplishment which really brought the company together.

''I was quite sceptical about our chances, but we really came through.'' Mr Tsui said the process of education took a while and that, initially, some of the workers did not care about ISO 9001.

Education for the staff was then changed so that the theme was ''Standard operational procedures can save you time and effort, and teach you what to do; it will save you from more work if you do it right first time''.

All staff were promised an extra day's paid leave as a carrot.

This was announced close to the final audit, and after one of the internal audits had exposed some key areas that the management was not happy with.

Mr Tsui acknowledged that it would now be a problem to maintain the high standards of quality.

''The euphoria has subsided, but I believe pride will keep up the standards,'' he said.

''A copy of the ISO certificate will hang in every branch for the staff and workers, and each worker will receive an individual in-house certificate.'' The company has also set up a team consisting of staff from each department to maintain standards.

They may carry out surprise inspections and, where necessary recommend, additional training or rectification of procedures to ensure the next external audit does not catch anyone out.

The ISO certificate in each branch will also act as a reminder to customers of the company's quality and Mr Tsui is expecting greater pressure from them as a result.

He believed the ISO certification had done more than specify the company's commitment to quality.

''When I first came to Hong Kong [from the United States] four years ago, money was the only measure of anything in Hong Kong. Now, I believe, we have developed a sense of pride as a measure of success,'' he said.

''We are trying to permeate a sense of pride throughout the company and, in general, it is working, although it takes time.'' Mr Tsui is also keen to see the next step. ''I want to utilise ISO 9001, and I'm anxious to see in a year from now what we have done with it,'' he said.

ISO 9001 is the most recent of the company's achievements.

In 1993, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi carried out a joint survey of all their customers to assess their level of satisfaction.

Crown Motors came out on top in what is likely to be an annual event.