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Quality knowledge base - article QA-0050
Updated on 05-01-2017

Customer Quality Management (CQM)

Maintaining comprehensive Customer Quality Management (CQM) in an organization is a key factor to achieve long-term success. In short, CQM is the expression of a company’s customer focus. Without the management of customer quality the customer has no counter-part to communicate with (in terms of quality), no one tracks customer quality performance and satisfaction, and in general, no one manages issues related to the customer. Customer Quality Management is also an extensive approach and strategy, using a broad array of activities, quality expertise and tool-set to ensure that the organization delivers products and services fitting to the customer’s expectations.
CQM and the focus of the customer is a section of the Total Quality Management (TQM) principles, and also a part of a company’s Quality Management System (QMS). The standard of ISO 9001 emphasizes how important it is to focus on customer satisfaction.
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Key Features
In a top-notch organization, the department responsible for customer quality management also serves as the party, which represents the customer’s voice, not just during the design phases, but during the whole product life-cycle.
Depending on the organizational layout CQM is sometimes merged with internal manufacturing quality, but it varies company to company. There are multinational corporates, where project quality is also integrated with customer quality, while some others divide it into two separate roles.
The following chart gives a brief overview about the position of CQM in the organization.
Quality Management
CQM in the organization (Source:
Generally, direct communication channels exist between the customers and some internal stakeholders (sales, logistics, project management, development department), while many other departments do not communicate directly with the customer (e.g. manufacturing, supplier quality management, etc.). In the latter case, the interface is clearly the CQM, so it needs to lead the communication into one channel.
The key roles and responsibilities of customer quality management:
  • Being the single-channel customer interface for quality.
  • Enhancement and tracking of customer satisfaction.
  • Representing the voice of the customer among the stakeholders of the organization.
  • Protecting the customer from non-conforming products with the tools of quality planning, control and improvement.
  • Active support of project management and development during the product- and process development phases (e.g. customer expectations and requirements, FMEA, quality planning, etc.).
  • Managing initial sampling towards the customers (e.g. PPAP, EMPB, etc.).
  • Customer related change management (ECN, ECR).
  • Process owner of claim handling and incident management in case of issues affecting the customer.
  • Risk management, concessions.
  • Contact for 3rd party accredited certification bodies (e.g. for ISO 9001).
  • Organizing internal audits.
  • Key contact and leading role for process audits performed by the customer.
  • Tracking of customer quality metrics (e.g. incidents, 0km and field issues).
  • Reporting customer quality information to the management and affected stakeholders.
Thanks to the extensive presence, CQM is in frequent contact with almost all internal stakeholders. A proper customer quality engineer is in the swim concerning the running projects, knowns what’s happening in the production area, is familiar with the actual logistics situation, and many more. Thus the knowledge of the processes of all joint departments is necessary for the everyday success.
Based on general roles of customer quality management, it has a systematic frame of tools and methods, many of them are overlapping other quality fields.
As a concrete example, the knowledge of the following tools and methods is essential for a customer quality engineer, to be successful in the automotive industry:
CQM should generally track the same quality metrics as the customer does, such as 0km and field warranty claims in ppm, occasion of service campaigns and incidents, process audit results.
A major task of customer quality engineers is claim management (see Global 8D). With the involvement of the warranty analysis lab and the possible causing parties, the CQE leads the root cause investigation. The areas of defect sources can be:
  • Supplier failure.
  • Manufacturing (process) failure.
  • Design failure.
  • Logistic failure.
It might happen, that the part is conforming to the specification, and the failure symptom was generated by the customer, though he does not know it. This can happen especially in complex systems (e.g. interaction of electrical units). It is a good example why the responsible customer quality engineer needs to have good communication skills, to find the solution for such an issue together with the customer.
To become a successful customer quality engineer, not just set of knowledge is required, but also the ability of clear communication and firmness. On one side, you will need your communication skills to develop an excellent cooperation with your customers, on the other hand, firmness is necessary to spread the voice of the customer among the stakeholders of your organization, and to lead them towards customer satisfaction.
Despite CQM is a key interface of the customer in terms of quality related points, it is not a one man show. The whole organization is responsible to fulfil customer requirements by developing, manufacturing and delivering a product that fits to customer expectations.
With transparent and fact based communication you can increase the customer’s trust, which leads to easier cooperation, and leaner problem solving.
Tracing the same quality metrics as the customer does is key. You can save a lot of time, by being on common ground with the customer. Example (see table below): both of the supplier and the customer calculates 0km defects in ppm. The frame of reference differs, as the customer calculates based on the failure date (observation), while the supplier calculates based on the manufacturing date. On top of that, they use different basis for their calculations (quantity produced vs quantity received). In this case, the numbers will differ, generating misunderstandings. You should be on common ground with your customer!
Supplier vs Customer calculation
January February March
Supplier’s calculation
0km defects based on manufacturing date 2 pcs 1 pc 0 pc
Quantity (produced) 200 000 pcs 240 000 pcs 200 000 pcs
Defect ratio 10 ppm 4.2 ppm 0 ppm
Customer’s calculation
0km defects based on failure date (observation) 0 pc 2 pcs 1 pc
Quantity (received) 180 000 pcs 250 000 pcs 210 000 pcs
Defect ratio (ppm) 5.5 ppm 8 ppm 4.8 ppm
  • CQM stands for Customer Quality Management.
  • CQM is the expression of a company’s customer focus, with all its tool-set, methodologies and dedication.
  • The CQM engineer is the single-channel interface towards the customer (and the resident engineer) regarding quality management.
  • CQM represents the voice of the customer among the stakeholders of the organization.
  • Customer Quality Management is an extensive approach and strategy, using a broad array of activities, quality expertise and tool-set to ensure that the organization delivers products and services fitting to the customer’s expectations.
  • CQM is not a one man show, the whole organization is responsible to reach the highest customer satisfaction.
  • Some corporations divide project-, internal manufacturing- and customer quality management, while others merge them into one department.
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