A woman chef and two male kitchen staff are preparing to prepare a meal in a restaurant kitchen. The woman chef and a male chef are holding clipboards and are reviewing a checklist before they prepare the food.
Part of creating and implementing a QA process is regularly reviewing and revising it as new employees join your team and as your business grows and changes. — Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

Quality assurance (QA) is an organized, systemic approach to ensuring a company's products or services meet customer expectations. A QA process can help your business achieve customer service targets, meet compliance requirements, and build customer loyalty. Quality assurance can be applied in different industries, from restaurants to manufacturing. These steps can help you implement a QA process for your unique business.

Step 1: Determine your quality standards

The first step in developing and implementing a QA process is determining what quality means for your business. Depending on your industry, quality could involve product reliability, customer satisfaction, compliance with regulations, or food safety. In some cases, quality is defined in formal regulations or certifications. For instance, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 provides an international standard for quality management systems in the information technology sector.

If you don't have an industry standard to guide your QA process, consider what you hope to achieve by implementing formal quality standards. Is it to improve product functionality, ensure customer satisfaction, or streamline internal processes?

Step 2: Create policies and procedures

Next, generate documentation and workflows that formalize your quality standard. This could involve creating checklists, rubrics, user experience guidelines, and detailed documentation for all critical processes and procedures. Establish workflows, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and guidelines with the help of key business stakeholders in your company.

"Establishing a documented quality assurance program that all team members contribute to and buy into will help ensure an organization's operational consistency. Regular training and testing further reinforce QA processes and policies," said David Jemmett, CEO and Founder of Cerberus Sentinel (now CISO Global) in Forbes.

Many companies find setting up a dedicated QA team or hiring a specialist helpful. This group or person oversees the QA process and ensures its adoption across the company. They can also provide training and track and report issues to improve consistency in QA implementation.

[Read more: How to Delegate Tasks to an Outside Vendor]

In addition to testing your product, test your process itself to ensure it's helping you reach your quality standard.

Step 3: Develop quality control measures

Quality control (QC) is a distinct but complementary process to quality assurance. "Quality control specifically targets physical products, concentrating on adherence to quality requirements through operational techniques and methods," wrote Zendesk.

QC involves developing protocols for inspecting and testing products or services at different stages of the production or delivery process. Depending on your product, this process could involve manual testing (having a person step through the process), automated testing (using software tools), or a combination of both. Manager, peer, and QA specialist reviews are all good quality assurance feedback sources.

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Step 4: Test your product or service

A core principle of quality assurance is testing your product or service at specific milestones during the delivery process. For instance, developers often test software at different stages of production — including bug inspection and regression testing — before launching it to the public. Chefs also taste their dishes along the way to ensure the seasoning is on point.

Software programs can help standardize and streamline quality assurance. Look for QA software tools that can automate quality checks, documentation, and reporting. Project management tools like Asana and Trello can help with the reporting and approval workflows, while Zendesk QA is a popular option for customer service quality assurance.

Step 5: Refine and improve your QQ process

In addition to testing your product, test your process itself to ensure it's helping you reach your quality standard. Based on what works well and what doesn't, make adjustments and improvements. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure quality performance over time.

As your business grows and new people join your team, it's imperative that you revisit your QA process. Regular audits, ongoing training, and consistent reviews can help keep your QA process on track. Encourage team members and customers to provide feedback on your products or services. This can help identify areas for improvement.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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