“The Czech National Award For Quality in the program of EXCELLENCE is very important for us in connection with Czech customers relationship. The food quality and its high level processing are more and more important for them. You will find a hard and long-term work of our colleagues together with cooperation of hundred Czech suppliers behind this important Award. I would like to also say thank you to our customers, who are returning to our stores,” says Pavel Mikoška, the Quality Director at Albert.
The Czech National Award For Quality is awarded annually since 1995. Its aim is to publicly reward businesses that systematically improve the quality of their activities and achieve better results. The award also serves as inspiration and encouragement to other companies. The Czech National Award For Quality has several categories covering organizations from the business as well as private sector. The program of EXCELLENCE, in which Albert won the Czech National Award For Quality, is designed for companies that achieve and maintain a consistently high level of performance. Companies that receive this Award must permanently meet or even exceed the expectations of their business partners and also stakeholders. The evaluation also takes into account the degree of the practical implementation of the principles of social responsibility in business and especially the daily effort to improve the range of products and services for customers. This program is based on the EFQM Excellence Model, which is currently regarded as the most sophisticated tool for the management of organizations in Europe.
Why did Albert compete for Quality Award already for the second time and what does it give to the chain? We asked Pavel Mikoška, Quality Director.
What does National Quality Award mean to you?
We won the award already in 2011. In the same year, we won the National Award of the Czech Republic for Social Responsibility as well. More than anything else, this award is a huge appreciation for the work we have done. Behind this important award are many years of hard work of our colleagues – there are already 17 thousand at present – but also excellent co-operation with hundreds of Czech suppliers of ours. The National Award for Quality we won proves that we can be rightly proud of the fact that we are one of the leading retail chains in the Czech Republic. The Award also means a commitment to improve continuously and be better every day! However, I also have to thank to our customers who like to come back to our stores.
You entered the competition again after three years. Why?
We were sure that Albert made a huge progress during that time and that we meet all requirements and trends of a modern retail chain. And we wanted to prove it from a professional and independent institution.
Are the efforts to win the Award useful also in the quality improvement process itself?
Of course, they are! The whole process leading to the Award begins with a self-assessment of the company, while taking into account many criteria. This is a phase that makes people in the company think in many respects about what and why they actually do. If what they do make sense, if it generates the right results. There were many findings that we obtained already during our efforts to win our first Award in 2011. For instance, we found out that our evaluation of output quality that we used at that time does not have to be quite identical with how our customers perceive quality. This was one of the most significant findings, based on which we decided to change the evaluation system. We started working more with regional particularities and requirements of the individual stores. Until that time, we used to work with average values for the whole company. However, the whole comprises of 333 stores located in different corners of the Czech Republic, and each may have its weak point somewhere else, which we could not see in the average result though. Based on the findings, we were able to make the internal processes more effective and to improve economic results of the company. Owing to a pronounced economic recovery we got the thumbs up from our parent company for expansion.
Have the new findings been reflected directly in the store concepts?
Yes, they have. In the respective period, we introduced several new concepts, particularly in the area of fresh foods – bakery products, fruit & vegetables, or meat and meat products. We have significantly enhanced co-operation with local suppliers. Another matter we focus on more now is an initiative of our employees directly in the stores. Earlier, changes in the stores used to be suggested by the people at the headquarters. In a new project we started to talk more to our colleagues in the stores to find out what their suggestions for improvement are, so that are able to compete successfully with local competitors.
And the result was?
A direct feedback is very positive.Feedback from the customers is positive; they appreciate, for example, an open approach and trust they feel, they do not have to go through tourniquets when entering our store. They enter an “open market” with fruit and vegetables and a wide offer of fresh goods. An economic benefit is also obvious.
What are your plans for improving quality for the next months?
Our long-term strategy stays the same. Our objective is: We want to be a better place to shop, better place to work and a better neighbour at the places where our stores are located.