Florida Business Journal
How do you define quality?
by Dr. Jay S. Mendell and
1. How does your company measure the Of course, that company has had to go to Start by trying the obvious. Find out how
quality of its products and services? extraordinary lengths to motivate and control the customers feel by asking them. For
2. Do you have quality goals and standards, its field technicial1s. But it proved that instance, restaurants that do not do so already
and were these developed in consultation with extraordinary measures can produce can give the customers postcards to mail back.
your customers? extraordinary quality and result in extra- The postage must be prepaid, of course, or you
3. Are the standards and goals understood ordinary consumer acceptance. will leave your customer in doubt as to much
by all your employees? Incidentally, quality propagates myths. A feedback you really want. Of course, these
You cannot be satisfied with the quality of Rolls-Royce breaks down in a remote Alpine cards provide feedback from only the happiest
your product or service until the customer is pass. The Rolls factory dispatches a helicopter and the angriest customers, which is why the
satisfied. It's true that quality is hard to define. to provide repairs. They never send a bill. In most quality-conscious restaurants hire
But the customer knows it when he sees it, and fact, they deny that a Rolls ever broke down in "spotters" to fill out detailed reports that cover
quality is therefore a major determinant of your the Alps. everything from the cuisine to the bathroom.
success. Now let's look at the lower limits of quality. Next, use quantitative standards for quality,
Even if you are marketing to a cost-conscious because, as limited as they are in telling the
customer, you have to be clear about where you whole story, they are better than nothing. How
Surviving dare to compromise quality.
For instance, a cost-conscious customer with
long is the line at your bank? How long does it
take to serve a customer in your restaurant?
in a high tech well-defined data processing needs may be
willing to own a computer with half the
How long must a customer wait for your repair
people to respond to a service call? As we said,
memory and half the speed of the top computer, quantitative measures are an incomplete
economy even a computer that runs fewer programs and
looks like a World War II shortwave set. But
measure of quality, but they have a certain
symbolic value that is not lost on your
rare is the customer who wants to save money employees: the employees know that you have
For most products, there is no limit to the by buying a computer that breaks down standards of quality and the intention to control
quality that can be built in. Yet very few twice as often and remains twice as long in the and improve quality.
attempts are made to dramatically improve the repair shop. Eventually, you have to make your
quality of products and services. Why? We Should you control quality quantitatively or "corporate culture" a quality culture. This
think we know the answer: qualitatively? The answer is: control both means that the top management must make
In an effort to improve short term profit, ways. Start by imagining the purchasing quality a long term priority. When the officers
many companies overemphasize cost-cutting agent's score card: of an airline desire a customer's-eye view badly
and lose track of the need to make and sell Price enough to fly in their own airline's tourist class,
more of their product. After a few years in a Mean time between failure that's top management commitment.■
business, most people lose interest in Cost of a service call
improving a product that is "cheap enough" Length of warranty
and "good enough," and after a few more Distance to nearest service center
Distance to nearest parts warehouse Dr. Jay S. Mendell is a professor in the
years they begin to believe that they have college of business and public administration
actually reached an upper limit to Duration of stay in repair shop, etc.
But continue by checking the hard-to- of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
improvement. Further improvement is Mr. Hank Sarkis is an adviser to the Silicon
hindered, they begin to imagine, by the laws of quantify:
The friendliness of your sales people Beach Consultancy Inc. of Boca Raton,
nature ("You can't make concrete any specializing in innovation and planning.
stronger") or human perversity ("You can't hire The cleanliness of your service facility
decent help"). People whose imaginations have The concern apparent in your service
reached an upper limit hold fast to the limits technicians (eye contact, etc.).
despite the fact that all around them innovation The harder your product is to understand,
is occurring in other people's industries. the more your customers will be impressed by
Until recently, exterminators referred to what you might consider irrelevant. Thomas
themselves as "pest control" technicians, since Peters has pointed out that the airline that fails
they believed that vermin could be held to a to scrub the passenger cabin to sparkling
low level but not eliminated. Then a Miami- cleanliness is the airline that is suspected of
based chain of exterminators guaranteed to failing to maintain its jet engines properly.
eliminate pests altogether, and, on the basis of How can you systematically increase your
their success in complete elimination, became product or service quality? Well, you don't
one of the largest extermination companies in have to do everything at once: you can take a
the country. few steps every year.