How Do You Define Quality

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					Florida Business Journal

How do you define quality?
      by Dr. Jay S. Mendell and
      Henry Sarkis

   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.

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