Most definitions of ‘Quality’ are very esoteric, quantitative, or routinely bookish and highly cliched.Â We struggleÂ to connect those definitions to everyday life objects, actionsÂ and experiences. We all say that we want quality, but how do we really relateÂ our daily actions to those theoretical definitions? Do these everyday actions effectvely demonstrate our love for a specific aspect of quality – something that we would not have done otherwise? Of course, we surely do several things. Choosing brands is one – in our mind, a great brand invokes strong emotions of reliability, safety, childhood memories, family bonds, hygiene, fairness, value for money…the list is endless (and another endless listÂ for negative emotions that lousy brands invoke !). Apart from choosing a specific brand, does our behavior refelect what we consider as ‘quality’ in everyday life.Â Â
In my view, Quality is that differentiator in a product or a service that:
makes me drive a few extra miles just so that I could buy or experience something I really like even when other, relatively cheaper options are available nearby. (= willing to sarcifice reasonable amount of time and effort to get something I truly value). There is a great water park on the outskirts of Bangalore, known as Wonder La. Even though some options are available within 10-15 kms of where I live, I am willing to drive ~50 kms and perhaps pay 2-3 times what I would pay at some other place, I still make it a point to only visit that place. Why ? Â
makes me choose one over other even when, everything else being rather equal, the one I choose might be costlier but not exorbitantly priced. (= availability of other alternatives, freedom and ability to choose what I want). Â Actually, it even needÂ not be costly. Sometimes, the best things comes at the most unbelivable rockbottom prices. But sticking to the point here, the key is freedom and ability to choose an option that I like and at the price-point that I am willing to accept at this point in time.
makes me patiently wait in a line for my turn to come (= sacrificing my comfort to get something that I believe is worth it). Many of us would recall the news stories about people lining up overnight to get the first few iPhones. Another recent example is Tata Nano –Â more than half a millions people have already booked at car at something like $78 booking amount even though only about a fifth (or is it a tenth ?) of them will be able to get the car this year – and that too after a 3 month wait!
makes me pick up a product blindfold (= blind trust, but not trust blindly; reliable everytime). Why is it that anyplace, anytime, you can choose a Toyota car blindfold, or thatÂ none of the copycat Post-Its come anywhere close to the real Post-In NotesÂ ?Â
I can recommend to my friends and family (= what is good enough for me is good enough for people I care)
I am very comfortable with these ‘working’ definitions of quality. They tell me what is it that a customer is willing to do (and equally important, what s/he is not willing to do) in terms of concrete actions in order to get a quality product or service. These represent a customer-centric view of what s/he desires and not what the manufacturer or the service provider does assuming that is going to create a quality product or service. In most cases, a manufacturer’s view and a customer’s view of quality is aligned, but quite often, there is a serious misalignment as well. I believe it is high time we rewrote the philosophy of quality keeping such customer-centric view in mind. Perhaps, a new type ofÂ GQM model could be created that identifies customer’s behavior as the goal to be achieved, and strives to align all internal steps and checkpointsÂ towards the end-customer behavior!
So, does your quality model encourages you to ‘just do it’ because that’s what the process manual says, or it is backed byÂ customer-centric view of What is Quality ?
(Parts of this are from my response to a question on LinkedIn sometime back, What is Quality ?)