What is Quality?

Many organisations claim to meet or exceed customer expectations, some even claim to ‘delight’ their customers, yet I think we can all identify at least one organisation we have dealt with in the past where ‘delightful’ customer service was far from the experience delivered.

One of the first questions asked to a new client is:

What does Quality mean to you?

We don’t ask this to put the client on the spot, but rather to tease out the clients understanding of Quality, and how they apply it in their organisation.

The answers we hear vary but are generally based around one of three themes:

  • The degree to which the product/service meets or exceeds expectations
  • The standard of the product/service measured against other things of a similar kind
  • The degree of excellence of the product/service

We use a different definition when we explain Quality, and it has two parts: the customer need, and the customer experience.  Let’s look at an example:

Imagine going for a meal in a restaurant. What is your ‘need’ as a customer?  Is it just to be fed, or is there something else?  Perhaps it’s to eat in a particular environment (for a special occasion, for example)?  Or perhaps to eat a particular kind of food? Now imagine your experience for just these three ‘needs’ in two different types of restaurant. Fast Food RestaurantFine Dining Restaurant If your ‘need’ is just to be fed, both types meet your need. If your ‘need’ is a to eat in a particular environment, odds are that both won’t make you a happy customer.  It’s also possible, neither will make you happy. If your ‘need’ is to eat a particular kind of food, again, the odds are both restaurants won’t make you happy, and again neither may make you a happy customer. An unhappy customer is unlikely to have a positive customer experience, and will likely rate your restaurant as low quality. What can we learn from this? Despite our restaurants being amazing places, we’ve still ended up with unhappy customers because we’ve not met their ‘need’.  So, time spent in understanding the customer ‘need’ can be time well spent!

The other factor we should consider is Price.

Price and Expectations are closely linked in the minds of the customer.  While they’re willing to pay more for a better experience, they also have an expectation in their minds based on the price you charge!

If you don’t deliver that expected experience, then customer won’t be happy and may class your service as ‘low quality’.  If they receive more than expected, and it’s ‘high quality’.