How would you define quality in your industry? What is it that your company strives to perfect and on which that can be better than anyone else? And I wonder how much money, time and effort is spent on getting that quality right – I am sure it is significant? Wouldn’t it be a problem, then, if you’ve got the wrong thing right? Many companies do.
Banks, for example, aim for a quality of “security”, wheras most bank customers would accept slightly less security in exchange for much better accessibility, speed and functionality. Many other companies also have a mismatch between what they’re trying to do internally, and what people actually want from them.
Of course, some companies get this really right. McDonalds understands that “quality” is mainly about speed and consistency: this BigMac tastes exactly (!!) like a BigMac should, and I can order and get it within a minute. My business colleague, Dean van Leeuwen, is fond of talking about “moments of truth” and collecting examples of companies who get these right – read a blog from our archives on how IKEA can make our lives miserable, but still deliver on their quality promise. Or Abercrombie and Fitch. RyanAir is similar: they appear to actively despise their customers. But they can fly us to Rome (or a remote airport 50km’s from Rome) for about a pound. That’s what they promise, and that’s what they deliver. And that is therefore quality. Emirates take a different approach, and are rated best airline by almost everyone who flies with them – including my colleague, Keith Coats. It really does depend on what your customers want.
I agree with Seth Godin’s blog today: Quality is defined by the promise your customers want you to make to them. And then, of course, by keeping that promise every time! Read Seth’s blog here, or an extract below.
Are you SURE that your company has correctly defined quality for your customers? How do you know?
Here are Seth’s thoughts:
Kodak, of course, ruled their world. They were as close to a monopoly as they could get for generations.
Along the way, though, the company made the mistake of misdefining quality. They thought that what would ensure their future was better fidelity film. And without a doubt, they delivered on the promise of ever better film stock, with all the things a professional photographer could hope for.
Polaroid, for a while a disruptive competitor of Kodak’s, fell into precisely the same trap. As they gained market share, they doubled down on image quality, raising their prices to support cameras and film that would compete with Kodak’s leadership in fidelity.
It turns out that what people actually wanted was the ability to take and share billions of photos at vanishingly small cost. The ‘quality’ that most of the customer base wanted was cheap and easy, not museum quality.
This confusion happens all the time. Quality is not an absolute measure. It doesn’t mean ‘deluxeness’ or ‘perfection’. It means keeping the promise the customer wants you to make.