In this month’s ASQ blog, Paul Borawski asks us to consider how we define quality. Do we have a single declarative definition, or one that is multi-faceted? Does it change based on whether we’re talking about product quality or service quality?
Immediately, I recalled a video from years back of Phillip Crosby on a Scottish golf course talking about quality, which he defined as “conformance to requirements.” Crosby used that definition to explain why a BMW and a Corolla can both have excellent quality. It’s about their individual conformance to the specified requirements of the particular car, not their comparison to each other. Crosby said, “There’s no such thing as good quality or bad quality, because bad quality isn’t quality. Something either meets requirements or it doesn’t.”
I used that definition for years in our trainings, both related to product and service quality. From a product standpoint in manufacturing, the measure was an easier target to hit or miss based on the standards defined for the product (e.g. specifications, tolerances, etc.). It became more difficult when the product was “a piece of pie” in a bakery or a training workbook. In fact, I once asked a group how long they thought a piece of pie should be on display at a restaurant before it should be removed, and the answers ranged from 1 hour to 3 days.
It’s much more difficult to define “conformance to requirement” when we think about quality service because more often than not we haven’t ever spelled out the requirements. I especially think about that when standing before a customer service desk, or airline ticket counter, and the individual behind it doesn’t look up. Hmmm. My requirement is that I be acknowledged as “there” immediately even if the individual isn’t able to provide service immediately. The “I’ll be with you in a moment” goes a long way with me. Recently two of us were waiting in line at a national chain coffee shop for service. There were four people gathered around the drive-thru window while we just stood there for 3 or more minutes. They even walked by without saying anything to us, as apparently it wasn’t their job to work the in-store register.
Obviously, this brings up the necessity for all of us – whether in business or non-profits – to determine what our customer’s requirements are and then determine if we have the capability to conform to those requirements. That way we will have a better sense of determining whether or not our product or service is quality.