Everyone has had experiences of quality when dealing with business organizations. These experiences might involve an airline that has lost a passenger’s luggage, a dry cleaner that has left clothes wrinkled or stained, poor course offerings and scheduling at your college, a purchased product that is damaged or broken, or a pizza delivery service that is often late or delivers the wrong order. The experience of poor quality is exacerbated when employees of the company either are not empowered to correct quality inadequacies or do not seem willing to do so. We have all encountered service employees who do not seem to care.
The consequences of such an attitude are lost customers and opportunities for competitors to take advantage of the market need. The definition of quality depends on the role of the people defining it. Most consumers have a difficult time defining quality, but they know it when they see it. For example, although you probably have an opinion as to which manufacturer of athletic shoes provides the highest quality, it would probably be difficult for you to define your quality standard in precise terms. Also, your friends may have different opinions regarding which athletic shoes are of highest quality.
The difficulty in defining quality exists regardless of product, and this is true for both manufacturing and service organizations. Think about how difficult it may be to define quality for products such as airline services, child day-care facilities, college classes, or even OM textbooks. Further complicating the issue is that the meaning of quality has changed over time. Today, there is no single universal definition of quality. Some people view quality as “performance to standards. ” Others view it as “meeting the customer’s needs” or “satisfying the customer. Let’s look at some of the more common definitions of quality. • Conformance to specifications measures how well the product or service meets the targets and tolerances determined by its designers. For example, the dimensions of a machine part may be specified by its design engineers as 3 + or – . 05 inches. This would mean that the target dimension is 3 inches but the dimensions can vary between 2. 95 and 3. 05 inches. Similarly, the wait for hotel room service may be specified as 20 minutes, but there may be an acceptable delay of an additional 10 minutes.
Also, consider the amount of light delivered by a 60 watt light bulb. If the bulb delivers 50 watts it does not conform to specifications. As these examples illustrate, conformance to specification is directly measurable, though it may not be directly related to the consumer’s idea of quality. • Fitness for use focuses on how well the product performs its intended function or use. For example, a Mercedes Benz and a Jeep Cherokee both meet a fitness for use definition if one considers transportation as the intended function.
However, if the definition becomes more specific and assumes that the intended use is for transportation on mountain roads and carrying fishing gear, the Jeep Cherokee has a greater fitness for use. You can also see that fitness for use is a user-based definition in that it is intended to meet the needs of a specific user group. • Value for price paid is a definition of quality that consumers often use for product or service usefulness. This is the only definition that combines economics with consumer criteria; it assumes that the definition of quality is price sensitive.
For example, suppose that you wish to sign up for a personal finance seminar and discover that the same class is being taught at two different colleges at significantly different tuition rates. If you take the less expensive seminar, you will feel that you have received greater value for the price. • Support services provided are often how the quality of a product or service is judged. Quality does not apply only to the product or service itself; it also applies to the people, processes, and organizational environment associated with it.
For example, the quality of a university is judged not only by the quality of staff and course offerings, but also by the efficiency and accuracy of processing paperwork. • Psychological criteria is a subjective definition that focuses on the judgmental evaluation of what constitutes product or service quality. Different factors contribute to the evaluation, such as the atmosphere of the environment or the perceived prestige of the product. For example, a hospital patient may receive average health care, but a very friendly staff may leave the impression of high quality.
Similarly, we commonly associate certain products with excellence because of their reputation; Rolex watches and Mercedes-Benz automobiles are examples. Differences Between Manufacturing and Service Organizations Defining quality in manufacturing organizations is often different from that of services. Manufacturing organizations produce a tangible product that can be seen, touched, and directly measured. Examples include cars, CD players, clothes, computers,and food items. Therefore, quality definitions in manufacturing usually focus on tangible product features.
The most common quality definition in manufacturing is conformance, which is the degree to which a product characteristic meets preset standards. Other common definitions of quality in manufacturing include performance—such as acceleration of a vehicle; reliability—that the product will function as expected without failure; features—the extras that are included beyond the basic characteristics; durability— expected operational life of the product; and serviceability—how readily a product can be repaired. The relative importance of these definitions is based on the preferences of each individual customer.
It is easy to see how different customers can have different definitions in mind when they speak of high product quality. In contrast to manufacturing, service organizations produce a product that is intangible. Usually, the complete product cannot be seen or touched. Rather, it is experienced. Examples include delivery of health care, experience of staying at a vacation resort, and learning at a university. The intangible nature of the product makes defining quality difficult. Also, since a service is experienced, perceptions can be highly subjective.
In addition to tangible factors, quality of services is often defined by perceptual factors. These include responsiveness to customer needs, courtesy and friendliness of staff, promptness in resolving complaints, and atmosphere. Other definitions of quality in services include time—the amount of time a customer has to wait for the service; and consistency—the degree to which the service is the same each time. For these reasons, defining quality in services can be especially challenging. Today’s customers demand and expect high quality. Companies that do not make quality a priority risk long-run survival.
World-class organizations such as General Electric and Motorola attribute their success to having one of the best quality management programs in the world. These companies were some of the first to implement a quality program called, Six- Sigma, where the level of defects is reduced to approximately 3. 4 parts per million. To achieve this, everyone in the company is trained in quality. For example, individuals highly trained in quality improvement principles and techniques receive a designation called “Black Belt. ” The full-time job of Black Belts is to identify and solve quality problems.
In fact, Motorola was one of the first companies to win the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1988, due to its high focus on quality. Both GE and Motorola have had a primary goal to achieve total customer satisfaction. To this end, the efforts of these organizations have included eliminating almost all defects from products, processes, and transactions. Both companies consider quality to be the critical factor that has resulted in significant increases in sales and market share, as well as cost savings in the range of millions of dollars.