This week I got involved in a discussion within the CQI’s LinkedIn Forum. As usual it drifted off topic, however I ended up writing something that I consider good enough (by my modest standards) to be published on here as an article in its own right. It is about something I call (yes, it is my concept, I believe I invented it) quality management battlegrounds. It is part of what I consider to be an important aspect of an organisation’s quality management strategy. You can’t do everything all at once, and some “quality” issues simply might not be a high priority at all for some companies. It fits in well with some of my recent posts on an “intelligent approach”. Here is the general jist, anyway
For me the most efficient application of “quality management” relies on understanding where the battleground is. In a market where some things work and some don’t (or don’t work well, or don’t work for very long) the battleground is on product quality. From a customer’s perspective, if the blinking thing don’t work then the fact the supporting services are very good is little consolation. If you think about it, that was the way television sets were in the 70s. There was a major difference between cheap and expensive tellies. Cheap tellies were unreliable. These days cheap tellies work, and the fact that they work and work for a sustained period is no longer seen as a bonus. The customer sees it as a given. When that happens, the battleground moves. Companies can no longer suggest their product offers the advantage of being reliable, as they all pretty much are.
When there is no battle to be won on conformance, where next?
So, if all tellies basically WORK where and how do you gain the advantage? Well maybe the next battleground could be on functionality options, funky design, cost, ease of set up, ease of integration with other devices or whatever. Other products or services might fight battles on after sales and long term after care (like some cars). Cars are another product that these days we expect even cheap ones to work and not to rust (unlike the 70s). It is all part of “quality” but it is important that the supplier understands not just the customer’s needs, but the customer’s hierarchy of needs, and fights and wins its battles in the right order. Returning to my original point, if the product doesn’t work, I’d not be worrying about much else in the immediate future. Unfortunately some people do still appear to think that functionality and durability = quality, and that in turn = satisfaction, when it is more complex than that and different market to market, product to product, month to month even. Therefore effective market intelligence and reliable customer/market feedback is critical.
Oh, and by the way. while you’re fighting your battles on these secondary issues, don’t dare let your standards drop on basic reliability, as that is still the most important, we just don’t expect you to get that wrong any more