Saturday, 3 April 2010

There is no substitute for quality -- Part 1 of 2

I remember as a child watching a television advertisement and hearing the strapline, “There’s no substitute for quality”. Now I cannot remember what the product was that they were selling, but idea that one should seek out and strive for quality was ingrained in my mind from that point on. My dad always used to say it is better to buy a good quality product that will last than to buy cheap products in cost and quality. The reason he gave for this was that in the long term, you would replace the cheaper product three or even five times over ultimately paying more for less, this principle has also been ingrained in my mind and is one of the fundamental principles with which I approach the commercial world and indeed, people.  You may be sitting up at this point with a confused look on your face and say, “people!?!” if you are, stay with me, there is a point to be made there. But before we talk people, it is really important to understand what the word quality really means and in which way we can apply it here.






So…what is QUALITY?
Quality is a measure of excellence or state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations [http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/quality.html]

Quality is defined by the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO, 2004), as “The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.”  [http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=35539]

In the general sense of the word in the consumer environment, I believe there are two tests; The first is that of national or indeed international standards which is an objective test of quality and the second being the subjective test by the consumer based on their preferences. Whilst there is a minimum standard by which products are judged to be ‘of good quality’, this standard takes into account, social perception, production cost and overall need and indeed safety of the product when in the possession of the consumer. These standards, for example the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 standards are established to ensure that even the most vulnerable of consumers will receive a minimum standard of quality in the goods or services they purchase. This type of quality is more to do with companies providing  satisfactory goods or services, therefore the measure of the quality  is an objective test pre-determined by these standards.

Once goods and services 'pass' the quality standards test, and are in the hands of consumers, they become subject to the second phase of quality testing, the ‘subjective judgment’ based on individual preferences. An example of this type of testing  is my long term love affair with coffee…My dad introduced me to coffee when I was a teen living at home. He enjoyed a cup of the mild instant varieties (not too strong) and therefore we bonded over Nescafe for many years. My love and appreciation for a ‘good quality’ and indeed my definition of what that is  has grown over the years as I have travelled to different parts of the world and experienced coffee from other regions in many different formats. When I was at home with dad, I was easily satisfied with a Nescafe original in the instant form., I later fell in love with a coffee lover and he introduced me to percolated (filtered) coffees and almost instantly, the bar was raised and what constituted a ‘good (quality) cup of coffee’ was forever changed and redefined. By this example, quality standards are heavily dependent on perception and the value system of the individual, I am spoiled forever and now don’t feel I have had  a ‘good quality’ coffee unless it is percolated…even better quality if it comes from Starbucks! The reality is that no matter how objective a standard or a body views and defines ‘quality’ ; its ‘quality’ will always be in the eyes of the beholder’ that is it is forever a consumers market and only they can really decide…..

However….when it comes to quality in relation to people…that is an entirely different matter altogether!

Continued in part 2 of quality next…

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