Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is Quality?

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Martin Gallinagh

10th February 00

What is Quality?

NB Throughout text, Product = Both Product/Service.


Using the correct Tools (resources raw materials, machinery, time and people) in the right way so that they are converted to the required outputs. It is in the process that quality is made or broken.

The minimal that quality must entail is “Fitness for purpose” (Juran). This is also defined in the Consumer goods and Services Act 174; (DTI) “

• Goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality, and fit for any purpose which the consumer makes known to the seller.

• Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description.

• Aspects of quality include fitness for purpose, freedom from minor defects, appearance and finish, durability and safety.

• It is the seller, not the manufacturer, who is responsible under the Act.”

Without a business adhering to this, the customer can return the product. A business should obviously be aiming to go beyond this and exceed customer’s requirements and expectations.

Beyond this there are also the Customers individual Perceptions of the product � their perceived quality and its related perceived value which comes about from branding and their personal views. ‘Extra’ services such as friendly and knowledgeable staff, ‘after sales’/ maintenance…also enhance the quality of a product.

A.V. Feigenbaum (founder of Total Quality Control) believes quality is ‘what the customer says it is’ � not the company. Also, that this involves all parts of the business � i.e. quality of the way information is presented in promotional literature, is the product designed with the customer in mind (not just user-friendly but also meets their requirements), does the products packaging reach the customer in good condition. His ideas, such as statistical methods, can be acted upon so that quality is met. Whereas some of the Gurus seem to give a definition but don’t tell you how it can be implemented successfully.

Deming believes that non-faulty systems, i.e. ones that do not vary, best describe quality. Again this involves statistics but this time the emphasis is only on the technical means to gaining quality and people and other issues are not as important.

‘Bad’ Quality

So what exactly is Bad Quality…? (In my view)

• Getting incorrect information from a customer service line.

• Poor customer interactions � having the feeling, “are you even being listened to?”

• Getting products which aren’t what they say on the box

• Getting products which aren’t safe

• Getting a product and/or service that causes dissatisfaction to a reasonable person.

In my experience quality seems to declining, both in product and service. I have particularly noted this in foodstuffs, however this might be as it is more noticeable in these cases. Something has obviously gone wrong somewhere.

Possible reasons

• In cost cutting to be more competitive, quality seems to have been thrown out the window. However manufacturers might consider that selling a product which is marketed as a higher quality would allow them to justify charging slightly higher than competitors but still maintain the same or greater market share. A survey has shown that the most important factor when purchasing a product is quality (8/10) not price (although in the 80s the quality figure was /10 and price was more important). In any case a loss of quality will mean a loss of custom.

• Complaints are handled in such a way that there quality policy probably doesn’t involve anything but possibly a number of statistics which reflect what they want management to hear and not what customers are saying.

• A good summary is that, to identify issues,

Quality is any aspect of a product, including the services included in the contract of sales, which influences the demand curve. (R. Dortman and P.O. Steiner, Optimal Advertising and Optimal Quality, American Economic Review, December 154, p.81).

Why is Quality important?

“Quality is the loss to society a product causes after being shipped” - Taguchi

Total Quality is achieved throughout the organisation including its systems, technology, centring on people, as they are the ones who will make or break a company. People need to be motivated and have the desire to actually achieve what their customers want. Phillip Crosby strongly supports the motivational aspects towards quality improvement in his 14 step plan looking at elements such as Management commitment, quality awareness, quality training and quality councils involving people from all levels of the organisation.

How a business considers and implements quality will affect the competitive position of all firms, without it, stakeholders (customers, employees, investors…society) will not see any benefits.

Although Total quality can and should lead to a reduction in costs, its primary motivation should be the final customer’s needs. The ultimate cost of Bad Quality is the lost of your customers now and thus any in the future due to loss of repeat purchases and a tarnished reputation. Without customers a business will obviously cease to exist.


Hutchings, D. 10. In Pursuit of Quality Participative Techniques for Quality Improvement. Pitman Publishing.

Price, F. 184. RIGHT FIRST TIME. Gower.

Price, F. 10. RIGHT EVERY TIME. Gower.

DTI Consumer and Competition Policy http// (accessed //0)

What is Quality? Definitions and Contrasts

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