While it is not easy to gain widespread acceptance of a new definition for a familiar term, the business world is beginning to understand that there is no quality standard for a product or service until the customers’ satisfaction is registered. Giving the customers exactly what they want plus an extra measure of value without additional charge is or should be the goal of every business in America today.
Quality: Meeting the customer’s requirements and exceeding those expectations.
This new definition means that the customer becomes the judge of quality and that the businessperson must find ways of measuring the customer’s satisfaction. The new definition also means that the product or service must provide additional features that surpass the customer’s expectations. If the business is a service firm, it may deliver the service at a level higher than the customer expected. If the business deals in products, those products may offer additional features without costing more than similar products without those features. Consider these examples.
Example 1: Two florists design equally well and charge the same for their service. Both deliver to customers’ homes. For an order of cut flowers, both add extra greens and wrap them in green waxed tissue. At the time of delivery, the delivery person for one florist rings the customer’s
doorbell, hands the roses to the person answering, turns, and leaves. The delivery person for the other florist rings the bell, smiles at the person who answers, and says, “I’ve got a bouquet of fresh flowers for Mary Jones. Smith Florist really appreciates your business!” Tucked inside the wrapping is a packet of material that can be dissolved in water to prolong the life of the customer’s flowers. Which florist has exceeded the customer’s expectations?
Example 2: A landscape firm has a reputation as being high priced, yet continues to be successful. Why would customers regularly pay more for landscape services obtainable elsewhere at a lower price? Perhaps it is because they know that they will get exactly those materials and services they are expecting, and on time. In addition, the company’s crew will be dressed in clean uniforms each day, using clean equipment and vehicles. If the customer has a question or concern, there will always be someone on the site who can answer the question and resolve the concern. Other companies may be as competent technically, but allow their employees to work with their shirts off or report to work poorly groomed. The trucks may be dirty, rusted, or of different colors. Customer questions may go unanswered or problems unresolved until someone with authority arrives to respond. The value added by the successful company explains its difference.
Example 3: Two wholesale nurseries market a similar product assortment to local retail outlets and landscape contractors. One nursery digs the plants, delivers them, and bills the client. The other nursery does the same. When clients return unsatisfactory plants, one nursery replaces them without question. The other nursery replaces them, then follows up with a written or telephoned inquiry to determine why some of the plants were unsatisfactory to the customer. That nursery is measuring client satisfaction, and at the same time, learning something that may enable it to change and improve its production process.