Friday, November 1, 2013

How a common man measure quality?

Paul has asked a simple-looking question in the October 2013 blog post - "What new fields or disciplines could most reap the benefits of quality tools and techniques"?  Paul's question is focused on application of quality beyond 'manufacturing' - be it in, say, 'athletics', 'customer service', or 'education'. 

Quality is not easily quantifiable for a common man. He cannot apply quality tools and techniques so easily to measure quality.  Most consumers get to measure quality using simple qualitative parameters. 

For example, say, in a WalMart store, people easily identify the best quality apples from the assortment displayed in various aisles.  Most people can measure value of products on sale.  Thus, value becomes an important aspect of quality, as certain high quality products (say, apples) are available at relatively cheaper prices. 

Let us look at healthcare.  We prefer to go to certain hospitals or pharmacy stores and even prefer to visit certain doctors to others.  Why?  We, somehow, perceive high quality - another qualitative measurement.  The perception may be due to the high availability of products, proximity to work or home, or, even a particular salesperson.   Thus, perception becomes another aspect of quality.  Good perception, most often, is a result of high quality products and services offered.

Here is yet another example.  This example may be applicable only for people who commute regularly to work using public transport (especially bus) services.  Many times, people prefer to ride certain buses/routes.  Most times, it is the bus driver that is the reason for this preference.  The driving skill and high degree of professionalism are some of the qualitative aspects that help the driver to deliver high quality services.  So, skill and character plays a key role in delivering quality.

There are quality tools and methodologies available for quality practitioners to measure the quality service levels quantitatively.    But people, the real customers, can measure quality (high or low), relatively easily and accurately, by looking at certain aspects of quality such as value, perception, skill, character etc. 

I would invite to you take a look at the work done by ASQ on service quality.

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