What is Quality?
Quality refers to the characteristics of a product or service that meet or exceed customer expectations. Quality is often defined in terms of its fitness for use or purpose, which means that a product or service is considered of high quality if it meets the needs of the customer and performs as expected.
In TQM (Total Quality Management), quality is defined as meeting or exceeding customer needs and expectations, and is considered to be the responsibility of everyone involved in the production or delivery of a product or service.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Quality?
- 2 Definition of Quality
- 3 Objectives of Quality
- 4 Quality Dimensions
In TQM, quality is not just the responsibility of the quality control department, but rather a philosophy that permeates the entire organization. The goal of TQM is to create a culture of continuous improvement that leads to higher customer satisfaction, improved quality, and increased profitability.
Definition of Quality
Broadly speaking, quality refers to the ability of a product or service to meet customers’ requirements. From a customer’s point of view, quality is associated with value, which implies how well a product serves its intended purpose.
In other words, it means a measure of excellence free from defects, deficiencies, and variations. On the other hand, from an organization’s perspective, quality is related to conformance to specifications. As per Juran, quality is “fitness for intended use”, which means quality is meeting customers’ expectations.
Quality products or services increase an organization’s sales and market share and help it achieve a competitive advantage. On the contrary, low-quality products and services incur huge costs for inspection, testing, scrap, rework, and handling of complaints.
Quality is associated with various dimensions of a product, such as performance, features, reliability, conformance, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, and perceived quality. Pioneers of quality management have given different definitions for the term “Quality”.
The Popular Definitions of Quality
- W. Edwards Deming: “Quality is a predictable degree of uniformity, at low cost and suited to the market.”
- Phillip B. Crosby: “Quality is conformance to requirement.”
- Genichi Taguchi: “Quality is the minimum loss imparted by a product to society from the time the product is shipped.”
- Kaoru Ishikawa: “Quality is a companywide issue and must be an all-pervasive influence on the way every issue of business is conducted.”
The expectations of quality are based on the intensive usage and price of the product. Quality is quantified as follows:
Q = P / E
Q = Quality
P = Performance
E = Expectations
For example, if Q is greater than 1.0, then we can assume the customer has a good perception about the good or service. As per ISO 9000:2000, “quality is the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfil requirements.”
Here, the word “degree” means that quality can be qualified with adjectives like good, poor, and excellent. As in the definition, the term “inherent” means that it is an existing and permanent characteristic in the product or service. “Characteristics” can be quantitative or qualitative. “Requirements” are a need or expectation of the customer or end user.
Objectives of Quality
The main objective of ensuring quality in products and services is to achieve maximum customer satisfaction. Quality also ensures that:
- Meeting customer needs and expectations
- Improving customer satisfaction
- Reducing costs
- Enhancing competitiveness
- Increasing productivity
- Ensuring compliance
Meeting customer needs and expectations
One of the primary objectives of quality is to meet or exceed customer needs and expectations. This involves understanding customer requirements, designing products or services that meet those requirements, and delivering them in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Improving customer satisfaction
Quality also aims to improve customer satisfaction by delivering high-quality products or services that meet or exceed customer expectations. This can lead to increased customer loyalty, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Quality can help reduce costs by minimizing waste, defects, and rework. This can lead to increased efficiency and productivity, as well as improved profitability.
Quality can also help enhance an organization’s competitiveness by enabling it to offer high-quality products or services at competitive prices. This can lead to increased market share, sales, and profitability.
Quality can help increase productivity by improving processes, reducing errors, and minimizing waste. This can lead to improved efficiency, reduced cycle times, and increased output.
Quality also aims to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. This can help mitigate risks, avoid fines or penalties, and maintain a positive reputation.
Quality has different dimensions that provide an in-depth description of products or services. David Garvin, a Harvard professor, researched quality issues and derived eight dimensions.
One of the most important dimensions of quality according to Garvin. Performance explains why a customer acquires a particular organization’s product or service. In other words, performance is related to the basic expectations of a customer from a product.
For example, if a customer purchases a refrigerator, he/ she would expect a properly functioning refrigerator and good after-sales services.
Specific characteristics of a product or service that attract a customer to avail of the product or service. Features define quality in terms of the ability of a product to satisfy a customer’s need.
For example, a smartphone must-have features, such as a high-megapixel camera, an efficient operating system, and a long battery backup.
The trustworthiness characteristic of a product or service. An organisation must provide reliable products/services to its customers. Repeated failure leads to customer dissatisfaction and may adversely affect the organization’s reputation.
An organization’s product must meet the specified quality standards consistently and must abide by the quality standards to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction.
The durability of a product is the product’s life and its toughness to handle stress without failure. The durability specifications must be set while deciding the functionality of the product. Otherwise, it is difficult to make changes in the features of a finished product.
For example, the use of tubeless tires has increased the durability of tires. The higher the durability of products, the higher the level of customer satisfaction.
One of the most important dimensions for quality according to Garvin. A customer prefers products with quality aftersales services, which include customer support, repair and maintenance, and installation. The inability to provide proper aftersales services may have an effect on the organization’s brand reputation.
In addition, serviceability includes delivering product delivery to customers on time at reasonable rates. For example, while purchasing a bike, a customer gets to repair and maintain services free of cost or paid.
The appearance of a product in terms of look, feel, taste, and smell. Generally, organizations have separate departments that continuously strive to improve product aesthetics.
This term is related to the perception of customers about a certain product or service. For example, while purchasing a car, a customer expects quality in terms of high mileage, advanced design, and features. An organization can understand product-related customer perceptions through extensive market research.