"It is impossible for ideas to
compete in the marketplace if no forum for
their presentation is provided or available."
Thomas Mann, 1896
The Business Forum
vs. Real Quality
By Henry H. Goldman
Recently, one of my neighbors hired a new
television/telephone/computer system from one of the nation's largest vendors.
It took most of a day to wire the house to accept the new system. Widely
advertised, the company promises video that is transferable to any set in the
house, wireless computers, fax, etc. The only problem? It does not work.
Nearly twice a week, since installation in the early spring, one or more service
personnel are at the house fiddling with the unit. They have changed out,
multiple times, routers, DVD players, remote sensors, etc.
My neighbor is an entrepreneur who works out of
a home office. He must have uninterrupted Internet access, e-mail and a working
telephone/fax. This had not been the case. He has no idea of how many calls
have been lost, how many messages have not been received and, how many televised
sports programs not been accessible.
We discussed the situation and I asked him why
he went with that particular vendor. He admitted that he was swayed by the
advertising and the fact that the firm continues to win awards from J. D. Power
for "initial quality." In other words, he was won over by perceived
quality. But, the fact remains, that there has not been any sign of real
We see similar examples with automobiles:
winners of the Power awards for in entail quality are followed by massive
recalls for items that should have been noticed during the manufacturing
process, and were not, but the awards continue. Some years ago, I had a client
company that produced electronic equipment. The equipment was well produced,
generally defect free and sold well. Management saw that the marketplace could
contain additional units and increased the number of units sold. As long as the
customer received product that was manufactured during the first two weeks of
the month, the product was, in fact, defect free and worked as expected.
However, under pressure to move product out the door, those units produced
during the second half of the month did not have the same quality as the earlier
pieces. The rational was that the number of units shipped had to match the
company's marketing plan. Under that sort of pressure, quality control was lost
and real quality failed. Senior plant personnel shrugged their
shoulders, suggesting that it really did not make any difference: the customer
would simply return the failed item, customer service would replace it with a
working unit and the customers' satisfaction would be retained. Plus, the
failed units would undergo "salvage and re-work," returned to the shipping
department and sent, as new, to another customer.
The failure rate continued to climb, as the
number of units shipped increased. Some lines experienced a failure rate
approaching ten percent. Perceived quality dropped as quickly as did real
It required a complete change in production
mentality to remedy the problem. It took a full three months to implement
changes, but it was done, and the rate of returned items dropped to near zero.
The quality initiatives in the United States,
that now seems to have reached a plateau with Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma,
confuses perceived and real quality (has the methodology become more important
that the results that must be achieved by that methodology?) I addressed that problem with a group of
college and university administrators in a Southern California workshop. One of
the participants argued that perceived quality was the major factor influencing
students to enroll at that school. "Real quality," he insisted, "had no meaning
at his level (community college); quality was a non-sequitur." Students at his
college enrolled there based on cost and could not care less about the quality
of instruction and/or customer service.
I begged to differ. Real quality, in any
endeavor, is what counts. Well, while several in the audience did support my
position, others simply walked away without comment. But, perhaps things are
changing. We purchased a new printer/scanner/fax/copier just last week. It
works just fine and it took very little time to bring it into service. Our
purchase was based on "Real Quality." We have purchased the same brand in the
past, including computers, monitors, etc. all with real quality. Real quality,
of course, leads to perceived quality, so it becomes one eternal round.
Quality was once described as giving the
customer exactly what he or she expects, when it is expected, at a price which
the customer expects to pay. In short, working in a no surprises environment.
These constraints ought to be available to managers in any industry, to profit
and non-for-profit, as well as local and national government. Real Quality must
be present, perceived quality should follow, not lead. Consumer expectations
must be fulfilled. If those expectations are not met, bankruptcy may prove to
be a viable alternative. Recently, we have become disappointed with some
Federal agencies squandering tax monies with parties, prostitutes, etc. We have
seen major financial institutions operating without due diligence. It appears,
that in some cases, quality, perceived or real, simply no longer is there.
Much of what appears above requires a massive
realignment of management principles. That realignment requires that
individuals accept the responsibilities for providing goods and services without
blemish. Chief executive officers must be held accountable. Quality, as a
tangible substance, must fall directly to the bottom line. Real quality mist
become a certainty. As Philip Crosby used to say, "Quality is free." Crosby
wrote that statement in 1979. It is now 2012, thirty-three years later, and we are
still searching. There are, of course, examples where quality does fall to the
bottom line and customer service, in fact, means something. I just shipped a
business package to Berlin, Germany. I hand carried it to a UPS pickup point.
That was on a Monday. The package was received in Germany at 08:30, on
Wednesday, exactly as promised and as expected.
If my "friend" at the college workshop, as
mentioned above, had believed me on the real versus perceived quality, then his
college would provide services that were welcomed and delivered to his
customers, students, in an atmosphere of collaboration. The overriding goal
being to provide his customers with the highest quality services, including
instruction, with early availability and exceptional value.
There are several organizations that today
present both "perceived," and "real" quality. We all know them and we use their
products and services. Let us hope and pray that the quality initiatives of the
last quarter of the twentieth century continue through the twenty-first.
Remember, management's integrity must begat quality, both perceived and
Henry H. Goldman
a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is the Managing Director of the Goldman Nelson Group. Henry got
his Masters Degree at the University of Iowa and did his Doctoral
Studies at the University of Southern California. He is a
Certified Professional Consultant to Management (CPCM); and has
published numerous articles in trade journals and was Associate
Editor of Taking Stock: A Survey on the Practice and Future of
Change Management (Berlin, Germany). He is a member of the
American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); Association of
Professional Consultants (APC) and the Institute of Management
Consultants (IMC). Henry has consulted and/or offered training in
South Africa, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau,
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Barbados, Georgia, Kosovo,
Tajikistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and of
course North America. He has also taught at Baker University:
Lee’s Summit, MO, 2008, Adjunct Professor of International Business;
National Graduate School: Falmouth, MA, 2004-2008, Adjunct Professor
of Quality Management; California State University: Fullerton,
2005-2006, Lecturer on Taxation; University of California: Berkeley,
2002, Adjunct Professor of Management; University of Macau (China),
Adjunct Professor of Management, 2001-2003.
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