Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Quality Context.

I was reading the qaisdoes twitter feed and the following post from @ASQ came across:
            Quality Quote: "Quality is everyone's expectation!" - Jeffrey S. Schiopota, vice  president of operations, Aspire Brands

And my automatic response was to argue (to be fair i'm reasonably certain that 80% of my friends, acquaintances and family would not be surprised at my willingness to argue) the point.  After all, if you buy something from the dollar store, quality is not necessarily what you expect.  But after further reflection i think that you do expect quality from items that you buy at the dollar store but the quality has a context.  

For example, if i go to McDonald's I don't expect the food to taste like what i'd get at a sit down restaurant.  Mcdonald's has built a worldwide brand based upon the fact that they can build a consistent brand that looks, feels and tastes the same no matter where you go.  So if you consider their quality of process and product, it's pretty high within the context of your expectation.  I don't expect my Big Mac to taste like the burger that my grandpa used to BBQ on those warm summer evenings of my childhood, i expect it to taste like every other Big Mac i've ever had.  If it doesn't then they aren't adhering to their quality standard. 

Part of the problem is the word quality and how it's used.  Quality didn't always mean good, quality started out its life requiring a qualifier so that you would know what usage it was entailing.  This product is of high quality, this is a low quality widget, etc.  But these days if someone just says, 'quality is everyone's expectation' there's an allowed context within of 'high quality is everyone's expectation.'  It's not a very exact statement but it's the intent behind it. 

Of course coming back around to not arguing with the statement due to context i had another thought - I'm not sure it is what the pessimists amongst us do expect.  I don't think that i really expect quality in general anymore.  The bigbox discount stores of the world have started to train us that you get what you pay for.  When i look at the dollar store example in my second paragraph you really do get the quality that you expect, as long as you're looking at things reasonably and rationally.  Every product you buy at that dollar store is built with a particular probable failure rate due to material and manufacturing process.  You've paid a buck, it'll last longer than a use or two but after a dozen uses, count your blessing for having a usable product every use thereafter.  In general, if you know what you're looking for, then the dollar store is a great place to go.  I really don't need gift bags that are higher quality than a dollar store provides.  They will have the quality i expect, for the most part.

For the pessimist however, i think that there is also a belief that the pervasiveness of the bigbox prices that has brought quality overall down in an attempt to compete.  "things don't last like they used to."  Everyone's heard this from a person of an older generation.  If you grew up in the 60's you had a different concept of the quality to expect from things.  Your phone isn't going to last 15 years, you know that, you buy it and expect a quality product that will last until a year or two after your contract runs.  At that point you're probably going to buy a new phone anyway.  This is how products are being designed, because manufacturers want you to pay the bill for new product again and again.  If i buy a big ticket electronics product like a TV or receiver and i pay for the higher quality product, i do have an expectation of quality.  You'd think that for an $800 phone we could expect the same thing but i believe we are being conditioned to really put the quality context into play.  You expect it to work well for the length of the contract and then you start counting your blessings for every year you get past that. 

But even in this example we are trained for quality context.  You expect the quality you receive from such a product.  It's a shame that we're giving up quality for price and are becoming doomed to live in a throw-a-way society and often i try to convince myself that spending the quality dollar to buy a higher lifespan product is the way to go.  Most of the time i even succeed.  But it's not always easy either.  It's hard for a person of my generation who looks at TV's or phones or things in that price point and automatically has an expectation of higher quality.  People older than me, they rail against the machine, people my age grumble and complain, millenials...they just live easily with the concept that two years from now they'll need to replace their everything.

Quality Context is becoming everything.  To rephrase the quote a little, "Contextual quality is everyone's expectation."

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