Quality starts where specification ends

August 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Out of my mind | Leave a comment

We normally tend to equate quality with specification, treating them almost like synonyms. When the specification is being met, We feel happy that we have provided the quality. Terms like quality control strengthen this belief because it involves comparing actual with the specification. However, a couple of experiences over this weekend made me question this belief. Let me explain.

On Saturday we went to our favorite restaurant for buffet lunch. Number of items was almost same, taste was meeting the specification. It was clean and hygienic. It was not oily or spicy. Each item had its unique taste which is their specialty. However, something was amiss. It did not feel like the same quality as we were used to. It was difficult to put the finger on why that feeling but it was distinctly there. When the cheque was brought things fell in place. They had dropped the price probably to counter the competition provided by opening of Radisson at Indore. They had not cut the corners on the specification but on few subtle things like the personal touch and attention, not providing a dry Bafla (only dipped in butter were available) charging extra for an ice cream for dessert and so on. The marginal price reduction did not make much difference but these few things over and above the minimum specification did.

On Sunday we visited an exhibition-cum-sale of jewelry, garments and household items at Sayaji Mahal. We saw an innovative fan worth around Rs. 5000/- It had an ISI certification. But the person had come from Mumbai and he did not have any support or contact at Indore. The risk appeared to be too high. On the other hand, we bought a packet of all plastic (without a spring) clothes clip under similar circumstances because price was around Rs. 100/- and we could take the risk.

My takeaways from these experiences:

  • Specification is a precondition for Quality but not same as quality.
  • Specification is objective whereas quality is subjective.
  • Specification is a common minimum in either product or service; quality needs that bit of extra which makes all the difference.
  • Specification is generic. While meeting the specification we can treat the entire population of users / customers as homogeneous.
  • Considering needs of different segments is important when it comes to quality.
  • Even though each user is unique, it is possible to observe the patterns and work on segments rather than individuals.
  • The additional cost of providing quality beyond the specification may not always be significantly higher; it just requires that extra care and attention.
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