February 28, 2008

Customer-Centric means Quality-Ready

While passing my bookcase last night I felt compelled to pull out Peters and Waterman’s 1982 classic “In Search of Excellence.”  I found what I was looking for … in chapter six (“Close to the Customer”) I came across this golden nugget; “Service, quality, and reliability are strategies aimed at loyalty and long-term revenue stream growth. Developing a Quality Obsession … For purposes of this short conversation I’d like to focus on quality and reliability from a marketing perspective.  A recent article in Marketing News stated that “this year of recalls and disasters related to products made overseas have left American consumers feeling deceived and vulnerable … Consumers are yearning now for reliable, high-quality goods.”  Now, I’ve taken some liberty with the quote from the article above because the main focus was on the “Buy American … Made in the USA” theme.  However; one might get the feeling that suddenly quality and reliability are back in fashion. Did quality and reliability ever really go out of fashion with customers?  I doubt it.  Which begs the next question: How do you define a quality-ready organization?  For me, a quality-ready organization is focused on quality assurance.  The American Society of Quality (ASQ) defines quality assurance as:
"The planned and systematic activities implemented in a quality system so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled.”
Software has become mission critical for most companies, as glitches with application software can cause serious business consequences.  When I talk to software development organizations they are quick to point out that software is increasingly determining the nature of the customer experience which means that software quality and reliability have become the new lifelines to customer loyalty and profitability.  For them quality-ready software development means being able to profitably design, develop, test and deliver quality software applications on time and within budget. When I polled my marketing students for feedback concerning quality and reliability one response stood out:  “Quality and reliability are expected, and were your tickets to the dance in the first place.  If quality and reliability fail your chances of dancing with me again are slim.” Are you building a Quality-Ready organization?  If not, your chance of dancing with the stars (loyal customers) is at risk.