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Monday, November 26, 2007

Defining quality

Image from "iPods are not machine washable". by Geoff Richards. Seems I had better luck than others (or simply let it dry out longer!)

Last week, Vivian thoroughly washed and dried Eric's inexpensive iPod in our new Miele Washer and Dryer. She chose the Miele after carefully evaluating the other brands -- and reading horror stories about machines that failed to deliver, or worse, broke down just after the short warranty period. We didn't research the I-Pod so thoroughly. We simply purchased the cheapest model on sale at Costco.

So, last weekend, imagine the dejection around our house when Vivian reported that the electronic device had been in Eric's pocket and (probably) had given it a truly thorough clean. We let it dry out, but nothing happened. Dead iPod?

Yesterday, I tried a long shot, plugging it into my laptop to see if it would recharge. Within minutes, the iPod came back to life.

Ah, for Brand Harmony. The washer and dryer that can thoroughly clean but not damage sensitive electronic equipment. And the cheap electronic device that can withstand serious tumbling, high pressure water, and intense heat from the best highest-grade domestic appliances on the market. Success.

Can we achieve the same standards in our own businesses, or something approaching that? Well, if our trades people care so much they insist on first-rate quality (but not super-high prices); if our architectural or engineering drawings are well executed and don't contain impossible inconsistencies, and if we can quickly find, resolve and co-ordinate problem solving issues, do you think our businesses would have trouble finding repeat customers, or receiving approval for valid change orders? (Yes, I know, sometimes we do everything right and still are screwed. This is the real world, not fantasy, after all.)

1 comment:

Sonny Lykos said...

This is a good one, Mark. But, addressing it from a remodeler’s perspective, let me add two questions: Who defines quality? And for those who define quality, what criteria do they use?

A short story. About 25 years ago, as new franchisees, we built our first Lindal Cedar house, a large house on a lake, and for a very wealthy family. The Project Manager, Jeff, that I put in charge was an exceptional carpenter who took a lot of pride in his workmanship. As such, he also demanded the same caliber of workmanship from our subcontractors.

During each time the family visited the house as we were building it their only considerations were usability of the rooms, conveniences, and the overall look. And during each visit not a single family member ever made a single comment or compliment about the “quality” of the trim work, cabinet work, drywall, wall paper, tongue and groove cedar ceilings - nothing.

MeanwhiIe, I continually received the same complaint each week or two from Jeff - that no family member ever mentioned the time, trade, and management skills he utilized to assure it was as perfect a house as anyone could ask. And especially his own workmanship.

Since then I’ve had many customers tell me “That looks good”, or “Looks good enough to me” when it didn’t, and I wasn’t finished.

So as I originally asked, Who defines quality, and using what criteria? Obviously it’s the customer, not us. And because each customer, other than the very basics, have different expectations, reasons, and priorities for their purchase. I guess that’s why some will get a cup of coffee at MacDonalds for 90¢, while others wouldn’t be caught dead there, opting instead to drop $3.00 at Starbucks for the same cup of coffee. As is said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”