Meaning of the Word 'Quality'

Best Practice / Knowledge and Intangibles

Meaning of the Word 'Quality'
Manik Sood, Member, Manager, India

What would you answer if someone asks you the meaning of Quality?

What is Quality?

In general, the quality can be defined as degree of customer satisfaction.
As per ISO 8402:1994, standard quality is defined as the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.

Here, we need to understand the difference between ‘stated needs’ & ‘implied needs’.

For example, you want to buy a ball point pen with metal body. The shop-keeper gives you a metallic ball pen as you asked for. Now, your stated need is satisfied.
Implied needs are those which are obvious. Anyone need not to mention them. For example, in case of buying a pen, it is obvious that the pen should be able to write. Therefore, ‘to able to write’ is the implied need.
If the shop-keeper gives a metallic ball pen which cannot write and says that he has given you the ball point pen as you asked for, it simply means that your implied need of buying a ball point pen is not satisfied.

There are three dimensions of Quality:
1. Quality of Design
2. Quality of Conformance
3. Quality of Performance

1. Quality of Design
It means the intentions of designers to include or exclude features in a product or service i.e. the degree to which the quality characteristics are embedded in to the product or service. For example, Car manufacturers like Ford and BMW make cars which are fit for use but designed for a different set of customers. Both cars differ in their features, performance, size, quality and cost. The buyers who are not pleased with the overall quality of a car are encouraged to move up a class or two.
In service sector, hotel industry is a good example of difference in design quality. All hotels provide a place to sleep but many features of design quality such as comfort, luxury, ambience, services available, swimming pool and exercise rooms separate a normal hotel from a five star hotel.

2. Quality of Conformance
It means how well the product or service meets the specifications determined by designers. For example, for a product having dimension of 28.07±.12, its size can vary from 27.95 to 28.19 mm.
Quality of conformance is directly measurable, though it may not be directly associated with consumer’s perception of quality.

3. Quality of performance
The quality of performance is associated with the reliability of the product or service. Quality of performance means the product, part or system is performing its intended function under a prescribed set of conditions. It extends to robustness as well i.e. a product has good quality of performance if it can work over a broad range of conditions.
Quality of performance has an impact on repeated sales, reflects on the products image and if it poor, it can create legal implications.

Quality of performance can be measured with the help of surveys, customer feedback & testing of the final product.
For instance, one voltage stabilizer is designed to work over a voltage range from 190 – 270 volts. If it doesn’t perform satisfactorily in this range that means its quality of performance is poor. If it can work efficiently in this range, it will be said that its quality of performance is good. Furthermore, if it can perform well even at voltage around 170 or 295 volts, it will imply that this is a robust product having excellent quality of performance.

Similarly, if the life of an electric bulb is, say 5000 hours minimum and if it fails at 4500 hours, it implies that it has low quality of performance.

In case of service sector, taking example of hotel industry – if the promised serving time after taking an order is 15-20 minutes but delivery takes 28 minutes, it means that it has poor quality of performance.

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