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Customer Feedback – The Ultimate Quality Control

Friday, June 15, 2007   (0 Comments)
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Article submitted by Jordan Berliner, President of The Client Builders, Inc.

Most people think of quality control as something you do with a product or a service – and they’re right, as far as they go. But the ultimate quality measure is whether your customer’s expectations are met. And sometimes those expectations can surprise you because they were not communicated to you. Yet you, your product, and service are measured against them. So how can you know what they are?

Let me begin with some examples. Years ago, when PCs were a new phenomenon, they were considered expensive so IBM came up with the idea of the PC jr., a less expensive version. To save money, one of the features was a keyboard with button-like keys. Customers hated the keyboard and the Jr. was a flop. It worked fine as computers go, but Jr. did not live up to customers’ expectations so they didn’t buy it.

When Apple developed the iPod®, it was an instant hit. There had been plenty of portable music players before – remember the Sony Walkman®? But this one met customer expectations for size, music capacity, ability to download, and its hip-ness. Occasionally, there were quality problems with iPODs but that did not reduce their popularity. The quality problems were not much of an issue because to Apple’s customers, that was a small factor in their overall expectations. They were willing to put up with problems for the fun and status of owning an iPOD. So Apple met their customers’ overall expectations and the product was, and is, a success.

American automobile manufacturers dropped the ball on reliability and styling when Japanese car manufacturers realized how important those were to the consumer and gave them to their customers. Hyundai realized the same thing but only after they had introduced their cars into the US. They quickly improved dependability and styling; it is now a well-selling line. American car companies are still trying to play catch-up.

What this tells me is that meeting customer expectations is assuring the quality of their experience – which is really what quality is all about.

How do you find out about those expectations and how you measure against them? The best way we know is simply to ask! Either ask in general or ask about specific aspects of what customers want receive, from you. Another way is to show them your concept and find out what they think, but not through the customary focus group, from which you can receive biased impressions, but one on one.

But you have to be careful how you ask. You need to keep your questions open – those that don’t lead to the answer you want, but the one you need to hear. You need to be objective – or better, have a third party ask the questions for you in a neutral and unthreatening manner.

Most important of all, you need to be prepared for the unexpected answers because those can be the most important part in what you find out – the factor you were not looking for which turns to be the ultimate quality of experience you need to deliver.

Jordan Berliner, President of The Client Builders, Inc. has been both a management consultant and operating executive in large and small companies. He has worked with clients on strategy, organization design, and change management issues. Most recently, he was with the Big Four accounting firm, Ernst & Young where he developed the client feedback and practice improvement process they use today. His MBA in Marketing and Behavioral Science is from The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He has delivered numerous presentations about organization change and management issues and on building effective professional client relationships. Jordan be can be contacted via email at

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