Customer Feedback – The Ultimate Quality Control
Friday, June 15, 2007
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?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org