Do We know How Our Customers Define Quality?

by Dr. Gordon D. Booth

Too often, we feel that if our product is of good quality, our customers will be satisfied and will buy that product. This is not always true. Many companies have invested huge amounts of money in product imporvement only to find that their potential customers still did not buy the product. Of course, there can be several reasons for this, but one of the most common is that the customers define quality differently than does the company.

Quality usually means more to the customer than just a "quality product." When a customer buys a product, they also buy a relationship (or lack of relationship) with the company that makes the product. This relationship can make or break the company. Even an excellent product cannot overcome the negative feelings that arise when every contact with the company is a frustration. On the other hand, customers are very forgiving of a product with a few weaknesses--if the company is genuinely trying to correct the problems and treats the customers with concern and respect.

Dr. Noriaki Kano helps us understand customer perception of a product by defining three categories into which every product characteristic can be classified. The three categories are: