Sunday, March 18, 2012

Selling Quality

About a 1 1/2 years ago I was invited to be a part of the ASQ Influential Voices team (see the list of bloggers running down the right side of this page). This team responds monthly to questions posed by ASQ CEO Paul Borawski in his blog A View from the Q. This month Paul discusses the topic of 'Selling Quality'.

My first questions with regard to this topic is "should we need to sell quality?". Unfortunately, my answer is yes, and I am sure most readers would agree. The reason I say unfortunately is because we do have to experience is that most purchasers of a product or service will place price before quality. I my experience you typically get what you pay for. Good costs less than Great typically but will never last as long...example: years ago I worked in an IT management function. We were purchasing new laptops for about a dozen employees including myself. One of my Technicians identified a company that produced Dell clones at an extremely discounted rate. We purchased 12. Over the next 12 months every one of them was returned to the supplier for replacement mother boards. In the long run my laptop lasted the longest of all 12. I managed to keep mine alive for nearly 3 years. within that 3 years the supplier went out of business. Needless to say, we got what we paid for. Had we purchased Dell's I believe they would have outlasted and outperformed the clones 3 fold.

Next - to whom must we, the quality professionals, sell quality? We must sell quality to everyone - the customer, the consumer, our organization's leadership and our company's producers (line operators, supervisors, etc.). We are the stewards of the practices of quality and the quality profession, therefore, it is in our organization's best interest that we walk the talk and be able to influence others to do the same. I just had a Quality sell moment that I'd like to share (you may need to read between the lines). I am sitting in Panera with my daughter. She is doing school work while I write. When we arrived we stepped up to the cashier (customer service) to place our order and I recieve a warm hug from my friend Nicole. I had no idea she worked here. Nicole is the Asst. Manager of this restaurant. She treated both Danielle and me like VIPs. This did not surprise me since we've had a good friendship for quite some time now. While sitting and writing I've observed Nicole 'doing her job'. At the table next to us she asked the newly seated patrons if everything was okay. The woman at the table said she had asked for apple slices as opposed to an apple. Nicole happily abliged the woman bringing her a big bowl full of apple splices. She also explained that the slices are not normally served as a side order but are for a particular salad. This act of Customer Service above and beyond will likely bring this patron back to this restaurant. Nicole was selling quality to a customer without necessarily knowing that was what she did.

The sale of quality can be direct or indirect. Influencing Senior Management to make sound decisions based on factual data is our best tool for selling quality. Continaully satisfying our customers with superior products and prerformance paves the road to company success.