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.


  1. Nice post David! I definitely agree that you get what you pay for! I also know that when we spend a little more money up front to build a high quality product or service, our customers will be willing to pay more for it in the end. Any executive should be sold on that proposition!

    Great blog! Keep up the good work!

  2. Great post! I agree with with you, unfortunately we HAVE to sell quality to everyone.. and the sad part is, as I said in my blog, that we have to CONVINCE the upper management to use quality.

    JImena Calfa
    ASQ Influential Voices

    1. One method we've started using is showing upper management what Quality is delivering to the bottom line via cost avoidance and also via process improvements. Both lead to a healther bottom line which catches upper management's attention.

  3. It is wonderful when you experience good customer service. It normally isn't hard to see a place and person that is focused on providing good customer service and the majority of places that are just trying to get by without too many customer complaints.

    To me the next step, for people that are customer focused is to learn about creating processes that result in customer value. I find there are many more people that provide good service without much training than those that look for systemic fixes to provide better service to everyone.

  4. It's pretty sad that this is still a relevant topic in 2012 after Deming told us the answer years ago.

    Quality should be a core value of your business where leaders and managers allow people take pride in their work. It should be part of the company DNA and culture. Leaders should build systems to foster people’s passion, allowing workers to fully comprehend and understand the meaning of quality. As Deming said:

    The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people. Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort.

    As quality professionals do we need to sell or provide a business case needed for this? Do you have to calculate Return on Investment for continuous improvement projects? All improvement efforts need to focus on improving quality first and foremost, as opposed to just concentrating on costs alone. Why? Back to Deming again:

    (a) When people and organizations focus primarily on quality, defined by the following ratio,

    Quality = (Results of work efforts) / (Total Costs)

    quality tends to increase and costs fall over time.

    (b) However, when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time.

    Also, check out the Deming Chain Reaction to understand why we need to stop thinking along the lines that profit and growth are the ultimate goals.

    1. Rob,
      you make excellent points as did Dr. Deming. Unfortunately, it seems to me that fewer and fewer company leaders are familiar with the teachings of Dr. Deming, therefore it behooves us to keep up his teachings any way we can, including through the 'selling of quality' to senior leadership.