Why Customers’ Perception
of Quality Is So Important
No two people see the external world in exactly the same way. To every
separate person a thing is what he thinks it is—in other words, not a thing,
but a think.
—Penelope Fitzgerald
Chapter 2 provides an overview of some of the current methodologies
and processes that are used by many companies to increase eciency,
improve quality, and better serve customers. It gives examples of suc-
cessful implementations of some of them, and also explains why they
are insucient to measure, evaluate, and improve customers’ perception
of quality.
Also included in this chapter are some examples of new product
introductions that should have been highly successful but failed, at
least partly due to customers perception of the quality of the product.
A case study of two similar companies facing the same challenge is
presented. One followed its vision, without attending to how its custom-
ers perceived the quality of its oerings, and was le behind. e other
studied how its customers perceived quality, and grew and prospered at a
rate far beyond the former.
Finally, some recommendations for process and policy changes are
oered, along with a checklist to help in determining if your company
20  •  Your Customers' Perception of Quality
is suering from customers’ poor perception of the quality of your
products and services.
One denition of the customers’ perception of quality is the opinion,
impression, or feeling that consumers of a company’s products and ser-
vices have about the usability, suitability, and reliability of the product
or service consumed. e concept of customers’ perception of quality is
new. It is not tangible, is dicult to measure, continually uctuates, and is
ignored by a company at its peril.
ere have been several quality improvement methodologies introduced
over the years, and the authors endorse their eorts and eectiveness.
However, these eorts do not address customers’ perception of quality. A
brief review of some of them will help emphasize that point.
e Japanese word for change,and Zen for “good,Kaizen can be seen as
an umbrella term for the following:
Just-in-time production
Suggestion systems
Kaizen accomplishes improvements at little or no expense, and involves
the following considerations:
Masaaki Imai, Kaizen: e Key to Japan’s Competitive Success, McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 1986, 47.
What does customers’ perception of quality mean to you?
How might it impact your business?
Why Customers’ Perception of Quality Is So Important  •  21
Management maintains and improves operating standards.
Progress improvement is the key to success.
PDCA (plan, do, check, act) improvement cycles are used.
Quality is of the highest priority.
Problems are solved with hard data.
e next (downstream) process is provided with good parts or
Kaizen focuses on continuous improvement and encompasses all
aspects of an organization, from the way the CEO makes decisions, to the
production line.
One of the leading proponents of Kaizen is Toyota. at company has
4 main ideas and 14 principles, known as e Toyota Way”:
I. Having a long-term philosophy that drives a long-term approach to
building a learning organization
1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy,
even at the expense of short-term nancial goals
II. e right process will produce the right results
2. Create a continuous process ow to bring problems to the surface
3. Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction
4. Level out the workload
5. Build a culture of stopping to x problems, to get quality right
the rst time
6. Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continu-
ous improvement and employee empowerment
7. Use visual control so no problems are hidden
8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your
people and processes
III. Add value to the organization by developing its people and partners
9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the
philosophy, and teach it to others
10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s
11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by
challenging them and helping them improve

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