Too often quality is misinterpreted, misunderstood and misused. We are taught that real quality is meeting the standards or specifications at the lowest possible price. In my last set of blog videos, I presented the need for a labeling system on products to put quality in some sort of perspective that is relative to the public.

For example, automobiles are a big-ticket item for most people and in the last 30 years, we have purchased more foreign automobiles, such as Hyundai, Kia and other Japanese-made automobiles under the pretense that their quality is better and they are far less expensive-more bang for the buck.

If we look around us today, we may see that these foreign cars are indeed less expensive and they do pack in many luxury features for their prices. However, if we look closer, we may start to see that there are far less jobs in the automotive sector in Canada and the United States compared to 30 years ago. Furthermore, the jobs are not at the same relative pay and benefit level as they once were.

Is our solution for fixing poor quality to purchase products outside our country or should we work harder to support and create better quality products within our two great nations?

I believe that we are at a turning point for the future of manufacturing and prosperity in our countries. Many of us will have to rethink our definition of quality and modify our decision-making process. For example, I watched a television ad last night where a Korean car company now guarantees in writing the buy-back value of the car you purchase when you want to trade it in for another. How many people will watch this commercial and perceive the guarantee as solid proof of the excellent quality and durability of the car? This is where the neon lights of sales can fog the actual quality of the product. My question is: how they could guarantee such a trade in value if I wanted to trade the car in at another dealership such as Ford? The answer is that they cannot. The purpose of the statement and written guarantee is only to help secure the next automobile purchase so that you focus on the trade in value of your next car and return to their dealership as opposed to focusing on the new car you may prefer.

In my opinion, the quality of a product or service is more far-reaching than the actual product or service itself. We should start thinking about our own society, our nation’s people and the jobs and wealth that we export when we make such decisions.

Therefore, when or how does marketing create the perception of quality specifications as opposed to the actual measurement of the performance, reliability and overall ability to meet the consumer’s expectations?

This happens when consumers do not exercise due diligence when evaluating and considering the purchases of new products. This happens when the consumer relies on the manufacturer’s advertising and assumes that it is fact. Finally, it also happens when we make spur-of-the-moment decisions.

This type of purchasing approach is a dangerous slope and eventually will point out that having a proficient marketing department is more valuable than a proficient quality department.

Where can we find a middle ground between these two powerful forces that make up the difference between success and failure?

Consider what a quality person would say to a potential buyer. Rather than providing a guaranteed buy-back value, perhaps the quality person may want to point out some of the following measurable criteria that they have collected:

  • 85 % of this model car year 2007 with 80,000 to 100,000 miles are selling on eBay for 60% of their original purchase price;
  • 96 % of this model car’s customers had no complaints between 2007 and 2010;
  • 0 % of this model cars year 2007 to 2010 had any repairs that cost more than $ 50.00;
  • 92 % of this model cars year 2007 to 2010 went more than 75,000 miles before their brake pads needed changing; and
  • The manufacturing of this model car including the parts and materials results in 15,000 jobs in United States and Canada, among other data.

    Since the most important part of any quality management system is the key performance indicators and measurable metrics, then why not use this type of information as the foundation for marketing?

    I am not suggesting eliminating those shots of cars sliding sideways across a desert expanse at 140 miles-per-hour, trailed by beaten dust, or eliminating those amazing photo angles used to highlight cars’ sleek lines, responsiveness and performance. However, the inclusion of performance indicators would certainly simplify my job as a consumer to decide on a product best for my needs.

    Furthermore, by including this type of information in the marketing of products would ultimately place far more corporate focus on the performance indicators and continuous improvement.

    This would be the next giant step for quality and for corporations that are secure and confident about the quality of their products and services.