Quality is a word we all know and use every day. We do so regularly, sometimes playfully, sometimes without giving it a second thought. Yet, to marketers and businesses, not to mention R&D specialists, engineers, manufacturers, service delivery teams and people from most trades and professions, quality is a serious matter. They know quality leads to customer satisfaction and, ultimately, the success (and fates) of products, services, brands and businesses depend upon it.
Although we can differentiate a good product or service from a bad one, stating clear reasons why we believe one product/service is superior to another, when it comes to defining quality, we hesitate. That’s because quality is a subjective matter. Much depends on comparisons with other similar products and services. Much depends on our perceptions.
In the conventional expression of value in the economic or business sense, where Value = Quality/Price,
quality is expressed as a component of value (price being the other). But, if we were to specifically ask ourselves ‘What is quality?’, we are likely to come up with many definitions.
Needless to say, there are many schools of thought and practices from across the world dealing with this topic, each offering its own sound definition.
On a somewhat philosophical and spiritual note, Robert Pirsig, in his famous 1974 book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, offers a perspective on quality which is equally mesmerising. He suggests that quality is undefinable – and that, “to truly experience quality, one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation.” (Wikipedia). Quality, says Pirsig, is not something that exists within a subject or an object, but it is the source of subjects and objects – it is the source of everything.