Understand The Concept of Quality: Definitions, Determinants

concept of quality

The term ‘quality’ is perceived differently by different people. A good quality product to one customer may be treated as a bad quality product by another customer. In such situations, it is difficult for industries to take up quality as a focus and orient their actions.

The Concept of Quality: Conventional Perspectives

Quality has to be defined in clear terms for the industries to follow. Broadly, quality refers to the ability of a product or service to meet or exceed customer expectations consistently.

What is Quality? Definitions of Quality

Some other famous definitions of quality are stated below:

  • Philip B. Crosby has defined quality as “quality conforming to specifications.”
  • Joseph M. Juran has described quality as “quality is fitness for use.”
  • Deming has described quality as “quality is customer satisfaction.”
  • The ISO definition (ISO 8402) for quality is “conformance to requirements- the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.”
  • Another definition of quality is delighting the customers. Delightment is one step ahead of satisfaction.
  • One latest definition of quality is enchanting the customers. This indicates that the .. manufacturers should have a thorough knowledge about what should be the requirements of the customers with reference to a particular product, make the customers aware of this fact and make them realize that those are their needs and ultimately fulfill them.
  • The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) define quality as the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy given needs.
  • James W. Dean & James R. Evans defined Quality as meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Mannan & Ferdousi defined Quality as evolving in a predictable fashion and being driven by the marketplace.

From the above definitions, we can conclude that quality has to incorporate the following :

  • Conform to specifications
  • Fitness for purpose
  • Satisfy the customer
  • Delight the customer
  • Enchant the customer

Hence, we can say that the concept of quality includes not only the product and service attributes that meet or exceed customer expectations but also those features that enhance the product and differentiate it from competing offerings. This is often referred to as the “service bundle” or “service package”.

A business achieves success only by understanding and fulfilling the needs (expressed and hidden) of customers. Customer expectations are based on the intended use and the selling price.

When a product surpasses our expectations, we consider that as quality. Thus, it is somewhat intangible based on perception.

Quality can be quantified as follows :

Q = P/E

      Where, Q = quality

P = performance

E = expectations

If Q is greater than or at least equal to 1.0, then the customer has a good feeling about the product or service. Of course, the determination of P and E will most likely be based on perception about the organization determining performance and the customer determining expectations.

Concept of Quality in Islam

Although the contributions of contemporary management in Japan and Western countries are found to be appreciable, their management styles, as they are, are not universally practicable. They are more applicable to their societies.

The differences in the social setup induce variations in managerial skills, strategies, systems, and structures. Moreover, some of the Westernized managerial concepts are based on certain premises of thought that are foreign to the Muslim state of mind.

The strategies, structures, and systems that are contradictory to the teachings of Islam or revealed knowledge, although a few number, are also controversial among Western scholars. Thus there is a need for an Islamic model of Total Quality Management in line with Islamic values.

Islam defines quality as the completion of activities according to the desire of the recipient and that can bring welfare for the society as a whole. As Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an, “He is who created death and life, that He may evaluate which of you is the best in deeds.”

In the Islamic system, quality is more important than quantity. A poor quality performance may bring about an adverse outcome.

For example, salah (prayer) has been ordained for Muslims in numerous places of the Qur’an and Sunnah, but severe consequences have been declared for those who offer a poor quality salah, a salah in negligence. As Allah says, “So, woe to the praying people who are neglectful of their prayers.”

Similarly, sawm (fasting) has been made obligatory for Muslims. Allah says, “O you who believe, sawm is mandatory for you.” Valuable benefits of sawm have been mentioned. But the sawm becomes useless when it is not of good quality.

The Prophet (SAAS) addressed people when Ramadan arrived,

“The Ramadan has come to you, which is a month of blessings, wherein Allah (SWT) turns to you and sends special mercy, forgiveness, and accepts prayers.”

The Prophet (SAAS) said,

“Many fasting people get nothing from fasting except hunger, and many of those who offer salah by night get nothing from it except the discomfort of staying awake.

Thus, in Islam, quality is more important than quantity. But it does not imply that quantity is not to be counted. Quantity is being counted if it passes the criterion of quality.

So, quality in Islam means the required features of any goods, service, or activity that can satisfy the recipients.

The Determinants of Quality

The degree to which a product or a service successfully satisfies its intended purpose has four primary determinants :

  1. Design
  2. How well it conforms to the design
  3. Ease of use
  4. Service after delivery.                                             

Design

The design phase is the starting point for the level of quality eventually achieved. Design involves decisions about the specific characteristics of a product or service, such as size, shape, color, etc. Quality of design refers to the intention of designers to include or exclude certain features in a product or service.

For example, many different mobile phone sets are on the market today. They differ in size, appearance, roominess, ease of use, and materials used.

Design decisions must take into account customer wants, production or service capabilities, safety, and liability (both during production and after delivery), costs, and other similar considerations. Designers may determine customer wants from information provided by marketing, perhaps through the use of consumer surveys or other market research.

They must work closely with representatives of operations to ascertain that designs can be produced; that is, that production or service has the equipment, capacity, and skills necessary to produce or provide a particular design.

Quality of Conformance

This refers to the design to which goods or services conform to (i.e., achieve) the intent of the designers. This is affected by factors such as the capability of equipment used; the skills, training, and motivation of workers; the extent to which the design lends itself to production; the monitoring process to assess conformance; and the taking of corrective action (e. g., through problem-solving) when necessary.

Ease of Use and User

Instructions are important. They increase the chances but do not guarantee, that a product will be used for its intended purposes and in such a way that it will continue to function properly and safely.

Customers, patients, clients, or other users must be clearly informed about what they should or should not do with the product; otherwise, there may be any danger, and the user will take some necessary actions to be safe from the danger.

Much consumer education takes the form of printed instructions and labeling. Thus, manufacturers must ensure that directions for unpacking, assembling, using, maintaining, and adjusting the product- and what to do if something goes wrong- are clearly visible and easily understood.

Service after Delivery

Service after delivery is now also more important. For a variety of reasons, products do not always perform as expected, and services do not always yield the desired results.

Whatever the reason, it is important from the quality standpoint to remedy the situation- through recall and repair of the product, adjustment, replacement or buyback, or reevaluation of service- and do whatever is necessary to bring the product or service up to the standard.

Dimensions of Quality

Customer expectations can be broken down into a number of categories or dimensions that customers use to judge the quality of a product or service. Understanding these helps organizations in their efforts to meet or exceed customer expectations. The dimensions used for goods are somewhat different than those of services.

  • Product Quality: Product quality is often judged on these eight dimensions of quality.
  • Performance: Main operating characteristics of the product.
  • Aesthetics: Appearance, feel, smell, taste.
  • Special features: Extra characteristics.
  • Conformance: How well a product corresponds to design specifications.
  • Reliability: Consistency of performance.
  • Durability: The useful life of the product.               
  • Perceived Quality: Indirect evaluation of quality (e.g. reputation).
  • Serviceability: Handling of complaints or repairs.

These dimensions are further described by the examples presented in Table below. When referring to a product, a customer sometimes judges the first four dimensions by its fitness for use. Notice that price is not a dimension of quality.

Table: Examples of Product Quality Dimensions for a Car

DimensionsExamples
1. PerformanceEverything works, fit and finish, ride, handling, acceleration
2. AestheticsExterior or interior design
3. FeaturesConvenience: Placement of gauges High tech: Cell phone, DVD player, micro wave oven Safety: Anti-skid, airbags
4. ConformanceCar matches manufacturer’s specifications
5. ReliabilityInfrequent need for repairs
6. DurabilityUseful life in miles, resistance to rust
7. Perceived qualityTop rated
8. ServiceabilityService after sale

Service Quality

Service quality is often described using the following dimensions

  • Tangibles: The physical appearance of facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials.
  • Convenience: The availability and accessibility of the service.
  • Reliability: The ability to dependably, consistently, and accurately perform a service.
  • Responsiveness: The willingness of service providers to help customers in unusual situations and to deal with problems.
  • Time: The speed with which service is delivered.
  • Timeliness: Actual delivery time and promised delivery time are the same.
  • Completeness: Actual delivered items should be according to the ordered ones.
  • Consistency: Services will be delivered in the same fashion for every customer and every time for the same customer.
  • Assurance: The knowledge exhibited by personnel who came into contact with a customer and their ability to convey trust and confidence.
  • Courtesy: The way customers are treated by employees who come into account with them.

These dimensions are further described by the examples presented in the table.

DimensionExamples
1. TangiblesWere the facilities clean? Were personnel neat?
2. ConvenienceWas the service center conveniently located?
3. ReliabilityWas the problem fixed?
4. ResponsivenessWere customer services, personnel willing and able to answer questions?
5. TimeHow long did the customers have to wait?
6. TimelinessWill a service be performed when promised?
7. CompletenessAre all items in the order included?
8. ConsistencyAre services delivered in the same fashion for every customer, and every time for the same customer?
9. AssuranceDid the customer service personnel seem knowledgeable about the repair?
10. CourtesyWere customer service personnel and the cashier friendly and courteous?

The Philosophy of Continuous Improvement in TQM

‘Good is not good enough; there is always a scope to be better’ — keeping this adage in mind, TQM entails continuous quality improvement. Anything can be improved, always. TQM is not a one-shot activity; it is continuous, keeps on going, never stops, and is an unending process.

Strengthening Competitive Advantage through Quality Improvement

With a long-term focus, quality improvement becomes an everyday activity.

To strengthen competitive advantage in the market, organizations must endeavor to continuously improve the quality of products and services, which results in cost savings and an increase in market share because of a reputation for having a quality product or service.

Embracing Change in TQM

One of the underlying tenets of TQM is that change is constant, as contrasted with traditional management theory that ‘tends to view change as being radical in nature and occurring in quantum leaps.’ TQM makes no allowance for ‘cowboy’ management. Change in TQM tends to be slow and plodding, but in the end, it is successful.

Continuous Quality and Process Improvement

In most cases, continuous quality improvement is interlinked with ‘continuous process improvement’ (CPI). It recognizes that substantial gains can be achieved by accumulating many seemingly minor improvements whose synergies yield tremendous gains over the long run. “Now the key to competing in the international marketplace is to simultaneously improve quality and productivity on a continual basis.”

Adapting to Customer Requirements for Success

For long-term success, organizations need to adapt to the customers’ requirements. Customer requirements should get the first priority.

The wheel of an organization cannot move if customers are not satisfied. Firms are now more concerned about customer satisfaction because they now have more options than before.

The Role of TQM in Competitive Positioning

Organizations have realized that survival is only possible through customer satisfaction, and satisfaction will come through quality goods and services with the lowest possible price.

The emergence of quality as a top priority in many corporate entities is primarily clear due to the globalization of world trade and the competitive pressure brought about by the escalating demands of consumers who want better products and services.

Global Adoption of TQM for Competitive Edge

TQM is believed to be one of the essentials in revitalizing a company’s competitive position and has drawn the attention of manufacturing leaders all over the world. TQM has been widely implemented in various firms around the world.

TQM is now considered by virtually all leading firms and quality practitioners as the way forward to gain a competitive edge.

Benefits and Strategic Advantages of TQM Implementation

There are many discussions about the benefits of implementing TQM. Many firms have arrived at the conclusion that effective quality management can improve their competitive abilities and provide strategic advantages in the marketplace.

In recent years, much research has been conducted on the effects of TQM implementation on overall business performance.

Many researchers, in one way or another, have argued that it has positive effects on employee satisfaction, product quality, customer satisfaction, and strategic business performance.

Total Quality and Organizational Change

Organizational change includes any kind of change within the organization, such as changes in organizational structure, organizational culture, working processes, production processes, human resources, and so on.

One can’t bring any good to the organization without changing the present situation or condition. If you study the history of the world, you can easily see that every improvement has come with change. We can say ‘no change, no better’; ‘no change, no improvement.’

The Demand for Change

Change is a part of life. Organizational change is a must in implementing the TQM approach and thereafter. The first step to bringing change is to change within the organizational culture.

Unless the culture is based on customer satisfaction, continuous improvement, and teamwork, no significant outcome may come from the TQM approach.

Continuous improvements, a teamwork approach, and reengineering ensure change within the organization. One may ask why these changes are necessary.

The responses are:

  1. Customer expectations are continuously evolving. Features of products or services that delight customers today cannot be taken for granted tomorrow. Products that customers find acceptable this year may be perceived as substandard next year. So, to satisfy the continuously evolving expectations of customers, an organization must bring change to its environment.
  2. Competitors are continuously improving the quality and features of their products and services. In this open competitive market, every organization is trying to provide better standard products and services to their customers. And by changing the process and products, an organization can compete successfully and can win in the market.
  3. Technology is changing faster than anything in the present-day world. If an organization can cope with these changes and can use the latest technology in its operations over others, it will survive and win. So, to cope with the changing technology, one must bring change to their environment.

Cultural Change

Culture has a significant influence on the behavior of employees. Organizational culture is the beliefs and values shared by the people in an organization. Culture binds the employees together and helps them make sense of their organizational activities.

Cultures are dramatically varied from organization to organization. In most cases, there is no written form of culture; people learn about culture in various ways. How people dress and address one another provides clues.

Culture is also expressed in the stories and jokes people tell in the organization, in how they spend their time at work, and in a thousand other large and small ways.

Suppose the TQ effort is inconsistent with the organizational culture. In that case, it will be undermined, and the organization will fail to achieve the target of implementing the TQM approach on the premises.

Total Quality Culture and its Elements

Within a quality-oriented organization, the culture must be based on TQ. Their values, beliefs, ideologies, philosophies, attitudes, behavior, etc., should align with the principles of the TQM philosophy. The principles of TQM should be highly accepted and practiced by the employees within the organization.

Top management must be willing and committed to introducing and practicing TQ culture within the organization.

To implement TQ culture, some elements must be considered by the organization. The elements of TQ culture are stated below:

Customers should be given priority to meet their needs. In a TQ-friendly culture, everyone believes that customers are the key to the organization’s future and that their needs must come first.

If two employees discuss their jobs and a customer enters, the discussion ends until the customer is served. If any phone call comes from anywhere, any of the employees must answer the call within two rings if the concerned person is unavailable.

In a TQ-friendly organization, change is a must in the organization’s technology or its way of doing the work.

Employees expect their jobs to change due to improvements directed by customers’ needs. Re-engineering is essential here because employees are always looking for better ways (faster, simpler, less expensive, quality ensured) to do things. Systems should be developed to improve the quality of the products or services continuously.

Practicing teamwork is a very good culture for a TQ-friendly organization.

If someone is away from their desk and their phone rings, another employee will answer it rather than leave a customer hanging. Individual competition is not appreciated in a TQ-friendly organization.

When people know that there is no individual reward system rather than group reward, they will be motivated to work in a team.

Cultural values within the organization are a must for a TQ-friendly organization. The values may differ from one TQ organization to another.

Company personnel may prefer communication in formal or informal ways; they may prefer to maintain personal relationships with one another; they may prefer to wear uniforms; they may prefer to recite the Holy Qur’an before starting office work, and so on.

How has Organizational Culture changed?

How can an organization change its culture to be more consistent with quality?

It will begin with leadership. Leaders must clearly communicate the company’s action plan to achieve its goals.

They must exemplify TQ values in their behavior and actions. Through their speech, employees can easily understand how to perform their duties to ensure TQ in their environment successfully.

If the leaders can serve as role models, the employees will follow their guidance and directions. Inconsistency between the speech and actions of the leaders may demotivate employees from implementing the directions provided.

For example, Mahathir Mohammad, one of the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, was such a leader, and the present development of Malaysia is a result of his leadership. Every citizen is still trying to follow his guidelines today.

After leaders, the second responsible group is the followers of the leaders or the organization’s employees. If the followers cannot practice the TQ culture, only the leaders can’t implement TQ values in the organization.

Here, the employees must be willing and interested in implementing the TQ culture in the organization.

Both the leaders and followers are responsible for bringing about change in political practices within the organization. Unless the political dimensions are changed to TQ, the organization will not successfully implement the TQM approach.

Leaders can arrange sessions where all employees must be present. The leaders will deliver lectures on how they can improve the quality of their products and services, what the reward system for the employees is in the new culture, what incentives will be provided for the best performers, and how they can eliminate ill politics from the organization, among other topics.

The leaders can also change the culture by upgrading old technology with new ones and training employees regarding the new technology.