We talk about it all the time. Marveling at its brilliance and sheer ingenuity. On the other hand, increasingly in today’s world, we lament its absence. But what is it that tugs our emotional heartstrings and plays us like a violin? What is quality?

Every day we encounter and eulogize about this “quality”, yet cannot seem to explain it. In marketing, it’s fundamental to distinguish its characteristics in order to effectively match customer expectations and present a clear marketing message to the consumer. In my quest to deduce it’s meaning, a google search produced the following axiom:

“The standard of something measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something”.

The roots of quality

While each of us may struggle to find our own definition, we all seem to instantly know what it is when we see it. I believe, quality to be the coalescence of time, care and dedication put towards creating something tangible or intangible. It’s an outcome that occurs after substantial effort of your best ability. Without quality, the world descends into tepid conformity.

Can we say then that quality is an imagined perfection fortified in our minds? In the business world defining quality is not so simple. Different people have differing beliefs relating to quality and suffer from various cognitive biases. When this expectation of quality is not met by a service provider, the customer is disappointed.

In this blog, we endeavor to demonstrate the influencers governing our interpretation of quality.

The role of pricing

The price of a product can be a key indicator of product quality. In general, cheaper products are made with cheaper materials which can lead to performance issues. This leads to unhappy customers as performance has not met expectation. A high product price often accrues due to the time, money and effort dispensed in its creation e.g 20-year-old whiskey, Tesla X. In the services industry more experienced graphic designers, web developers and more can demand high prices due to their experience. But let’s not forget, this high price for experience is commanded as a result of the time, money and effort these professionals have put into perfecting their craft over the years.

Good, Better and Best

Nowadays it’s important to realize we all expect quality. We do not accept an average product for a low price. We expect a good product for a low price. This is due particularly to the increasing expectation of quality that technology has taught us, is possible. It is all about receiving what we feel is value for money. Companies have responded to this change in consumer expectations. They are adopting a new pricing strategy appealing to all market segments– good, better and best pricing.

Most compelling evidence of this pricing policy is in the smartphone market with brands like Samsung. They create different smartphones with varying capacities depending on the model, from budget smartphones for €100 to Samsung s7 for €600. Chiefly this is to make reaching all market segments with their brand possible including the lower income, middle class and upper class. This policy attunes to people’s different needs. Other companies stick to a rigid pricing and quality standard  This ties in with their branding. As an illustration, Mercedes never offer a budget version of their vehicles as they want their brand to stand for quality and status, appealing to higher income families - their target market.

Quality performance

Another main component in the judgement of quality is if the product’s performance matches expectation. This doesn’t mean actual performance but what we expect the performance to be like. I remember, when I bought my first car - an 08 Seat Ibiza Sport. It was like an almost dream car mainly due to the fact that the car I previously drove was an 02 VW Polo. Ultimately, understanding these factors of reference is important. What are people comparing your product to?

Moreover, we hold different brands to different standards. A well-known and reputable brand has certain expectations to meet. We expect them to produce a good-great quality product no matter the price. This is due to the extra security and peace of mind that these brands provide us. We feel like we don’t need to worry about the guilt, anger and frustration which occurs, when we retrospectively believe we made a bad purchase decision. They provide us with mental safety and security from self-judgement and criticism. In essence, this is why we are willing to spend a little extra on what we call “quality”.

Does the product do what it says? Is it reliable? Durable? Value for money? When appraising product’s effectiveness and quality standards, these are all key considerations. Also how the product compares with the competition in terms of perceived quality is important.On balance, if the product isn’t comparing competitively and is not correspondingly cheaper, the customer feels cheated.

The elusive truth

Quality contains so many variables it is almost impossible to define. In terms of customer service, putting the necessary time, money and effort into creating a product is imperative to satisfy customers. Quality is a dream state of mind. It is imagined perfection. The best companies will seek to match this imagined utopia in peoples mind as close as possible. Quality ensues after putting enough care into creating a product. Doing your best and putting out the best products possible (within your capability) is all one can do to assuage any customer doubts. After all, lack of quality is mainly the result of an absence of care. Keep your own standards high.

For everybody else, the old adage holds true “Under promise, over deliver”. In this way, disappointing customers won’t be a problem. Expectations will be met.