Last week, I had a phone conversation with Robert Fantina, co-author of the recently released book, Your Customers' Perception of Quality: What It Means to Your Bottom Line and How to Control It, about customers' buying habits and what they consider value-adds. Many attendees at conferences I attend often state that their companies' products and services are of very high quality, yet they struggle to maintain market share. Shouldn't the quality speak for itself? I posed this question to Robert, and here is a summary of his answer:
Unfortunately, many companies do all the right things in terms of quality, including reducing their defects to near zero, eliminating call waiting times, etc., and still struggle to hold onto their customers. Repeatedly, this appears to be because their customers do not perceive them as delivering quality.
High quality in products and services is vital but insufficient; despite high quality, customers may still perceive quality to be inferior. What is causing that perception?
The answers to that question are many and complex. Unfortunately, it appears that a variety of concerns experienced by customers translate in their minds into ‘poor quality.’ For example:
- A customer that buys a product though a third-party distributor and has problems with that distributor, may view the quality of the product as poor.
- A customer who loves his/her product, but then struggles to find some information on a difficult-to-navigate website, may begin to view the quality of that product as poor.
- The company that orders 1,000 widgets, and receives them all individually wrapped, and must discard/recycle all that wrapping, may say that quality is poor.
While it is clear that none of these issues in any way reflects the actual quality of the product, they can influence customers' perception of quality. And if their perception of quality is poor, the actual high-quality of the product is meaningless.
Do any of you suffer from this situation? How did you recover? Have you experienced an instance in which the delivery of a product or service affected its popularity? How did you discover this?