Can quality be measured?

As part of my work, I evaluate the quality management systems of different companies. My work involves large companies and international groups, but there are also smaller companies with only one or two individuals. All these companies hold the opinion that their operations are of high quality. But how can one know if it is true?

After all, quality is quite subjective. When a product has a long lifespan or a service exceeds one’s expectations, it’s usually understood as good quality. The quality of customer service is important for many of us in our daily lives as well. Consequently, customer satisfaction as an indicator of quality is an important measure for many companies, and in principle it is also easy to measure. There are certainly many different kinds of customer satisfaction surveys that are being sent through various channels – sometimes too often, if you ask me. The threshold for responding to surveys increases, and it is not certain whether survey results are any good anymore if the response rate is 10%.

Technical and measurable quality indicators don’t lie, but they are not exactly interesting for the customer either. Standards, tolerances, product durability, etc. do exist, but their market value is not very high. It would be great if we could find a reliable quality indicator that also interests customers and other stakeholders.

When spending time with my friends, work-related issues often come up for discussion. Even if everyone agrees to not talk about work, we still always do. Pride in the quality of one’s own work and services is important to many people, and they want to share their experiences with others. It is interesting how quality can be seen to be demonstrated by how much your own staff members, rather than customers, recommend your products and services. Your staff could be highly motivated to promote your company’s reliability, quality and the effectiveness of its management.

Who knows, maybe the staff’s satisfaction with their own products and services could even be used as a new quality indicator.

Tiia Tuomi
The Lead Auditor, Product Manager ISO 9001

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