The Hidden Value of Quality


The Hidden Value of Quality

Brian Wolff


The pilot stepped out of the cockpit to oversee preparations for our flight as the crew loaded and unloaded food and beverages. Based on his interactions with the crew, I immediately assessed him to be affable, collaborative and competent. My next thought was to attribute the quality of the person to the quality of the company I had chosen to fly me to Texas. The brand and the pilot matched, and that fact reinforced my positive impression of both. 


That is the hidden value of quality, a virtuous circle of reinforcing messages that you send to your customers through the employees you hire, the prices you charge and the effort you make to deliver your product or service every day. 


Did you notice how quickly I got from sizing up the employee to sizing up the company? In the blink of an eye, my impression of the airline was shaped by an observation of one of their employees. I assessed and imbued the company with a thumbs up or thumbs down after a casual observation of the quality of one employee. 


That got me thinking, not just about the importance of hiring good people, but what other ways quality impacts our customers’ decisions to conduct business with us, initially or on an ongoing basis.


Quality can provide many benefits well beyond the impression of our company. Quality can give us grace when we stumble, and it allows us to set and preserve margins. It conveys trust and it attracts talent. It keeps customers coming back to us, even when they stray for the lure of a cheaper alternative. 


Another aviation example will help illustrate what I mean about value and pricing. Jill and I were taking a trip to Florida, and we decided to take the cheapest flight on a “no frills” airline. The flight to Florida went off without a hitch. The flight home…a total disaster. On our way to check-in, the flight was cancelled. Next flight? The next day.


I needed to get home that day, so I immediately turned to quality. An airline I had flown many times before, with a track record for dependability, had a flight to Indianapolis in an hour and I booked it online. It was more expensive than the bargain basement airline, but I didn’t care at that point. I was abandoning cheap and fleeing to quality. The ticket agent at this counter took care of checking us into the new flight and even took care of cancelling and refunding my original ‘bargain’ airline ticket. 


I understand using airlines as examples of quality may be viewed suspiciously, but that underscores my point precisely. I’ve had enough good experiences with the “quality” airline because they’ve delivered enough times to have earned my trust. If anyone could deliver in a time of “need,” my trust was placed in them. 


So why did I trust the second airline so much and why was I so quick to abandon the bargain airline? It was my impression of degree of quality through all my interactions with the bargain airline that caused me to abandon them. 


Throughout the booking process, the check-in process and boarding process on the first flight from Indy to Florida, it was clear this company had cost, not quality, on their minds. Their employees didn’t appear to care if I got on the flight or not. The gate area and the plane were grungy. In short, nearly every aspect of the experience demonstrated a lack of caring and quality. That company got one shot at my business, with promises of uneventful flights and cheap fares, but revealed their true colors through their actions and their lack of quality. 


In retrospect, I wasn’t surprised the original airline let me down because, at no time during the entire customer journey, did they provide me with signals that quality held any place in their service delivery model. It was all about the low price. That low price, and all subsequent interactions after booking, shouted that I was to expect nothing from them and in the end, nothing is exactly what I got when “it” hit the fan. 


Which brings me to the link between quality and pricing. Our consumers are not stupid. They know if you deliver a clean, well-lit facility with great customer service, they are going to pay for it somehow. The price you charge and the service you deliver creates an impression of value that either includes or excludes quality. It also conveys a sense of dependability. I’m here to tell you, if you deliver quality, the customers who value it will gladly pay. They may also abandon you for a lower price…once. But then they’ll be back, just like I demonstrated. 


The moral of the story? Your ability to price to value will be tested, but your steadfast commitment to quality will always win the day with the customers who know quality does not come free. Our most coveted customers value dependability and commitment to satisfaction. When we deliver quality, they will stay, and they will pay.

Article contributed by:
Brian Wolff, Parker Technology
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