The Few Dimensions of Product Quality Design You Should Know
The goal of any product manager is to develop and deliver the best quality products and services to their customer. It is high-quality products that lead to sustainable growth and provide value over time. On the other hand, poor quality products usually cost customers. In the long run, driving and sustaining growth for a successful business ultimately comes down to quality. Yet a question remains. Is quality quantifiable? Is it measurable? How much should a business invest in quality improvement? Are there objective criteria to follow? And what, after all, is quality?
That’s why we’re here. In this blog post, we’ll cover the most significant dimensions of product quality design you should know.
What is quality?
Quality is defined as the ability of a product (or service) to meet, or even exceed, customer expectations. Because customer expectations are ever-shifting, the definition of quality must evolve beside this changing dynamic. Below are some of the dimensions which are used to describe what quality means for customers.
Does the ’size of the beast’ matter?
It matters not!
Whether your company is large or small it is not unusual for someone to hire a product development consultancy to aid in this matter.
Dimensions of product quality
Expectations of product quality can be divided into segments or dimensions. Back in the ’80s, the late David A. Garvin, a Harvard Business School Professor, emphasized the importance of understanding quality and its characteristics. He devised a way to divide and describe the different aspects of quality which he presented in his 1987 research article ‘Competing on The Eight Dimensions of Quality’.
These dimensions are listed below.
This describes the main characteristics of the product. It is the leading dimension of product quality and most customers give their verdict on the product’s quality based on its performance. If the performance of the product is equal to, or exceeds the expectations of the customers, then your product is considered of high quality. This also works the other way around - if the performance of your product falls below the expectations, quality ratings suffer.
These are another form of quality, often regarded as the second aspect of performance. They are characteristics, playing a supporting role for the basic performance of a product or device. The important thing being here is that features involve non-biased and measurable attributes. For a lot of customers, high quality equates to having a larger number of options in your product.
These refer to the appearance, feel, smell, or taste (if applicable) of your product design. They are a matter of personal preference and individual judgment. These choices are not universal therefore it will be impossible to meet everyone’s desires for this dimension of quality.
This is in close relation to performance. It’s the degree to which your product meets the established quality standards of the industry. Usually, the product will be standardized during the design process. This is done so the production can be more efficient, compatible with other parts of the same design and higher quality. While designing, the product specifications are established along with the tolerated deviations.
This is a dimension of quality related to a product’s function. It’s how well can the customer depend on the performance of the product. Basically, it reflects the chance of a product breaking down or not working well within a time frame. If it has variability in its performance and the people can’t rely on it – the product is not of high quality. If downtime and maintenance are expensive, reliability becomes even more important for customers.
As mentioned before, Garvin had a say in this. He identified reliability into three measures: the mean time to the first failure, the mean time between failures and the failure rate per unit time. These require a product to stay functional for a given period of time and thus they usually apply to durable goods instead of products that are intended for single-use.
Durability refers to a measure of product life or a product’s performance during its lifespan. It has both technical and economical dimensions. Technically, durability can be defined as the amount of use you get from a product before it reaches the end of its service life. Your product is considered a durable one when its performance does not decline as it is being used. Customers, of course, generally gravitate more towards products of acknowledged durability.
This is how customers perceive the standard quality of the product. It is important to know that perception is not always the same as the product’s true quality. Therefore, customers use indirect measures to make a comparison. In such a situation, advertising, brand name and images are crucial in building the customer’s perception of said product’s quality. In short, reputation is the basis for perceived quality.
Serviceability begs the question of how well can your organization handle service or product-related issues. These range from customer support to product repairs. It implies simply the ease and accessibility of service or repair. Aside from these (especially when it comes to customer support), speed, professionalism and competence also matter. Also, even if a product is repaired, it does not guarantee complete satisfaction in the eyes of the customer.
Your approach to complaints and how you handle them as a company is of great importance. Some leading companies go that extra mile. They realized that their ability to handle complaints has a heavy impact on their reputation and have subsequently advanced their customer support services.
It’s all coming together!
Of course, all of this information can be overwhelming. Lots of divisions within divisions and segments, all kinds of variables, and other academic terms. Luckily, there are specialists on the matter. They range from product development consultancies with a plethora of services to specialists (individuals) who are versed in the matter. Most leading companies hire these specialists and consultancies because they see the value of a quality product and versatile and creative solutions when it comes to product quality.
All of these dimensions of quality provide a basic understanding for businesses to evaluate their products and services and explore opportunities for competitive advantage. It is not imperative to pursue all of them at once, though using a framework can help you take a more streamlined and inclusive approach to the market. Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes aids this process greatly.
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