Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why Quality Matters

Of course if you ask any group of people if they want high quality in the goods and services, they respond “Duh!”. However when you explain that the highest quality will cost them more, they begin to weigh price vs. quality. In controlled experiments, subjects generally view a higher priced the item as higher value and expect that it will be of higher quality. The lower priced the item, the lower the expectation of quality. Sometimes, we trade price and quality in a very conscious way in order to save money. So what does quality really mean to you?

But keep in mind that when evaluating goods or services, there are more aspects to quality than just price alone. This is a major consideration in nonprofit human service organizations, where most of the ‘customers’ make no direct cash investment at all in the service/good.   Most of our customers invest significant time, energy and emotion in order to access services.  Don’t overlook this….respect it.
Survey after survey of low-income consumers who use public services indicate that they gauge quality via multiple attributes. Outstanding nonprofits do several things right.

First, they consistently improve the actual service/good they provide. They do this by having valid metrics to measure valid outcomes. Then management uses these outcomes to focus staff on the strategic question of how to improve on the numbers.
They provide superior customer service, which means streamlined paperwork/information requests, minimal bureaucracy, and quick decisions on all matters. Human service organizations that are difficult to deal with are not quality. These organizations cost their customers time and frustrate efforts of our most vulnerable populations to change the conditions of their lives.

One cannot discuss quality without eventually addressing Lean Operations. Nonprofits that make internal process improvements create value in the form of decreased costs or increased outcomes. These will be the organizations that Funders Want To Fund and the Public Will Want To Use. Advancements in technology for equipment, materials and software offer opportunities for human service organizations to impress consumers, funders and taxpayers.
So there are many aspects of quality. Nonprofits who are proactive in the above areas will be able to keep their customer base happy even if they are not the lowest priced supplier in the pack. What are you willing to pay for?  What are your end-users willing to give up in order to use your services.  And most important, what are your funders willing to buy off of you?

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