Understanding the Aspects of Product Quality Can Help Build a Competitive Advantage

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Customer Satisfaction, Product Quality | 0 comments

In his 1987 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality,” David Garvin defined eight dimensions or characteristics that can be used at a strategic level to analyze product and service quality.  As producers of products it is important to understand what customers desire among these characteristics to help build a competitive advantage.  These eight characteristics can be summarized as follows:

  • Performance is the product’s or service’s primary operating characteristic.  “How well does an automobile handle?” or “How quickly does a bank accept a loan application?”
  • Features are secondary aspects of performance.  These are the bells and whistles that supplement the basic functions.  Examples include XM radio on cars and free checking at banks.  Sometimes the line between primary characteristics and secondary features is hard to draw.  Customers define value in their ability to select among many features and options, as well as the quality of those features and options.
  • Reliability is the probability of successfully performing a specified function for a specified time period under specified conditions.
  • Conformance is the degree to which a product’s design and operating characteristics meet established standards.  This is often referred to as conformance to specifications.
  • Durability is a measure of product life.  It can be defined as the amount of use of a product before it deteriorates to the point that replacement is preferred over repair.  Large appliances are usually repaired for a period of time before the owner realizes the product is in it’s final stages of life.  On the other hand, most electronic goods have an understood useful life of about 5 years.  No repair is usually considered, just a replacement.
  • Serviceability is the speed, courtesy, competence, and ease of repair.  The cost of repair typically includes more than the simple out-of-pocket costs.  I recently had to have my lawn tractor repaired.  The physical repair took the shop 2 hours to complete, but they kept my tractor for a week.
  • Aesthetics are how a product looks, feels, sounds, etc.  Aesthetics are a matter of personal preference and is highly subjective.  Steve Jobs is said to have been obsessed with the style and packaging of Apple products.  He wanted to give the customer a whole new experience when they bought and used the product.
  • Perceived quality is reputation.  Customers do not always have complete information about a product’s or service’s reputation which usually causes them to compare brands.

Some of these characteristics are mutually reinforcing, whereas others are not.  It is important to note that improvements in one may be at the expense of others.


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