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David C. Crosby

Quality Insider

Selling Quality

“How are you going to conquer the world if nobody knows you’re there?”

Published: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 05:00

If you are not actively selling quality, you’re missing the boat. Quality (both goodness and conformance), should be sold inside and outside of your company. A song from an old Broadway musical says, “How are you going to conquer the world if nobody knows you’re there?” Good question.

Selling quality outside

I have two definitions of quality and it’s important to understand the difference.

If you’re making a product or providing a service, the first definition is “free of defects” or “conformance to the requirement.” That means the product is exactly what you promised your customer. There are several highfalutin’ definitions of quality, but they are all nonsense. Don’t bother with them.

The second definition of quality is “Goodness.” It’s how good your product is in the marketplace. Lincoln is “gooder” than Mercury. Mercury is “gooder” than Ford, a Rolls Royce is “gooder” than all of them. How do I know Rolls is “gooder?” Rolls told me so.

The idea of marketing outside the company is to position the product or service in the customers' mind. You want to be positioned as the standard of the industry. You can do that in several ways. First and best is to conform to the advertisement; deliver what you promised. You want a reputation that you're the standard of your industry, that you supply a product or service that is just like the advertisement—every time. So, you have to tell people that in many ways. This will be done by the marketing or sales people. You should make certain that they know about the quality of the product. If you receive a quality award from your customer, or present a quality award to a supplier, that should be advertised to the world. If one of your people completes some difficult training, that should be advertised. Marketing should look for product endorsements and success stories. You must tell the public—in many ways—that you are there and that you’re “gooder” than the rest.

When I worked for Portec Inc. Quality Magazine wrote a feature article about our quality program and the use of the personal computer. That was in 1997, and hardly anybody had a PC. We used a Radio Shack Model III with 64K of RAM. The boss was featured on the cover. That article produced hundreds of letters, not to mention that I scored big points with my boss.

In-house selling

A few of the old quality gurus didn’t like the idea of advertising quality inside the company. How little they knew. Deming called it cheerleading. So what’s wrong with that? Sports teams have cheerleaders. It’s more for the spectators than the players, but a happy crowd cheers and the players respond. Only a small part of selling quality in-house could be considered cheerleading.

The main purpose of in-house selling is to remind employees of the performance standard, remind them that the product or service is important, and that the company is the best in the industry.  You can do this in many, many ways. The first, I think, is by having a nice place to work. Even a foundry can be a nice place to work if people are treated well. Some offices are clean, but awful places to work. Selling quality in a bad work environment will turn against you; people are not stupid—they can spot a lie. If you work in a dirty, messy shop with rejected product sitting around, forget selling and get another job.

To sell in-house, you will use advertising materials and ideas. The first thing you must sell is the performance standard. You must reiterate the performance standard every chance you get. If you don’t have a clear performance standard, your employees will make one up for you. The performance standard I recommend is—of course—Zero Defects. In-house advertising material should remind employees that Zero Defects it still the performance standard. It's a constant. It’s like the 400-year old church; they ring the bell every day. It doesn’t make any difference what business you are in, your performance standard should be understood.

Selling in-house is easy. You have a captive audience and for the most part, they will listen to you. The advertising and marketing people must go out and beat the bushes to find people and get them to listen.

So, how to you advertise quality in-house? A new employee orientation program would be a good place to start. Old employees could be passed through it as well. Recognizing someone for outstanding performance is a good idea. Advertising giveaways, like key chains, coffee mugs, ball caps, posters, and so forth won’t change anyone’s life, but since they are only available from your company, they have value.

 There are many other methods. For example, when I worked in the missile business, most parts and assemblies were very, very expensive. Employees may not understand company money since they never see it. To emphasize the cost of scrapping one assembly, I talked a car dealer into displaying a little red sports car next to the product—both had a price tag, and they cost about the same. Scrapping that assembly would be like scrapping the sports car; people understand stuff like that. To demonstrate the cost of IT errors, I used the cost of a private airplane and the cost of sending two kids to college. Those examples have impact.

Let me brag a little. My favorite ad was for the Zero Defects program I ran for Sarpe Army Depot. The depot had a parachute packing department; a burly sergeant who looked like William Bendix ran it. I took a picture of him leaning on the packing table with his arms crossed, looking directly into the camera. The caption read, “Don’t talk to me about right most of the time.” It appeared as a full-page ad in the Army newspaper. Employees taped that ad to the walls. You probably don’t have a parachute packing department, but you have important products that should be made right every time. You could use the same idea using an employee’s kid who gets 4.0 grades. Or a picture of Old Joe, standing by his screw machine, arms crossed, looking in the camera.

In my book, The Zero Defects Option, I list “Fifty Nifty Ideas to Promote Quality,” and a bunch of company mottos. There are many more than 50 ideas, but 50 is the only quantity that rhymes with nifty, so I stopped there. Actually, there is no end of ways to bring the importance of meeting quality standards and the performance standard itself to the attention of employees. Plus, it’s fun to do, relatively cheap, and helps create an environment where quality can happen. You can make table tents and letter-size posters on your computer. You can buy snow scrapers printed with your quality message—ready for the first snow. You can run an essay contest for employee’s kids, “What does quality mean?” Have a pizza party. You could purchase commercial posters, but I wouldn’t do that. They are too shallow, and say things like, “The Customer is King.” That doesn’t tell the employee anything. Also avoid the “Quality is Everybody’s Business.” mantra. Think about this—everybody’s business is nobody’s business.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the employees who don’t actually produce your product or perform the service. All work is important and should be done right. A purchase order full of mistakes is poor quality; an engineering drawing with errors is lousy quality. The attitude should be, “We don’t do that here.”

That’s about it; that’s all there is to it. Get people involved. Advertising is like show business; everybody wants to do it. If you come up with a great idea, let me know about it at www.qualitynews.com.

Discuss

About The Author

David C. Crosby’s picture

David C. Crosby

Dave Crosby is president of The Crosby Company, a firm he created to develop and deliver software and training in the field of quality management. His SPC software was the first on the market for the personal computer. His books include, How To Get Your People to Do Things Right, Quality is Easy, How To Run a Zero Defects Program, and The Zero Defects Option.

Crosby served as corporate director of quality for RCA Corp., General Instruments Corp., and Portec Inc. He was awarded the “Outstanding Civilian Service Medal” by the U.S. Army for his work with the Army Zero Defects Program. His web site is www.zdoption.com.