Sanjeewaka Kulathunga writes that quality is key to ensuring customer satisfaction

Since the dawn of human civilisation, people across the world have attempted to upgrade physically consumable goods such as food, tools, medicine and shelter that has a direct bearing on their living conditions. This is likely to be true of the upcoming conceptual age too.

In this age of information, consumers are transforming to become more quality conscious than ever before – this, amid the rapid expansion of digital flows of information – and raising the bar for global product and service quality standards.

Quality has become a strategic option in the business world. In a way, quality is nothing but complete consumer satisfaction. So businesses around the world are compelled to improve the quality of their products and services in line with expectations of contemporary sophisticated consumers.

TQM is a holistically designed strategic approach to upgrade the quality standards of products and services with the involvement of every arm of an organisation. It integrates all organisational functions and processes, for the continuous quality improvement of goods and services, from the supply of raw materials to the distribution of finished products to reach the end consumer. Compliance with international quality standards is a critical factor to be successful in the face of global market competition.

If businesses continuously fail to provide quality products and services to the market, they will become unsuccessful in the long term, leading to irreparable damage to the trust that’s been built in the hearts and minds of valued customers. Quality assurance is the bridge that links the trust of customers and companies.

The contemporary definition of quality isn’t limited to the physically tangible features of products and services that are visible to customers in the market; it runs deep into the consciousness of consumers as an intangible sense and perception.

Unlike in the past, TQM must be assimilated as a major cog of the strategic management process to win over quality conscious customers around the world.

Furthermore, quality consciousness should be developed in the hearts, heads and hands of employees as a priority of organisational culture, before reaching out to stakeholders such as suppliers and customers. This is because neither quality procurements nor outputs can be expected from qualitatively unconscious employees. In the organisational culture, every employee (including management) needs to perform as a quality agent in the implementation of TQM. In the absence of such a culture, quality management will be limited to a document in a file holder.

Though TQM originated in Japan, the concept has spread throughout the world. But some countries have been unsuccessful in adopting TQM due to a lack of knowledge of the authentic meaning of continuous quality improvement as a holistically integrated strategic approach.

Since the establishment of ISO standards in 1947, the parameters of quality improvement related to products and services have been upgraded to a great extent. Therefore, future quality standards will go beyond this because AI and nanotechnology applied in both manufacturing and service industries are being fine-tuned.

As for competitive advantages, ISO certified companies are well ahead in both global and local commercial competition compared to their uncertified rivals. In this context, companies are compelled to implement quality measures to sustain market share whereby the expectations of loyal and potential consumers are satisfied.

Quality is a space of perceived consciousness where consumer expectations are delighted, boosting the brand reputation of a product or service. A reputation for quality products or services will eventually boost the brand value of a company.

For example, there is a great demand for a range of Apple products due to a perception of trust regarding their quality among smartphone and tab users around the world – Apple’s brand value was at around US$ 150 billion last year, according to Brand Finance.

Quality measures taken by businesses should be synchronised with environmental sustainability. Currently, the entirety of human civilisation is at risk due to massive environmental challenges such as global warming, air pollution and dwindling energy sources. Since the inception of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, avaricious economic activities have posed major threats to virtually every being.

The future quality standard is not only bound to include tangible physical features of products but will also need to account for the intangible consciousness of sophisticated consumers to strike a balance between environmental sustainability and the profit motive of companies.

In a nutshell, a quality standard is nothing but a holistically constructed symbol of people, planet, product and profit.