We often throw around the word "quality", especially in business.
But, quality is a dangerous word because quality doesn't exist.
It's made up.
It’s an obscure concept to describe something largely intangible.
We could talk about “quality” for hours and our individual definitions of it would never merge into one solid idea.
"Quality" is entirely subjective.
It's untouchable, only existing in our individual perspectives.
Even if we could pin down one person’s definition of quality, we’d likely find it incredibly inconsistent, contradictory, and always in motion.
Our ideas of “quality” are always in flux, changing moment by moment.
The same is true for words like value and worth.
Yet, we use them all the time in conversations as if they are concrete.
Companies use them regularly when talking about a product or service.
But, there really is no way to create something that is "high quality" or "high value".
In truth, no company can produce something that is "worth" a given dollar amount.
The things we make cannot be valuable in any objective way because these concepts are perception alone.
They simply don’t exist outside our minds.
Without understanding this, companies will often hold themselves in a prison of their own making, always trying to measure up to a standard that nobody will ever agree on.
Or worse, leaders begin to believe their interpretation of value is the same as those around them or within the market they choose to serve, and they develop a kind of tunnel vision that leads to disaster.
So, maybe instead of chasing after “high quality”, we take on a more worthy, tangible, and attainable goal.
Maybe instead, we measure expectation.
Because maybe when people say “valuable”, what they really mean is that the experience exceeded their expectation.
In fact, our expectations have an incredible impact on our level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with a purchase.
This is why we often find ourselves wildly impressed by the dive bar burger down the street or that $5 t-shirt, and why we can be so easily disappointed by an $80 steak or a $25 cocktail.
The truth is... there is no "quality" or "value" or “worth".
But, there are expectations. And, customer expectations are tangible, specific, and vivid.
Expectation is something we can describe in detail.
And, expectation is something we can measure and exceed.
Maybe we shouldn’t worry quite so much about managing “quality”, and focus instead on managing expectations.
Read more posts in the archives.
Stacy Rust is a marketing strategist, writer, and advisor. Her mission is to get world-class products, services, and experiences into the hands and hearts of more people. With an innovative, in-depth approach to marketing strategy and over a decade of education, research, and on-the-ground experience, Stacy serves companies around the globe in captivating audiences, growing revenues, and creating authentic, powerful marketing messages.
After working in Creative Services at the BBC Worldwide in London, and then as an Account Executive at a private advertising agency in Minnesota, she struck out on her own to provide fresh, unique strategy to business leaders around the world.
Today, Stacy leads her global community of thousands of entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives with new ideas on how to create impactful work, grow and develop an engaged audience, craft messages that spread, and build thriving organizations from the ground up.