Quality function deployment (QFD) and the design tool known as the “House of Quality” was originally designed for ‘corporate planning’ however (Brown, 1990; Ohfuji and Noda, 1990) has shown the tool has marketing application.
The House of Quality, illustrated below is essentially a matrix in which service attributes (SAs) serve as rows, and Operational characteristics (OCs) are represented by columns.
Once customer SAs have been identified, actionable OCs are developed to address specifically customer needs and wants. Each OC should be defined so that objective measures can be developed to evaluate the success or failure of the tactic based on predetermined target values.
In practice the development or modification of a customer service program can potentially involve the interaction of multiple SAs and OCs. Therefore, creative service solutions must be evaluated holistically to identify the best overall configuration of service components to be used in the service design solution. The roof of the house of quality matrix provides the framework to assess both positive and or negative relationships which might exist between SAs and OCs. On selection of an acceptable service design solution it’s performance must be evaluated.
It’s worth remembering the tool provides a snap shot in time. As time passes customer attitudes, perceptions of service quality change. Therefore it is more appropriate to assess service using SA (rows). The development of a schedule which employs the use of the objective measures associated with each SA, along with measures of satisfaction, provide a method of assessing service performance. The key to success is to link internal service process changes to the consumers’ perception of service quality (Bolton and Drew, 1994).
It is not enough that the consumer perceives a psychophysical change associated with altered service attributes, but whether those changed attributes resulted in greater levels of positive affect (Holbrook, 1981). SAs not performing at desired target levels, as reflected in consumer ratings, will need to be re-evaluated and modified. The development and maintenance of a high quality service design will require continual monitoring and upgrading.
Once constructed, the matrix can be used to interpret customers’ concerns, to identify operation changes to reduce complaints, and to identify how these changes will affect the rest of the organisation.
You cannot eliminate customer service dissatisfaction but you can minimise negative perceptions by implementing a defensive marketing strategy. Your first step must be to gather consumer information then apply the principles of the House of Quality. You will gain a more holistic view of customer service perceptions. Accumulating complaints will help you to identify common service complaints perceived by customers. Application of the House of Quality will allow you to assess the relationships between customer SAs (e.g. customer satisfaction) and various combinations of OCs of the service environment.
The exercise will illustrate how the various operation characteristics are interrelated. Sometimes a prospective solution to a targeted complaint area negatively impacts so many other areas you may conclude its best to leave well alone. However managers can only effectively redress service complaints when they understand the complexities of relationships.
Complaint management and the development of high quality service should be considered a proactive marketing activity. To improve consumer satisfaction you need to know how teams actually function through such understanding you can begin to create service levels that will satisfy consumers and doing so enables you to gain competitive advantage.
Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 8 No. 4,1994, pp. 50-60 © MCB University Press
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