Quality is in the eye of the beholder


People are talking about your products.  But more importantly, they’re listening.  Facebook, Twitter, review sites, and product forums are just a few of the sources that a savvy customer checks when making a buying decision.  This reality has fundamentally changed the definition of quality.  It’s no longer sufficient to conform to specifications and pass end-of-line audits.  Products must meet or exceed customer expectations or people will tell the world about it.  Leading manufacturers are taking advantage of this untapped pool of customer insight to reduce the cost of quality, increase customer satisfaction, and strengthen brand image.

They’re listening, are you?Your customers' perception of quality.

Your prospective customers are listening.  Whether purchasing a product or a service, peer reviews and recommendations have a substantial impact on buying decisions - more substantial than your advertising.  Recent research has documented this impact:

  • 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations; Only 33% trust advertisements.1
  • 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.2
  • 86% of consumers said their buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.3

That begs the question:  Are you listening?  If you’re not, at least you’re not alone.  According to an Industry Week study4, only 4% of quality departments were using feedback gathered through open, internet-based systems.  That was in spite of the fact that around 50% saw value in using social media data for early warning, prioritization, and setting quality standards.

If you’re in the 50% that still have trouble seeing the value, here are a few thought starters:

  •  Early Warning:  Customers will complain online even before they contact your call center or file a warranty claim.  Those complaints can provide early warning signals weeks earlier than traditional methods.
  • Perceived Quality:  Some “quality” issues aren’t defects at all, but that doesn't mean they don't annoy customers.  Customers are more than happy to spread their negative opinions and damage your brand, whether the product conformed to specifications or not.
  • Prioritization:  Problem solving resources are tight.  There are always more issues than there are people to work on them.  Knowing which issues have the biggest customer impact can help focus attention and optimize those limited resources.
  • New Product Launch:  It can take months to receive warranty claims and survey responses after a new product launch.  However, online reviews and comments start rolling in days or even hours after launch, providing precious insight that can help you understand customer perceptions and respond appropriately.
  • Competitive Intelligence:  Your data are out there; so are your competitors'.  Understanding how your competitors’ products and components are perceived gives you valuable intelligence that isn’t available from traditional quality sources.

Act now; customers are not standing by

Your customers are talking about your products now, whether you’re listening or not.  The data are out there and the analytics to make sense of them are available.  Manufacturers like Lenovo are listening already – and they’re reaping the rewards.

What’s the next step you need to take?  This Perceptual Quality white paper provides more details on how to take advantage of social media and web-based data.

1 Influencer Marketing: Stats and Quotes You Need to Know by Lucy Hitz
2 71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals by Mike Ewing
3 The impact of customer service on customer lifetime value by ZenDesk
4 IndustryWeek survey of 422 manufacturers


About Author

David Froning

Sr. Manager of IIOT & Heavy Industry Solutions

David Froning is the Sr. Manager of IIOT & Heavy Industry Solutions. His team manages SAS solutions related to Quality, Warranty, Asset Performance, Energy Forecasting, and the Internet of Things. He works with manufacturers to develop solutions for industry issues such as fraud detection, early warning, and accelerated problem solving. Prior to SAS, He worked for General Motors where he managed the development, operation, and continual improvement of quality and warranty information systems. Dave earned a BS from Michigan State University and an MS from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. In addition to subscribing to this blog, you can follow Dave's updates on Twitter @DaveFroning and LinkedIn.


  1. Bill Roberts on

    For regulated products/industries, this approach, with a range of appropriate analytics, can help identify consumer safety issues as well.

  2. David Froning
    David Froning on

    I agree. Within the same implementation we often track quality and safety issues. Generally, we make the analyses that run against safety issues more sensitive, but the process is the same.

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