Category Archives: UK economy

Are we being served or are we being trained?

It’s great that Simon Feary, CEO of the CQI, is currently “on tour” to branches with a view to stimulating a debate about how we can best communicate what it is the profession does, in a way that our audience “gets it”.  Following a recent experience, described below, I would like to suggest that we consider adding “psychology” to our armoury of communication skills!

At a recent visit to my bank I was informed that the services that I receive would no longer be available, advising that they were training customers to what amounted to providing their own services so that no personal interaction was required with bank staff.  When I ventured to suggest that customers may value the personal interaction I was informed that I already received certain “benefits” including skiing insurance (I don’t ski, and other inappropriate benefits for me) and this constituted “value” for me.

Feeling a “quality rant” coming on, I could quite see from the glazed look on the person’s face that it was pointless to direct my comments to them as they had obviously had psychology training in re-asserting the message.  This idea of training customers to interpret value in the way that fits the economic view of a business is not new; we know that most advertising uses subliminal messaging, but this overt messaging did strike me as taking on a more aggressive tone.

Getting into the minds of customers in order to truly understand their interpretation of value and their expectations is a fundamental pre-requisite to our role as a quality professional, but it is still such a struggle to get our message across to those in influential positions.  Take Michael O’Leary, for instance, outspoken boss of Ryanair, famous for asserting that he knew what his customers wanted – “cheap, cheap, cheap” – now admits that he had his wings clipped and is finally listening to his customers.  In words expressed by our Simon Feary, you could say he has finally “got it”.

We live in a world where there is a constant search for new ideas, new techniques and so-called secrets of success but “the old ones are the best” as they say.  It’s worth reminding ourselves that W. Edwards Deming included “psychology” as one of the four integrated elements of what he described as “profound knowledge”, referring to the significant role that psychology plays in the process of quality, both within the organisation and the relationships the organisation has with its customers.

What role can we play and what has the quality profession got to do to get our message across to management and the outside world?

Marilyn Dyason has over 30 years experience as a senior manager, consultant and researcher in the field of quality management.