This is my first blog for the CQI and I must say that I’ve found it extremely difficult to decide on a topic. Not because I don’t have anything to say – far from it! Rather that there is so much news that relates directly to failings in quality management systems that I’m like a child in a sweetshop, bewildered by all the options available to me. So, in order to get myself out of this quandary, I decided that I wouldn’t select a topic in advance. I would wait until the day that my blog was due and see what came up in the news.
Lo and behold, the extremely reliable Today programme on Radio 4 gave me my answer – Marks & Spencer’s annual results and the large fall in pre-tax profits, despite rising sales across the group. You may not think that this is as rich a picking as recent scandals surrounding the NHS, horsemeat or failing schools, but the report had me spouting steam, despite the fact that it was broadcast before breakfast.
So, M&S has decided that in the troublesome area of women’s clothing (the most underperforming area in the past year), what the customer wants is quality. When M&S Chief Executive Marc Bolland refers to quality he means clothes that prioritise quality over a fast fashion fix. Of course his customers want this! When did you ever see a fashionable women confidently enter an M&S store in the hope of buying anything other than underwear?
I know that quality isn’t defined by a notion of ‘up-marketness’. Quality is defined by the customer. And M&S would have known what its customers wanted if it had listened to them, and looked closer at its sales figures.
I understand from various articles about M&S’ response to their troublesome trading, that it has presented a radically different collection for Autumn/Winter 2013 – apparently it’s all about style and quality.
But, if it had listened to their customers in the first place, it wouldn’t be in the position that it reported a few days ago.
Using insights from your customers to inform your product and service developments is what quality management systems are all about. So, when Marc Bolland says that M&S has unrivalled quality, I remain unconvinced.
29 May 2013