Quality and Service in the '90s
From the end of World War II until 1982, American industry created products with built-in and planned obsolescence.
The demand for any kind of product, particularly new things with new directions and new ideas, was so hot following WWII that almost anything manufactured sold. Quality certainly wasn't the issue.
Through the '50s this remained true. In the 1960s, the service industry grew dramatically ... but not because of good service. It grew because what service companies had to offer was needed. People would go to almost any length to get services, such as those offered by the financial marketplace. The service sector was in a boom decade which didn't even begin to burst until 1969.
It wasn't until the 1970s that even the Japanese recognized that if they built something with quality and exported it to North America, that they would have something profitable. And it took that decade-from 1970 to 1980-for quality to become an issue.
It was 1982 when quality really came to life in the United States. That was the year that Peters and Waterman came out with their book "In Search of Excellence." That was the year that Lee Iacocca went on television and told us that the New Chrysler Corporation was going to build a quality product. And he backed it with a guarantee that at that time was unheard of in the automotive industry: five years or 50,000 miles. We all know, now that it worked.
What does this mean to the direct marketing industry? A little over a year ago I did a study on the relationship between the printing industry and the direct marketing industry. Since these two major ribs are tied tightly together, the idea was to find out what happened in the previous decade and what was projected for the coming decade. Here's what I found.
Nothing really happened in the decade from 1980 to 1990 to affect direct marketing ... except two trends took shape:
I could have taken the report written from a study of the same industries in 1970, changed the date, inserted a page about quality and a page about service, and had an up-to-date report.
Am I saying the technologies of this past decade were not significant? Of course not. But it doesn't really matter to the marketplace. Technology is going so fast that most of us can't keep up with it on a day-to-day basis anyway. We finally accept it once we have been educated about it. And we more or less anticipate and expect that things are going to evolve and get better.
Quality and service, on the other hand, are personal and human issues. They relate to how we as people view and consider what we buy and who we buy from.
You or I could go into a fine restaurant and have an excellent meal, but have it spoiled by very poor service. Will we go back to eat there again? Probably not.
If you ever find an automobile mechanic who fixes your car right the first time, you latch onto that person. And the next time you need service on your car, you don't ask "how much?" You just take it to the guy because you got good quality and fair service the first time.
Quality and service even affect such things as a dry cleaner. When you find one that's open convenient hours, is in a convenient location to your office or home, who will clean your garments properly, and maybe offers speedy service when you have a special need, price becomes less of an issue. You want to be treated fairly. You want to pay a fair price, provided you get value and quality for that price.
Guess what? This is what's happening across America. And this is why segmentation in the direct marketing industry is not only a financial necessity ... it's a necessity for success.
When we send our message to those people who are most likely to be interested in it, and only to those people, when we make them a fair offer, when we provide a quality product and give super service, that is when we are doing our job as direct marketers.
Quality and service. These are really the only things that I learned in the 1980s. I didn't learn them in kindergarten ... learned them in the marketplace. And I learned that they have become the primary reason people do business with people.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.