Sie sind auf Seite 1von 28

Defining Quality: Alternatives and Implications Author(s): Carol A. Reeves and David A.

Bednar Source: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 19, No. 3, Special Issue: "Total Quality" (Jul., 1994), pp. 419-445 Published by: Academy of Management Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/258934 . Accessed: 11/12/2013 20:20
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Academy of Management is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Academy of Management Review.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

c Academy of Management Review 1994, Vol. 19, No. 3, 419-445.

ALTERNATIVES DEFININGQUALITY: AND IMPLICATIONS


CAROL A. REEVES University of Arkansas DAVID A. BEDNAR University of Arkansas
The search for a universal definition of quality has yielded inconsistent results. Such a global definition does not exist; rather, different definitions of quality are appropriate under different circumstances. In this article, we trace the evolution of quality definitions and describe the trade-offs inherent in accepting one definition of quality over another. The implications of using various definitions of quality in future research also are discussed.

The concept of "quality" has been contemplated throughout history and continues to be a topic of intense interest today. Quality presently is addressed in numerous academic and trade publications, by the media, and in training seminars; it is perhaps the most frequently repeated mantra among managers and executives in contemporary organizations. In a recent survey, executives ranked the improvement of service and product quality as the most critical challenge facing U.S. businesses (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1990). Quality has been described as "the single most important force leading to the economic growth of companies in international markets" (Feigenbaum, 1982: 22). A search for the definition of quality has yielded inconsistent results. Quality has been variously defined as value (Abbott, 1955; Feigenbaum, 1951), conformance to specifications (Gilmore, 1974; Levitt, 1972), conformance to requirements (Crosby, 1979), fitness for use (Juran, 1974, 1988), loss avoidance (Taguchi, cited in Ross, 1989), and meeting and/or exceeding customers' expectations (Gronroos, 1983; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985). Regardless of the time period or context in which quality is examined, the concept has had multiple and often muddled definitions and has been used to describe a wide variety of phenomena. Continued inquiry and research about quality and quality-related issues must be built upon a thorough understanding of differing definitions of the construct. Universalistic propositions describing the relationship among various variables and quality cannot be made when the
We wish to thank Frank Hoy, Cayce Lawrence, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. 419

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

420

Academy of Management Review

July

meaning of the dependent variable continually changes (Cameron & Whetten, 1983). As we discuss, the literature linking quality to outcomes such as market share, cost, and profits has yielded conflicting results that are largely attributable to definitional difficulties. Increased understanding of these important relationships will occur only when the quality construct is more precisely defined. In this article, we attempt to clarify and explicate definitions of quality by (a) tracing their history or "roots," (b) examining their strengths and weaknesses, and (c) describing the trade-offs inherent in accepting one definition of quality over another. We also discuss how theoretical relationships among variables change when different definitions are used, and we suggest several implications for future research about the quality construct. ROOTS OF QUALITY DEFINITIONS Quality is Excellence Significant discussions about quality, or good, were initiated by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek philosophers. The ideal to the Greeks was arete, or "excellence." The definition of arete varied by its context; for a racehorse, it was speed, for a cart, strength. For a man, it connoted excellence in the ways a man can be excellent-morally, intellectually, physically, practically (Kitto, 1951). Even though aret6 applied to multiple phenomena, for Plato, aret6 was absolute. It was "the good, the highest form, the highest idea of all" (Pirsig, 1974: 373). Quality as excellence also has been debated recently. Tuchman (1980: 38) argued that quality means investment of the best skill and effort possible to produce the finest and most admirable results possible.... You do it well or you do it half-well. . . . Quality is achieving or reaching for the highest standard as against being satisfied with the sloppy or fraudulent.... It does not allow compromise with the second-rate. In fields such as religion, music, sculpture, and painting, where judgments are dominated by unique preferences, it may not be possible to evaluate quality in anything other than abstract terms. Defining quality as excellence means it is understood "ahead of definition ... as a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions" (Pirsig, 1992: 73). Quality is Value The practicality of defining quality as excellence in matters of commerce was called into question in the mid-1700s when Western businessmen began to target a wider market for their commercial goods. This broader view of quality was founded on the belief that "the consumer was

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

421

the ultimate arbiter of trade, and that business flourished by serving consumer interests rather than guild interests.... The market was the final judge" (Johnson, 1988: 286). Businesses began to produce cheaper, inferior goods for a popular market, and quality was judged relative to price. By the early 1800s, the decline of quality already was being lamented. De Tocqueville remarked, "When only the wealthy had watches they were very good ones; few are now made that are worth much but everyone has one in his pocket" (cited in Tuchman, 1980: 40). Feigenbaum (1951: 1) contended that the notion of value had to be included in any quality definition: Quality does not have the popular meaning of "best" in any absolute sense. It means "best for certain customer conditions." These conditions are (a) the actual use and (b) the selling price of the product. Product quality cannot be thought of apart from product cost. Traditional economic models were based on the notion that price was the primary determinant of consumer choice. By the 1950s, the role of product quality began to appear in economic theory. Abbott (1955) argued that by focusing solely on price competition, economists ignored a critical Both price and component of consumers' decision processes-quality. quality had to be considered in a competitive market. When price tags are attached to ideas or services or products, it is the best bargain that wins. How good a bargain anything is depends upon both quality and price; these two elements compounded together form the basis for evaluation of winning contestants in the market place. Only when differences in quality have been eliminated by standardization does "cheapest" necessarily coincide with "best." (Abbott, 1955:108) Feigenbaum and Abbott asserted that differentiation in levels of both quality and price, or value, were important in consumers' decisions. Researchers (Cronin & Taylor, 1992) have advanced the notion that purchasing decisions may be influenced by convenience, availability, or price, as well as by judgments of quality. Quality is Conformance to Specifications Before 1930. Throughout the 18th century, Europe was the world leader in manufacturing and technology and achieved revolutionary advances in the production of textile equipment, machine tools, and steam engines. European manufacturers, however, were not able to transfer effectively these advantages to the production of mass-produced, multicomponent products such as firearms, clocks, and watches (Abernathy & Corcoran, 1983). From the 19th to mid-20th century, most advances in quality were

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

422

Academy of Management Review

July

achieved in the United States. The impetus for quality improvements initially came from the Ordnance Department that sought mass-produced, reliable armaments. The key to producing such armaments was the interchangeability of machine-made parts. By 1850, the Ordnance Department was able to produce reliably small arms with interchangeable parts at the Springfield and Harper's Ferry armories. The crafts approach that had been so dominant in Europe did not allow for quantity production, leading major American firms such as Singer, Pope Bicycle, and McCormick to adopt the "American system of manufacturing" (Hounshell, 1984). The key to quality was conformance to specifications; if parts did not conform to specifications, they would not be interchangeable, and the production system would fail. Henry Ford's passion for mass production led to even higher quality standards and the wide-scale diffusion of the American system (Hounshell, 1984). Ford realized that if Ford Motor Company was to meet the goal of producing a "car for the masses," interchangeability of parts had to be stressed and handwork had to be minimized. He hired gifted mechanics who were allowed to experiment extensively to achieve the "absolute interchangeability [that] would become imperative in high-volume production" (Hounshell, 1984: 222). Accuracy in fixture and machine tools was the primary requirement for Ford's production engineers. By 1913, the machine tool industry was capable of manufacturing machines that could turn out large quantities of consistently accurate work. Post-1930. Many manufacturers sought to reduce the cost of the extensive inspections that were required to measure conformance. The first and one of the most influential works on quality addressed this issue. The 1931 publication of Shewhart's Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product provided the foundation for many of the principles of quality that are used today. Shewhart was part of a Bell engineering group assigned to standardize the nationwide telephone network. To accomplish this task, Bell needed maximum quality information at a minimum cost, creating the need for statistical quality control (Garvin, 1988). Shewhart's first step in addressing the problem was to define quality. To Shewhart, the prevailing view of quality as a measure of goodness was too indefinite for practical purposes. Quality had to be quantifiable if manufacturers were going to be able to use statistical procedures to measure it. According to Shewhart, We must define quality of product in such a way that the numerical measure of this quality serves the following two purposes:
1. To make it possible for one to see whether or not the quality period taken as a basis of comparison.

of product for a given period differs from that for some other

2. To make possible the comparison of qualities of product for


two or more periods to determine whether or not the differ-

ences are greater than should be left to chance. (1931:44)

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

423

Subjective quality was important, but standards could be established and performance could be measured only for objective (quantitative) quality. Thus, the task for the engineer was (a) to translate consumer wants into the physical characteristics of the product and (b) "to set up ways and means of obtaining a product which will differ from the arbitrarily set standards for these quality characteristics by no more than may be left to chance" (Shewhart, 1931: 54). These requirements led to the development and use of process control charts and statistical sampling. Juran's Quality Control Handbook (1951), an edited volume of qualitycontrol methods begun in 1945, expanded on Shewhart's work. Like Shewhart, Juran began his volume by trying to clarify the definition of quality. He separated quality into two components: quality of design and quality of conformance. Quality of design relates to grade (i.e., a Cadillac has more features than a Chevrolet, even though both serve the same purpose). Quality of conformance concerns how well the product conforms to design specifications. Thus, Juran incorporated the notions of both excellence and conformance into his quality definition. Quality is Meeting and/or Exceeding Customers' Expectations The most pervasive definition of quality currently in use is the extent to which a product or service meets and/or exceeds a customer's expectations (Buzzell & Gale, 1987; Gronroos, 1990; Zeithaml et al., 1990). This definition grew out of the services marketing literature (Lovelock, 1981; Normann, 1984; Shostack, 1977; Zeithaml, 1981), wherein researchers argued that a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality failed to address the unique characteristics of services. An important catalyst for the widespread movement away from conformance to specifications and toward a consumer-based definition of quality was the increasingly important role played by services in the U.S. and other Western economies. The impact of services on definitions of quality. In 1900, only 3 out of 10 workers in the United States were employed in the service sector of the economy. By 1950, the number of people employed in the goods-producing and service sectors was approximately equal. By 1968, the service sector accounted for 6 of 10 workers in the United States, and this number was close to 8 in 10 by 1990 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1991). The movement to a service economy has been equally dramatic in other Western countries. From 1950 to 1980, the proportion of GNP accounted for by services increased from 44 to 55 percent in Sweden and from 34 to 52 percent in Finland. By 1980, 70 percent of all Swedish firms belonged to the service sector (Gronroos, 1983). The increased importance of the service sector led to changes in the way the most prominent thinkers defined and approached quality. It is instructive to look at the evolution of the definition of quality, and the increased importance of service quality in that definition, during the four decades and editions of Feigenbaum's Total Quality Control (1951, 1961, 1983, 1991) and Juran's Quality Control Handbook (1951, 1962, 1974, 1988).

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

424

Academy of Management Review

July

Feigenbaum. In the first edition of Total Quality Control, Feigenbaum defined quality as "best for certain customer conditions" (1951: 10), which included end use and price. The entire book was devoted to developing products to meet these conditions. The second edition repeated the "best for certain customer conditions" definition given in the first edition but added that product quality can be defined as "the composite of product characteristics of engineering and manufacture that determine the degree to which the product in use will meet the expectations of the customer" (Feigenbaum, 1961: 13). Once again, services were not explicitly addressed. In the third edition, Feigenbaum (1983) explicitly recognized the importance of services and added them to the quality definition. He stated that productut and service quality can be defined as the total composite product and service characteristics of marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and maintenance through which the product and service in use will meet the expectations of the customer" (1983: 7, emphasis added). Even with the inclusion of services and marketing in this definition of quality, the book barely addresses service issues elsewhere; fewer than 30 of the 821 pages are applicable directly to services. All of Feigenbaum's examples, terminology, and techniques are based on the production of tangible goods. Because services were becoming more "professionalized and mechanized," Feigenbaum argued that total quality control applications in services were similar to those in manufacturing. Feigenbaum's 1983 definition of quality remained verbatim in the 1991 volume. The major change to this 40th anniversary edition was the addition of 12 pages regarding the quality imperative in a global economy. Although the book continued to focus on product quality (more than 800 of the 841 pages were devoted to it), service quality assumed a prominent role in these 12 pages. Juran. Juran separated quality into quality of design (grade) and quality of conformance in the first edition of his Quality Control Handbook (1951). The second edition (1962) included the most extensive examination of the definition of quality to that date. Juran identified eight primary uses of the term in industry: 1. Marketplace quality-the degree to which a specific product satisfies the wants of a specific consumer. 2. Quality of design-the degree to which a class of products possesses potential satisfaction for people generally. 3. Quality of conformance the degree to which a specific product conforms to a design or specification. 4. Consumerpreference the degree to which a specific product is preferred over competing products of equivalent grade, based on comparative tests by consumers. 5. Quality characteristic-a distinguishing feature of a grade or product (i.e., appearance, performance, length of life, dependability, reliability, durability, maintainability, tastes, odor, etc.).

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

425

6. A vague expression of general excellence but without being specific enough to be classified. 7. The name of a function or responsibility in industry, related to achievement of quality of product. 8. The name of a specific department in a company. (Juran, 1962:1, emphasis added) For Juran, marketplace quality, the ability of a product to satisfy customer wants, was the most fundamental definition for industry; it was pursued by establishing the standards that must be met to satisfy a customer's needs. In the 1974 edition of his book, Juran introduced a widely used definition of quality, "fitness for use," which he described as the extent to which a product successfully serves the purposes of the user (1974: 2-2). Juran argued that this was a universal concept, applicable to both manufacturing and services, but he recognized additional difficulties posed by services. "For internal conformance, the measures of quality have much in common with the well-known measures widely used in control of manufacturing process. Measure of external conformance is more complex, owing to the abstract nature of some of the qualities and the subjective reactions of consumers" (Juran & Bingham, 1974: 47-8). Juran devoted two chapters of this edition to services, and he devoted 18 chapters to specific manufacturing industries, such as metals, plastic molding, and electronic components. Unlike Feigenbaum, however, Juran made an effort to incorporate services into the 28 chapters of the book, which covered general quality-control techniques. The fourth edition of Juran's handbook (1988) retained the "fitness-foruse" definition of quality and criticized the multiple meanings that had come to be associated with quality. Although quality was defined by many researchers as conformance to a standard (e.g., specifications, procedures, or requirements), Juran found this definition incomplete. "For the company, the definition should be stated in terms of (1) meeting customer needs, and (2) freedom from deficiencies" (1988: 2-3). Juran expanded the conceptualization of the customer to include the needs of the internal customer, whose needs must also be met. Contributions of the marketing literature. To varying degrees, Shewhart, Juran, and Feigenbaum discussed the importance of customer wants, but they gave little practical advice on how to assess wants so that appropriate product/service specifications could be established. Marketing scholars (Bayton, 1958; Kuehn & Day, 1962) began to address this issue in the late 1950s and early 1960s through the use of preference testing. Preference testing made it possible for manufacturers to gain some appreciation for how quality was defined by the customer. Quality no longer had to be measured solely "in terms of the purity or grade of materials used, the technical perfection of design, and exacting standards of production" (Kuehn & Day, 1962: 100). Although unsophisticated by today's standards, preference testing was an important first step in

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

426

Academy of Management Review

July

bringing more objectively derived customer wants into the definition of quality. Marketers (Bucklin, 1963; Cardozo, 1965) continued their efforts throughout the 1960s to identify the wants of customers. Their work initiated additional attempts to understand and define quality in both manufacturing and service organizations, and they tried to develop methods for assessing accurately the preferences and wants of customers. However, even if, conceptually, the importance of the consumer had been recognized, in practice, the literature on quality was dominated by information on tools that could be used to maximize conformance to specifications (Boehm, 1963; Deming, 1982, 1986; Feigenbaum, 1951, 1961, 1983; Harris & Chaney, 1969; Ishikawa, 1985, 1986; Juran, 1951, 1962, 1974). An active debate regarding the appropriateness of applying manubased on a conformance-tofacturing quality-control techniques, specifications definition of quality, to services occurred in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (Booms & Bitner, 1981; Bowen & Schneider, 1988; Gronroos, 1983; Haywood-Farmer, Alleyne, Duffus, & Downing, 1985; Judd, 1968; King, 1984, 1985; Levitt, 1972, 1976; Lovelock, 1981; Normann, 1984; Parasuraman et al., 1985; Sasser, Olsen, & Wyckoff, 1978; Scanlon & Hagan, 1983; Shostack, 1977; Thomas, 1978; Williams & Zigli, 1987; Zeithaml, 1981). Judd (1968) argued that, although services and products shared many similarities, substantial differences also existed between them. Given these differences, Judd called for a reexamination of the "implicit assumption that there is a similarity of service marketing to product marketing" (1968: 1). Services have been differentiated from products in a number of ways. They are primarily intangible (Judd, 1964; Mills & Margulies, 1980; Regan, 1963; Sasser et al., 1978; Shostack, 1977; Wilson, 1972), making it impossible to stock services in the same way one would stock goods, and their attributes are difficult to demonstrate. To a large extent, services are simultaneously produced and consumed (Regan, 1963; Sasser et al., 1978; Shostack, 1977); consequently, firms cannot use inventories to manage fluctuations in demand. Customer involvement in the production of many services (Bowen & Schneider, 1988; Chase & Tansik, 1983; Collier, 1983; Haywood-Farmer et al., 1985; Mills & Margulies, 1980; Shetty & Ross, 1985) creates additional quality-control difficulties for managers. Services also are considered to be extremely perishable (Regan, 1963; Sasser et al., 1978) and to be a process rather than a thing (Gronroos, 1983; Shostack, 1977). (See Bowen & Schneider, 1988, for an in-depth treatment of these issues.) In a controversial article that provoked an intense debate, Levitt (1972) argued that the failure of service firms to achieve high quality occurred because of their reluctance to adopt manufacturing techniques. "To improve the quality and efficiency of service, companies must apply the kind of technocratic thinking which in other fields has replaced the high cost and erratic elegance of the artisan with the low-cost predictable

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

427

munificence of the manufacturer" (1972: 43). For Levitt, the essence of quality was consistency. To the extent possible, all discretion should be removed from employees, because "discretion is the enemy of order, standardization, and quality" (1972: 44, emphasis added). Shostack (1977: 73) countered Levitt by asking, "Could marketing be 'myopic' in having failed to create relevant paradigms for the service sector?" Shostack criticized the marketing literature for blindly applying product-based principles to services, which she viewed as substantively different because of their intangibility. A tangible object lends itself to precise and quantifiable measurement that cannot be duplicated in services because "they cannot be touched, tried on for size, or displayed on a shelf. They are exceedingly difficult to quantify" (Shostack, 1977: 75). Although Shostack's article did not explicitly address quality issues, it was used as a foundation in many subsequent studies by authors who argued against the applicability of quantifiable quality-control techniques in services. Quality defined from the customer's viewpoint. The increasingly important role played by services and the inability of researchers to apply traditional manufacturing definitions to service quality led to a new conceptualization of service quality. Only one definition of quality was judged to be appropriate by service scholars (Gronroos, 1983; Parasuraman et al., 1985), and that definition was governed by the extent to which a service met the expectations of customers. "Only customers judge quality; all other judgments are essentially irrelevant" (Zeithaml et al., 1990). Gronroos (1990: 37) argued that "it should always be remembered that what counts is quality as it is perceived by the customers." Service scholars were not the only advocates of a customer-oriented definition of quality. The profit impact of market strategy (PIMS) program database, which is primarily composed of manufacturing firms, also uses this approach to quality: "Quality is whatever the customers say it is, and the quality of a particular product or service is whatever the customer perceives it to be" (Buzzell & Gale, 1987: 111). Although most operations management scholars continue to focus on a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality, the meeting-and/or-exceeding expectations definition of quality is now widely accepted.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF DEFINITIONS OF QUALITY


An essential building block for theory development about quality is an understanding of extant definitions and their origins. Different definitions of quality have been proposed at various times in response to the evolving and constantly changing demands of business. New definitions have not replaced old definitions; rather, all of the quality definitions continue to be used today. No one definition of quality is "best" in every situation because each definition has both strengths and weaknesses in relation to criteria such as measurement and generalizability, managerial

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

428

Academy of Management Review

July

usefulness, and consumer relevance. By examining these strengths and weaknesses, the trade-offs among the various definitions can be identified. Quality is Excellence Strengths. Striving for and producing an excellent product or service provides strong marketing and human resource benefits. An organizational vision based upon providing the "best" may be easier to articulate than one aimed at providing value for the customer. Gaining employees' acceptance of and commitment to such a vision also may be easier. Customers frequently take pride in owning an excellent product or receiving excellent service. Excellence often is the basis for advertising campaigns in industries such as automobiles (e.g., Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac), liquor (e.g., Chivas Regal and Crown Royal), and airlines (Singapore Airlines and British Air). Customers using these firms' product or service are promised that they will be the envy of others who have made less well-thought-out choices. Advocates for the definition of quality as excellence claim that quality is "both absolute and universally recognizable, a mark of uncompromising standards and high achievement" (Garvin, 1984: 25). By defining quality as value or conformance to specifications or meeting and/or exceeding expectations, quality may lose its meaning. Although articulating precisely what excellence is may be impossible, proponents of the definition argue that at least the term is not misquality-as-excellence used to describe objects that definitely do not represent quality (Tuchman, 1980). A romance novel may represent a good entertainment value, may conform to the production specifications, and may exceed customers' expectations for the genre, but can it be claimed to be a quality product when compared to a great work of literature that endures through the ages? Unless only those products and services that achieve the highest standards are accorded the title of quality, quality represents little more than an individual judgment of a product's or service's attributes. Weaknesses. Defining quality as excellence offers little practical guidance to managers. How does one assess whether or to what extent excellence has been achieved? Who determines standards of excellence? Because excellence is so abstract and subjective, managers' judgments of excellence are likely to be used. Yet in the marketplace, customers make the final determination about the excellence of a product or service. Unless a firm consistently captures or influences customers' judgments of excellence, the standard achieved may no longer be considered excellent in the marketplace. For researchers, a definition of quality based on excellence makes it difficult, if not impossible, to measure and compare the impact of quality on performance and other variables of interest. Excellence is so idiosyncratic that cross-sectional studies would be meaningless, and because attributes of excellence are likely to change over time, and perhaps in a

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

429

very rapid manner, longitudinal studies also are problematic. Durability, which today is considered a critical component of product quality, was not desired until the late 19th century. Only the wealthy could afford delicate products that required frequent replacement or repair, so durable products were primarily for the poor (Garvin, 1984). Several authors (e.g., Crosby, 1979; Deming, 1986) argued that quality does not represent a net increase in costs to a corporation. However, if companies already have reduced the costs associated with rework, scrap, warranty costs, and so on, the higher quality components required to differentiate firms will increase the cost, and usually the price, of a product and/or service. Even if a product and/or service is perceived to be excellent, a sufficient number of consumers must be willing to pay for it, if a firm is to be economically viable. For example, although Amana and Maytag appliances were ranked in a mid-1980s survey as having the highest quality, consumers intended to purchase Sears Kenmore, a more affordable alternative (Curry, 1985). Quality is Value Strengths. In the marketplace, consumption decisions are based on both price and quality. In his study of appliance manufacturers, Curry (1985: 112) found that "consumers clearly recognize differences in value," as demonstrated by the fact that firms offering high quality at consistently low prices were market share leaders. Whereas economists traditionally have ignored the impact of quality in purchasing behavior (Abbott, 1955), researchers investigating quality have, to a large extent, ignored the role of price. If quality is defined as value, multiple attributes of a product and/or service (e.g., excellence, price, and durability) are included. If the quality of a firm's offering is determined by the value offered to customers, firms must concentrate on both internal efficiency and external effectiveness if they are to be successful. Thus, firms are forced to consider both the cost implications of internal conformance to specifications and the extent to which external customer expectations are met. For long-term survival of a firm, this conceptualization of quality is critical because it takes into account both effectiveness and efficiency. Defining quality as value allows one to compare widely disparate objects and experiences, such as a dinner at a five-star restaurant versus a meal received at a local hamburger emporium. In any industry, numerous price/quality bundles exist about which consumers are indifferent. Numerous price/quality strategies can thus be successfully pursued by firms within an industry. The value definition of quality facilitates crossindustry analyses about consumers' decisions among multiple substitutes (e.g., books vs. movies vs. music vs. other entertainment). Defining quality as value may give a more accurate indication of how products or services are perceived in the marketplace and how purchase decisions are made. Weaknesses. It is difficult to extract the individual components that

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

430

Academy of Management Review

July

go into a value judgment such that a researcher or manager would know (a) what components are important and (b) what weights an individual assigns to those components. For example, price might be the main consideration in a value judgment for undifferentiated items such as compact discs, yet it could be a minor criterion in a health-care situation. Additionally, the weight of these components is likely to change over time. When computers were first introduced, knowledgeable salespeople and after-sales service were critical. As the sophistication of buyers increased, price became a much more important element of the value judgment. Considerable disagreement exists regarding the inclusiveness of a value definition of quality. Stahl and Bounds (1991) argued that quality may be a component of value, but value is not synonymous with quality. In contrast, a meeting-and/or-exceeding expectations definition of quality should include value considerations in customers' expectations. Thus, value is seen by some to be a subcomponent of quality, whereas others view quality as a subcomponent of value. Although value and quality have been viewed as synonymous, they are more frequently treated as separate constructs in both the academic and popular press. A firm advertises that a consumer will experience both quality and value with the purchase of its product and/or service. Bolton and Drew (1991b) found that customers' assessments of service value depend on their assessments of service quality. Although customers' assessments of service value were positively related with their evaluations of service quality, the two were not identical constructs. Value has the disadvantage of blending "two related but distinct concepts: excellence and worth. The result is a hybrid-'affordable excellence'-that lacks welldefined limits and is often highly subjective" (Garvin, 1988: 46). Quality is Conformance to Specifications Strengths. Measuring quality using a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality is relatively straightforward and easy. An organization can monitor progress in achieving its quality goals by measuring how well it is conforming to the established specifications. Likewise, researchers can use objective measures to assess the impact of differing levels of quality on organization performance, both across companies and over time. Defining quality as conformance to specifications should lead to increased efficiency on the part of the organization. In low-contact services, it is possible to seal off the "technical core" and establish specifications that can be met with little variation (Chase & Tansik, 1983), thus lowering the cost of producing the service. When speed is a critical variable to customers (e.g., fast-food restaurants, routine bank transactions, video rental checkout), adherence to specifications should enhance customer evaluations of quality. Taking the time to respond uniquely to each customer increases the time required for delivery to both that customer and

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

431

to others waiting for service, potentially decreasing those customers' level of satisfaction (Bowen & Lawler, 1992; Schneider, 1973). As the world's economy becomes more internationalized, conformance to specifications is increasingly important. Conformance to specifications leads to the consistency necessary for a global rather than a multidomestic strategy. A global strategy, in turn, may result in cost reductions, improved quality of products and programs, enhanced customer preference, and increased competitive leverage (Yip, 1989). The major advocates (Crosby, Deming, Feigenbaum, and Juran) of a definition of quality also stressed that cusconformance-to-specifications tomers' wants must be the driving force of the specifications that are established. For customers' wants to be considered, management must explicitly disaggregate the components that go into the final product and/ or service if appropriate standards are to be established. Similar to the rationale behind Porter's (1985) value-chain analysis, effective disaggregation makes it less likely that a firm will ignore activities that might be critical to customers' quality judgments. If customers' needs are governed by specific requirements or standards, as they would be for many industrial customers, conformance to specifications is the most parsimonious, appropriate, and easily measured definition of quality. The more subjective definitions of excellence, value, and meeting and/or exceeding expectations become unnecessary and might, in fact, detract from meeting the needs of some customers. Similar to a value definition of quality, if customers' needs are correctly identified, a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality drives an organization toward both efficient and effective product and/or service delivery. Weaknesses. Many, if not most, consumer goods are not evaluated in terms of conformance to specifications. Customers may not know or care about how well the product and/or service conformed to internal specifications. For the consumer, performance is subjective. "Even objective quantifiable performance is perceived subjectively" (Oliver, 1981b: 38). Specifications may be met at one point in the value-added chain, but a customer's final evaluation process will encompass the totality of the product and/or service package. Thus, a suit might meet all manufacturing specifications, but the customer's judgment of the quality of that suit may be influenced heavily by the helpfulness and competence of the retailer from whom it was purchased. Likewise, a customer's evaluation of a retailer is partly determined by the quality of the suit being purchased, even though the retailer did not produce the product and may have conformed to specifications in the customer transaction. A conformance-to-specifications definition of quality may be inappropriate for services, especially when a high degree of human contact is involved. By meeting the specifications established for a service encounter, one may detract from the customer's final quality judgment (Bowen & Lawler, 1992; Chase, 1985). Human interactions are an integral part of

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

432

Academy of Management Review

July

quality in many industries, making it difficult or counterproductive specify standards that must be met. Are they [the standards] compatible with more general (and perhaps in the long run more functional) goals of human dignity? Could such measures serve to divert attention from more genuine attitudes of care and helpfulness? Do they lead to a type of behavior which some customers find repellent? Do they contribute to an internal climate of trust or of control, and which climate is relevant in specific situations? In what cultures could such measures work and where would they not work? (Normann, 1984:106)

to

When specifications cannot be established or conformance to them actually detracts from the quality of the service, defining quality as conformance to specifications results in lower, not higher, quality. If a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality governs the establishment of organization structure, reward systems, and human resource practices like selection and training in an organization, an escalation of commitment toward these practices may occur when none is warranted (Galbraith, 1983). The standardization that is necessary for a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality works against an adaptive organization that has the flexibility to respond to marketplace changes. The establishment of appropriate specifications is dependent on management's ability to identify customer needs. However, preferences change, sometimes dramatically, over time (Cameron & Whetten, 1983), and established specifications quickly become irrelevant. The internal focus of a conformance-to-specifications definition of quality makes it likely that a firm will be unaware of or ignore what competitors are doing. Thus, competitors may be driving customers' expectations to new heights while a firm continues to meet internal specifications. A classic example of this phenomenon is Henry Ford's experiences with the Model T in the 1920s. Ford was a world leader in meeting specifications, but General Motors successfully pursued a strategy of giving customers a choice of colors and styling that was missing in Ford's product. A firm will not succeed in the long term if its drive for efficiency causes it to ignore the marketplace changes that determine effectiveness (Hofer & Schendel, 1978). Quality is Meeting and/or Exceeding Customers' Expectations Strengths. In the marketplace, quality must ultimately be evaluated from the customer's perspective. Customers can articulate how well a product and/or service meets their expectations, a perceptual judgment they cannot make about how well the product and/or service conforms to specifications. Defining quality as the extent to which a product and/or service meets and/or exceeds expectations allows managers and re-

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

433

searchers to include subjective factors (i.e., courtesy, helpfulness, confidence, appearance) that are critical to customers' judgments but difficult to quantify into assessments of quality. It is possible to capture what is important to customers rather than establishing standards based on management judgments that may or may not be accurate. The extent to which a firm has met and/or exceeded customers' expectations is applicable across a wide variety of industries. The SERVQUAL instruments developed by Parasuraman et al. (1985; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988; Parasuraman, Berry, & Zeithaml, 1991, 1993) is a generic instrument designed to measure the gap between customers' expectations and perceptions. Although subsequent researchers (Babakus & Boller, 1992; Brown, Churchill, & Peter, 1993; Carman, 1990; Cronin & Taylor, 1992) have questioned the applicability of the instrument when applied without industry-specific adjustments, its developers continue to argue that it provides "core evaluation criteria that transcend specific companies and industries" (Parasuraman et al., 1993: 145). Whether or not one measurement instrument is universally applicable, careful selection of the variables to be measured allows one to assess the impact of meeting and/or exceeding expectations across industries. Meeting and/or exceeding expectations is an externally focused definition of quality. Firms defining quality in this way are likely to note major changes in the marketplace unless their monitoring systems are inadequate or infrequently used. Managers can account for and respond to escalating expectations on the part of customers. Further, if a firm can consistently discover or drive customers' expectations, and meet them, its competitive advantage will be difficult to overcome. Defining quality as whether a product and/or service meets and/or exceeds expectations is all encompassing. Firms can include numerous attributes and weights when trying to judge expectations, thus capturing the fact that different firms in an industry will typically compete on different dimensions of quality (Garvin, 1988). Wal-Mart may meet customers' expectations as well as or better than Nordstrom, even though WalMart focuses on delivering low price and speedy checkout, whereas Nordstrom focuses on attentive service and responding to the unique demands of each customer. Thus, customers' judgments across firms are possible, even though the corporate strategies vary greatly. Weaknesses. Meeting and/or exceeding customers' expectations is the most complex definition of quality and, thus, is the most difficult to measure. Researchers must account for the fact that different customers place different weights on the various attributes of a product and/or service. Devising an unbiased statistical procedure for aggregating such widely varying preferences is difficult (Carman, 1990). Aggregating widely varying individual preferences so that they lead to meaningful definitions of quality at the market level is also problematic (Garvin, 1988). Determining and measuring customer expectations is a complex task

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

434

Academy of Management Review

July

because often customers do not know what their expectations are, particularly with infrequently purchased products and/or services (Cameron & Whetten, 1983; Lawrence & Reeves, 1993). A customer may conclude only after consumption that what was received was not all that was desired. Because customers have idiosyncratic reactions to different experiences, predicting when product and/or service attributes will meet expectations and when they will fall short is complex. The difficulty in predicting reactions is exacerbated with intangible output because the more intangible the output, the greater the ambiguity faced by consumers when assessing service quality (Bowen & Schneider, 1988). Prepurchase attitudes play a major role in subsequent customer evaluations. Summarizing a series of marketing studies, Oliver (1981a: 36) concluded that "disconfirmation, satisfaction, and one's attitude prior to a purchase or use experience all work to affect one's post-usage attitude." For example, "consumers with initially favorable expectations tended to be satisfied, even when disconfirmation was negative and, likewise, initially unfavorable expectations tended to result in dissatisfaction, even when positive disconfirmation occurred" (Oliver, 1981b: 39). Current measurement techniques (SERVQUALand related instruments) assume that a high level of service quality has been achieved if the gap between a customer's expectations and his or her subsequent perceptions is positive and large. However, Oliver's work suggests that customers will evaluate the quality of a product and/or service more favorably if their initial expectations are high. Thus, although the gap is larger when customers enter an experience with lower expectations, the perceptions component of the quality judgment will be more favorable when initial expectations are higher. This is particularly important because numerous researchers (Brown et al., 1993; Carman, 1990; Cronin & Taylor, 1992) have found that the perceptions component, by itself, possesses stronger psychometric properties than a gap measurement. Managers and researchers must consider the difference in short-term and long-term quality evaluations. A product or service may be judged high in quality in the short term but low in quality over the long term and vice-versa (Curry, 1985). Further, several authors argued that perceived service quality is a long-run, global attitudinal evaluation, whereas transaction-specific evaluations are more appropriately considered as a measure of customer satisfaction (Bitner, 1990; Bolton & Drew, 1991a; Parasuraman et al., 1988). "Attitude is the consumer's relatively enduring affective orientation for a product, store, or process (e.g., customer service), while satisfaction is the emotional reaction following a disconfirmation experience which acts on the base attitude level and is consumptionspecific" (Oliver, 1981a: 42). Thus, perceived quality of service tends to be a stable construct, whereas a customer's satisfaction may change with each individual transaction (Bolton & Drew, 1991a). The customer service/satisfaction debate extends to which construct precedes the other. Bitner (1990) and Bolton and Drew (1991b) concluded

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

435

that service quality is an outcome of customer satisfaction. Cronin and Taylor (1992), however, found empirical support for the argument that this relationship is, in fact, reversed. Their results indicated that perceived service quality led to satisfaction but that satisfaction did not lead to perceived service quality. This discrepancy suggests significant confusion about the quality/satisfaction constructs. Although satisfaction and service quality have been treated as separate constructs, their typical operationalization makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. Both have been operationalized along the lines suggested by adaptation-level theory. This theory maintains that the basic determinant of consumer satisfaction is "the prepurchase expectation level and the degree to which the product or service performance deviates from that level" (Oliver, 1981a: 28). Parasuraman and colleagues similarly measure perceived service quality as "the degree and direction of discrepancy between consumers' perceptions and expectations" (1988: 17). The difference, according to these authors, is that the literature on satisfaction defines expectations as predictions made by consumers, whereas the literature on service quality views expectations as desires or wants of consumers. This distinction may be difficult for managers, consumers, and researchers to perceive and measure. Summary Each quality definition has strengths and weaknesses in relation to measurement and generalizability, managerial usefulness, and consumer relevance. Quality is measured most precisely when defined as conformance to specifications; it is most difficult to measure when defined as excellence. Current efforts to develop a generic service quality instrument (Carman, 1990; Cronin & Taylor, 1992; Parasuraman et al., 1993) make it likely that a meeting-and/or-exceeding expectations definition of quality will guide future researchers who attempt to generalize across industries. Definitions of quality also vary in their usefulness to managers. Quality defined as excellence can provide powerful motivation to a workforce. Quality defined as value or conformance to specifications can lead an organization to focus on efficiency, and quality defined as meeting and/or exceeding expectations compels management to keep abreast of changes in consumer demands. However, each definition has drawbacks for managers: excellence provides limited practical guidance, value and quality typically represent different concepts, conformance to specifications may cause managers to focus on internal efficiency while neglecting external effectiveness, and understanding and measuring consumers' expectations is problematic. For consumers, meeting and/or exceeding expectations is the most relevant definition of quality. When consumers' expectations are dominated by notions of excellence, value, or conformance to specifications, any of these quality definitions may apply. For most consumption

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

436

Academy of Management Review

July

decisions, however, consumers base choices on a number of product and/ or service characteristics, making the excellence, value, or conformanceto-specifications definitions of quality too restricted to reflect accurately consumer desires. Table 1 summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of each definition of quality. Because no definition of quality is best in every situation, managers and researchers must examine the strengths and weaknesses of each before adopting a definition to guide their work. By explicitly identifying the quality definition they are using, and recognizing its strengths and weaknesses, managers are better able to move organizations toward the achievement of quality, and researchers can make progress toward assessing the impact of quality on organizational performance and other variables of interest. RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS Quality has been the subject of debate and discussion for centuries, but systematic and scientific inquiry into the meaning of quality is in its infancy. The literature we summarized indicates that no universal, parsimonious, or all-encompassing definition or model of quality exists. Different definitions of quality have suggested diverse questions about quality which, in turn, have necessitated the development and use of various methods for assessing quality and yielded disparate results, conclusions, and recommendations. Definitional difficulties account for many of the inconsistent and often contradictory empirical results found in the extant literature. Conflicting empirical findings exist concerning the impact of quality on key variables such as price, productivity, market share, cost, and profit (Garvin, 1988). To illustrate how relationships with quality vary depending upon the definition that is employed, we discuss three variables (price, market share, and cost) that are frequently linked to quality in the literature (Bonner & Nelson, 1985; Buzzell & Gale, 1987; Crosby, 1979; Curry, 1985; Curry & Faulds, 1985; Deming, 1982, 1986; Monroe & Krishnan, 1985; Peterson & Wilson, 1985). We also discuss the influence that organizational output, time, and multiple constituencies have on future quality research. Quality and Price Much of the marketing literature (Leavitt, 1954; Shapiro, 1968) has found support for a positive relationship between price and perceived quality. However, Peterson and Wilson (1985) argued that research results have been inconsistent. They found a relationship that was nonlinear and highly variable across individuals and products being judged. Their research demonstrated that some customers use price as a cue for quality for some products, but that existing research had failed to identify which customers would use price cues under what conditions. They, along with

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

437

TABLE 1 Strengths and Weaknesses of Quality Definitions


Definition Excellence Strengths Strong marketing and human resource benefits Universally recognizablemark of uncompromising standards and high achievement Weaknesses Provides little practical guidance to practitioners Measurement difficulties Attributes of excellence may change dramatically and rapidly Sufficient number of customers must be willing to pay for excellence Difficulty extracting individual components of value judgment Questionable inclusiveness Quality and value are different constructs

Value

Concept of value incorporates multiple attributes Focuses attention on a firm's internal efficiency and external effectiveness Allows for comparisons across disparate objects and experiences Facilitates precise measurement Leads to increased efficiency Necessary for global strategy Should force disaggregation of consumer needs Most parsimonious and appropriate definition for some customers

Conformance to Specifications

Consumers do not know or care about internal specifications Inappropriate for services Potentially reduces organizational adaptability Specifications may quickly become obsolete in rapidly changing markets Internally focused Most complex definition Difficult to measure Customers may not know expectations Idiosyncratic reactions Pre-purchase attitudes affect subsequent judgments Short-term and long-term evaluations may differ Confusion between customer service and customer satisfaction

Meeting and/or Exceeding Expectations

Evaluates from customer's perspective Applicable across industries Responsive to market changes All-encompassing definition

Monroe and Krishnan (1985), attributed much of the inconsistency and confusion to differences in the way perceived quality was defined and measured. Quality defined as excellence implies that the finest inputs and processes are used to make a product and/or provide a service, and, thus, a premium price can be commanded. Quality defined as conformance to

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

438

Academy of Management Review

July

specifications and/or value implies that efficient and cost-effective inputs and processes are used to make a product and/or provide a service. The resultant cost reductions should lead to lower prices in the marketplace. When quality is defined as meeting and/or exceeding expectations, the price/quality relationship varies depending upon the specific expectations customers bring to a transaction. For example, customers are likely to demand and expect lower prices with commodity products, whereas a premium price may be consistent with expectations for differentiated products. Quality and Market Share Studies on the relationship between quality and market share have produced inconsistent results. Research based on the PIMS database has consistently found that quality and market share are positively related (Buzzell & Gale, 1987). PIMS researchers operationalize quality through manager assessments of the position of their firm's products relative to competitors. In studies that define quality as the degree of excellence achieved, researchers have reported opposite results. Curry and Faulds (1985) found that higher quality major appliances achieved lower market share than lower quality appliances because lower quality appliances were more affordable. Likewise, foods that were judged very high in quality had much smaller sales volumes than lower quality alternatives (Bonner & Nelson, 1985). Excellent products and/or services are expensive and unaffordable to a significant number of customers within a market, restricting the potential market share that a firm might obtain. Even though customers may desire excellence, they are willing to make trade-offs and purchase products perceived to provide a better overall value. When quality is defined as conformance to specifications, the relationship between market share and quality varies according to the established specifications. A positive relationship will exist if specifications capture customers' requirements; a negative relationship will result when specifications do not capture customers' requirements. Assuming customers' expectations are accurately identified and met, the relationship between market share and quality is positive when quality is defined as meeting and/or exceeding expectations. Quality and Cost Studies relating quality and cost and quality and profits have been equally contradictory. Operations management scholars (Crosby, 1979; Deming, 1982, 1986), who generally define quality as conformance to specifications, have argued that an inverse relationship exists between quality and cost because increased quality results in less scrap, rework, warranty costs, and so on. For differentiated products, where quality is defined as excellence, cost has been found to be positively correlated with quality (Garvin, 1987). Excellent products and services require costly

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

439

inputs and processes. For example, consistently attentive service by employees in a retail store requires continuous training, appropriate compensation, and more salespeople to respond quickly to customers' requests and needs. When quality is defined as value or meeting and/or exceeding expectations, the relationship between cost and quality varies depending upon the specific demands, desires, and requirements of the customer. If less costly inputs can meet customers' expectations and value requirements, cost will decrease. If more costly inputs are required, cost will increase. Because the variability is so great in the relationship between cost and quality when quality is defined as value or meeting and/or exceeding expectations, no relationship can be hypothesized. Quality and the Nature of Organizational Output No universal definition of quality applies to all products and all services in all industries. We believe that comparative and cumulative research results about quality can be obtained only by (a) focusing upon the fundamental nature of an organization's output and (b) using a definition of quality suitable for that output. For example, an organization's output can be classified along two key dimensions: degree of tangibility and extent of customization. Degree of tangibility has strong implications for whether quality attributes can be specified and measured and how output attributes are communicated to customers. Extent of customization determines the degree to which the quality attributes of an organization's output will be similar across customer groups. These dimensions imply the appropriateness of the following quality definitions given different types of output. For example, quality can be defined as conformance to specifications for output that is tangible and standardized. For output that is customized and intangible, quality can be defined as the extent to which the output meets and/or exceeds customer expectations. Determining the nature of an organization's output permits researchers to more clearly define and appropriately measure quality. Quality and Time Time is a crucial variable in understanding and measuring quality. Short-term assessments of quality may reveal that a particular product or service effectively meets and exceeds a consumer's expectations. However, perceived quality at time' is not necessarily perceived quality at time 2 , time 3 , or time' (Bolton & Drew, 1991a; Cameron & Whetten, 1983; Curry, 1985). A product and/or service that exceeded a customer's expectations at one point in time may simply be judged as ordinary at another point in time. Because expectations change and may escalate over time, measurement timing has a significant impact on quality judgments. Quality and Multiple Constituencies Customers within and outside an organization typically define quality differently. Internal organizational customers may value and use quality

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

440

Academy of Management Review

July

dimensions that are quite different from the dimensions used by external customers. In fact, striving for quality within an organization, department, and/or team may hinder the achievement of quality with external clients and customers. Conversely, quality characteristics necessary to meet the needs of external evaluators may inhibit internal quality. For example, the time devoted to analyzing and improving an internal production process may cause delays in delivery that a customer is unwilling to tolerate. Similarly, a client's demand for a customized order may dramatically affect the quality of a department's work processes and performance. Managers and researchers must account for the trade-offs inherent in the different quality definitions used by relevant constituencies. Uncertainty regarding whose definitional preferences should take precedence frequently exists when an organization is trying to develop a definition of quality (Cameron & Whetten, 1983). Although authors in both the academic and practitioner literature have argued that the external customer's preferences are paramount, the difficulties and expense of identifying these preferences frequently leads management to use its own perceptions of customers' desires when designing products or services. Determining who can and/or should judge or evaluate quality is a key factor in any research investigation.

CONCLUSION
For both researchers and practitioners, understanding the nature of quality is more than a philosophical issue. Research conducted for the profit impact of market strategy (PIMS) program has led to the conclusion that "in the long run, the most important single factor affecting a business unit's performance is the quality of its products and services, relative to those of competitors" (Buzzell & Gale, 1987: 7). Given the importance of quality, it is not surprising that a long but unsuccessful search has been conducted for a global definition of the construct. We believe that such a global definition does not exist and that different definitions of quality are appropriate in different circumstances. The fragmented nature of the present literature suggests that multiple definitions and/or models of quality are required to capture the complexity and richness of the construct. In this regard, the quality literature is evolving along lines similar to other important but elusive constructs. As Cameron and Whetten (1983: 267) suggested: Constructs such as intelligence, motivation, or leadershipwhose construct space, by definition, is not bounded-have been better understood as limited aspects of their total meaning have been measured. For example, a variety of approaches to motivation have been developed, each limited to a specific domain of the construct.

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

441

The complexity and multiple perspectives historically associated with the concept of quality have made theoretical and research advances difficult. The search for a universal definition of quality and a statement of lawlike relationships has been unsuccessful. The quality construct space is so broad and includes so many components that there would be little utility in any model that tried to encompass them all. Consequently, the challenge is not to formulate one definition or model that attempts to account for all possible variables. Rather, the challenge is to develop models and definitions that are comparable, even cumulative, and that account for many of the components neglected up to now (Cameron & Whetten, 1983). The basis for choosing pertinent definitions that can guide the development of conceptual frameworks and measurement methods is provided through exploring the roots of various definitions of quality, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and examining the trade-offs inherent in accepting one definition of quality over another.

REFERENCES
Abbott, L. 1955. Quality and competition. New York: Columbia University Press. Abernathy, W. J., & Corcoran, J. E. 1983. Relearning from the old masters: Lessons of the American system of manufacturing. Journal of Operations Management, 3(4): 155-167. Babakus, E., & Boller, G. W. 1992. An empirical assessment of Business Research, 24: 253-268. Bayton, J. A. 1958. Motivation, cognition, Journal of Marketing, 22 (3): 282-289. learning-Basic of the SERVQUAL scale. Journal factors in consumer behavior.

Bell, D. 1973. The coming of post-industrial society: A venture in social forecasting. New York: Basic Books. Bitner, M. J. 1990. Evaluating service encounters: The effects of physical surroundings and employee responses. Journal of Marketing, 54(2): 69-82. Boehm, G. A. W. 1963. "Reliability" engineering. Fortune, April: 124-127, 181-186.

Bolton, R. N., & Drew, J. H. 1991a. A longitudinal analysis of the impact of service changes on customer attitudes. Journal of Marketing, 55(1): 1-9. Bolton, R. N., & Drew, J. H. 1991b. A multistage model of customers' assessments quality and value. Journal of Consumer Research, 17: 375-384. of service

Bonner, P. G., & Nelson, R. 1985. In J. Jacoby & J. Olson (Eds.), Perceived quality: 65-79. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Booms, B. H., & Bitner, M. J. 1981. Marketing strategies and organization structures for service firms. In J. Donnelly & W. George (Eds.), Marketing of services: 47-51, Chicago: American Marketing Association. Bowen, D. E., & Lawler, E. E. III. 1992. The empowerment of service workers: What, why, how, and when. Sloan Management Review, 33(3): 31-39. Bowen, D. E., & Schneider, B. 1985. Employee and customer perceptions of service in banks: Replication and extension. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70: 423-433. Bowen, D. E., & Schneider, B. 1988. Services marketing and management: Implications for organizational behavior. Research in Organizational Behavior, 10: 43-80.

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

442

Academy of Management Review

July

Brown, T. J., Churchill, G. A., Jr., & Peter, J. P. 1993. Improving the measurement of service quality. Journal of Retailing, 69(1): 127- 139. Bucklin, L. P. 1963. Retail strategy and the class of consumer goods. Journal of Marketing, 27 (January): 51-56. Bureau of Labor Statistics. ment of Labor. 1991. Employment and earnings. Washington, DC: U.S. Depart-

Buzzell, R., & Gale, B. 1987. The PIMS principles: Linking strategy to performance. New York: Free Press. Cameron, K. S., & Whetten, D. A. 1983. Organizational tiple models. New York: Academic Press. effectiveness: A comparison of mul-

Cardozo, R. N. 1965. An experimental study of customer effort, expectation, and satisfaction. Journal of Marketing Research, 2: 244-249. Carman, J. M. 1990. Consumer perceptions of service quality: An assessment QUAL dimensions. Journal of Retailing, 66(1): 33-55. Chase, R. B. 1985. The 10 commandments 68-72. of service system management. of the SERV-

Interfaces, 15(3): design.

Chase, R. B., & Tansik, D. A. 1983. The customer contact model for organization Management Science, 49: 1037-1050. Collier, D. 1983. Managing a service firm: A different management tivity Review, 2(1): 36-45.

game. National Producand ex-

Cronin, J. J., Jr., & Taylor, S. A. 1992. Measuring service quality: A reexamination tension. Journal of Marketing, 56(3): 55-68.

Crosby, P. B. 1979. Quality is free: The art of making quality certain. New York: New American Library. Curry, D. J. 1985. Measuring price and quality competition. Journal of Marketing, 49(2): 106117. Curry, D. J., & Faulds, D. J. 1985. The measurement of quality competition in strategic groups. In J. Jacoby & J. Olson (Eds.), Perceived quality: 269-293. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Deming, W. E. 1982. Quality, productivity, and competitive position. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study. Deming, W. E. 1986. Out of the crisis. Cambridge: Massachusetts Center for Advanced Engineering Study. Institute of Technology,

Feigenbaum, A. V. 1951. Quality control: Principles, practice, and administration. New York: McGraw-Hill. Feigenbaum, A. V. 1961. Total quality control: Engineering and management York: McGraw-Hill. Feigenbaum, Feigenbaum, Feigenbaum, (2nd ed.). New

A. V. 1982. Quality and business growth today. Quality Progress, 15(11):22-25. A. V. 1983. Total quality control (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. A. V. 1991. Total quality control (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Galbraith, J. R. 1983. Strategy and organization planning. Human Resource Management, 22(1/2): 63-77. Garvin, D. A. 1987. Competing on the eight dimensions of quality. Harvard Business Review, 65(6): 101-109. Garvin, D. A. 1984. What does "product quality" really mean? Sloan Management Review, 26(1): 25-43.

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

443

Garvin, D. A. 1988. Managing quality: The strategic and competitive edge. New York: Free Press. Gilmore, H. L. 1974. Product conformance cost. Quality progress, 7(5): 16-19. Granroos, C. 1983. Strategic management MA: Marketing Science Institute. and marketing in the service sector. Cambridge,

Granroos, C. 1984. A service quality model and its marketing implications. European Journal of Marketing, 18(4): 36-44. Granroos, C. 1990. Service management and marketing: Managing the moments of truth in service competition. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Harlis, D. H., & Chaney, F. B. 1969. Human factors in quality assurance. New York: Wiley. Haywood-Farmer, J., Alleyne, A., Duff us, B., & Downing, M. 1985. Controlling service quality. Business Quarterly, 49(4): 62-67. Hofer, C. W., & Schendel, MN: West. D. E. 1978. Strategy formulation: Analytical concepts. St. Paul,

Hounshell, D. A. 1984. From the American system of mass production 1800-1932. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Ishikawa, K. 1985. What is total quality control? The Japanese way. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Ishikawa, K. 1986. Guide to quality control. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization. Jacoby, J., & Olson, J. C. 1985. Perceived quality. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Johnson, P. 1988. A history of the Jews. New York: Harper & Row. Judd, R. C. 1964. The case for redesigning Judd, R. C. 1968. Similarities Retailing, 43: 1-9. services. Journal of Marketing, 28(1): 58-59. in product and service retailing. Journal of

or differences

Juran, J. M. 1951. Quality control handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill. Juran, J. M. 1992. Juran on quality by design: The new steps for planning quality into goods and services. New York: Free Press. Juran, J. M., & Bingham, R. S. 1974. Service industries. In J. Juran, F. Gryna, Jr., & R. Bingham (Eds.), Quality control handbook: 47-1, 47-35. New York: McGraw-Hill. Juran, J. M., & Gryna, F. M., Jr. (Eds.). 1988. Juran's quality control handbook (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Juran, J. M., Gryna, F. M., Jr., & Bingham, R. S. (Eds.). 1974. Quality control handbook. (3rd. ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill. Juran, J. M., Seder, L. A., & Gryna, F. M., Jr. (Eds.). 1962. Quality control handbook. (2nd ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill. King, C. 1984. Service-oriented 98. quality control. Cornell H.R.A. Quarterly, 25(November): 92-

King, C. 1985. Service quality assurance is different. Quality Progress, 18(6): 14-18. Kitto, H. D. F. 1951. The Greeks. Middlesex, England: Chaucer Press. Kuehn, A. A., & Day, R. L. 1962. Strategy of product quality. Harvard Business Review, 40(6): 100-110. Lawrence, R. C., & Reeves, C. A. 1993. Ambiguity in understanding quality: Antecedent judgments of customers and firms. Southern Management Association Proceedings: 324-326.

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

444

Academy of Management Review findings about the meanings

July of price.

Leavitt, H. J. 1954. A note on some experimental Journal of Business, 27(7): 205-206.

Levitt, T. 1972. Production-line approach to service. Harvard Business Review, 50(5): 41-52. Levitt, T. 1976. The industrialization of service. Harvard Business Review, 54(5): 63-74. Lovelock, C. 1981. Why marketing management needs to be different for services. In J. Donnelly, & W. George (Eds.), Marketing of services: 5-9. Chicago: American Marketing Association. Mills, P. K., & Margulies, N. 1980. Toward a core typology of service organizations. Academy of Management Review, 5: 255-265. Monroe, K. B., & Krishnan, R. 1985. The effect of price on subjective product evaluations. In J. Jacoby & J. Olson (Eds.), Perceived quality: 209-232. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Normann, R. 1984. Service management: Strategy and leadership in service businesses. New York: Wiley. Nunnally, J. C. 1978. Psychometric theory (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Oliver, R. L. 1981a. Measurement and evaluation of satisfaction processes in retail settings. Journal of Retailing, 57(3): 25-48. Oliver, R. L. 1981b. What is customer satisfaction? Wharton Magazine, 5(3): 36-41.

Parasuraman, A., Berry, L. L., & Zeithaml, V. A. 1993. More on improving service quality measurement. Journal of Retailing, 69: 140-147. Parasuraman, A., Berry, L. L., & Zeithaml, V. A. 1991. Refinement and reassessment SERVQUAL scale. Journal of Retailing, 67: 420-450. of the

Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. 1985. A conceptual model of service quality and its implications for future research. Journal of Marketing, 4(4): 41-50. Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. 1988. SERVQUAL:A multiple-item scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality. Journal of Retailing, 64: 12-37. Peterson, R. A., & Wilson, W. R. 1985. Perceived risk and price-reliance schema as priceperceived quality mediators. In J. Jacoby & J. Olson (Eds.), Perceived quality: 247-267. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Pirsig, R. M. 1974. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. New York: Bantam Books.

Pirsig, R. M. 1992. Lila: An inquiry into morals. New York: Bantam Books. Porter, M. E. 1985. Competitive advantage: New York: Free Press. Creating and sustaining superior performance.

Regan, W. J. 1963. The service revolution. Journal of Marketing, 27(3): 57-62. Ross, P. J. 1989. Taguchi techniques for quality engineering. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sasser, W. E., Olsen, R. P., & Wyckoff, D. D. 1978. Management of service operations. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Scanlon, F., & Hagan, J. T. 1983. Quality management Quality Progress, 15(5): 18-23. for the service industries-Part I.

Schneider, B. 1973. The perception of organizational climate: The customer's view. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3): 248-256. Schneider, B., Parkington, J. J., & Buxton, V. M. 1980. Employee and customer perceptions of service in banks. Administrative Science Quarterly, 25: 252-267. Shapiro, B. P. 1968. The psychology of pricing. Harvard Business Review, 46(4): 17-18. Shetty, Y. K., & Ross, J. E. 1985. Quality and its management trial Management, 27(6): 7-12. in service businesses. Indus-

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

1994

Reeves and Bednar

445

Shewhart, W. A. 1931. Economic control of quality of manufactured product. New York: Van Nostrand. Shostack, G. L. 1977. Breaking free from product marketing. Journal of Marketing, 41(2): 73-80. Stahl, M. J., & Bounds, G. M. 1991. Competing globally through customer value. New York: Quorum Books. Swan, J. E., & Combs, L. J. 1976. Product performance and consumer satisfaction: concept. Journal of Marketing, 40(4): 25-33. Thomas, D. R. 1978. Strategy is different in service businesses. 56(7): 158-165. A new

Harvard Business Review,

Tuchman, B. W. 1980. The decline of quality. New York Times Magazine. November 2: 38-41, 104. Williams, R. H., & Zigli, R. M. 1987. Ambiguity impedes quality in the service industries. Quality Progress, 19(7): 14-17. Wilson, A. 1972. The marketing of professional services. New York: McGraw-Hill. Yip, G. S. 1989. Global strategy ... 29-41. in a world of nations. Sloan Management Review, 89(1):

Zeithaml, V. A. 1981. How consumer evaluation processes differ between goods and services. In J. Donnelly, & W. George (Eds.), Marketing of services: 186-190, Chicago: American Marketing Association. Zeithaml, V. A., Parasuraman, A., & Berry, L. L. 1990. Delivering quality service. New York: Free Press. Zimmerman, C. D., & Enell, J. W. 1988. Service industries. In J. Juran & F. Gryna, Jr., (Eds.), Quality control handbook: 33-1-33-72. Carol A. Reeves received her Ph.D. in strategic management from the University of Georgia. She presently is an assistant professor in the management department at the University of Arkansas. Her current research focuses on issues related to service quality, strategy implementation, and entrepreneurship. David A. Bednar received his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He presently is an associate professor in the management department at the University of Arkansas. His current research focuses on organizational innovation and change, organizational symbolism, and service quality.

This content downloaded from 128.104.46.206 on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:20:05 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions