Quality practice and customer value: strengthening the ideal linkage
Sammanfattning: Quality management is continuously evolving and the progression so far is frequently described in terms of four stages. According to these descriptions, Total Quality Management (TQM) constitutes the currently highest level, or fourth stage, of quality management. Despite the divergence of views on what constitutes TQM, it is commonly described as a number of diverse activities, here designated as quality practice, performed to display and embody a certain set of values. One of these values, acknowledged as central to TQM, is to focus on the customers. This value basically implies that a TQM organization should adapt its operations to what creates value for its customers. Hence, there is ideally a strong linkage between the application of quality practice and the creation of customer value. In a wider perspective, this linkage fundamentally determines the vital contribution of quality practice to competitiveness. However, this linkage has so far been given poor attention among quality researchers. Furthermore, differences of opinions exist regarding its strength. It has for instance been argued that quality practices commonly included in TQM lack a linkage to customer value, decrease the competitiveness of the organization in which they are implemented, and hinder the organization’s ability to create customer value. The aim of this thesis is accordingly to examine the ideal linkage between quality practice and customer value in order to increase its strength. In accordance to the idea of continuous improvement, the aim is to improve the reflection of the value ‘focus on the customers’ in quality practice. The research process described in this thesis has started by examining and developing the current theoretical foundation and models of TQM concerning customer value, in terms of the theory of attractive quality. Furthermore, an affective conceptualization of customer value has been used as a basis for an initial examination of the ideal linkage. Among the presented results it is indicated that quality practice, including the measures currently used to capture customer perceptions, is more or less restricted to negative motivations of external customers. Negative motivations basically stem from the customers strive to avoid and reduce negative emotional states. The linkage to positive motivations of the external customers is seemingly much weaker or even absent. The indicated focus can be seen as a reflection of early theories of motivation emphasizing negative motivations as the governing principle. Modern theories emphasize, however, both negative and positive motivations. The sole emphasis on negative motivations indicated in current quality practice would imply that external customers prefer to exist in a state of boring neutrality. A dual emphasis recognizes that while our customers want to minimize pain and disappointment, they want to maximize pleasure as well, to make life interesting and stimulating. An extension of quality practice, including the use of multiple output measures, is suggested to increasing the reflection of this duality of customer value in TQM. As a foundation for such an extension, a two-dimensional perspective on the mechanisms involved in the strong positive emotional state associated with attractive quality elements has been proposed. The proposed perspective points at two separate mechanisms in terms of the satisfaction of high-level needs and latent needs
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