Most theories in Quality revolve around customer satisfaction. For each purchase customers make, they have a specific expectations. In process of purchase, these expectations keep changing. For organizations (specially software organizations), key is to know these expectations and deliver the product/service accordingly.
What if you do all the expectations management and client still does not like the product? It happens that your processes were executed really well and you think you delivered quality in line with client’s expectations. Still, the client would not like the product. Can we conclude that this was a problem with client’s expectations and not with your processes?
Bob Mackie, a famous clothing designer known for his work for Cher, was once asked about the process he used for making her gowns, which each cost tens of thousands of dollars. The process went something like this:
- Meetings are held to discuss Cher’s expectations
- Conceptual drawings are made of Cher in the gown and redone until she approves
- A mock-up (fake gems, lower cost fabric) of the dress is made and modeled by a person matching Cher’s measurements; again redone until Cher approves.
- The actual dress is made and fitted to Cher; Job Done.
The interviewer asked Mackie, “What happens if Cher doesn’t like the dress after all that?” Mackie replied (and I am paraphrasing), “I guess she bought a dress she doesn’t like.”
The lesson here is that Mackie did extraordinary due diligence and vetted Cher’s expectations every step of the way, so if the outcome failed to please, at least he knew the issue was with Cher and not with the process or the competence of the designer. (One last note, Cher was rarely disappointed, nor her fans.)
Doesn’t this sound very familiar if you are working in software development? Most of the times, if you manage expectations really well, you are leaving very few reasons for clients to get disappointed. But exceptions are always there – and there may still be a few who would not be happy. You have no choice then but to accept that client bought something they did not like.