Asked in a survey to name five companies they associate with quality products, 1,005 Americans most often named General Electric, General Motors, Ford, IBM and Sears.
Nothing really surprising in that, or in the second five - AT&T, Sony, Chrysler, RCA (a GE subsidiary) and Procter & Gamble - because they wouldn't be so big unless they were doing something right.What is surprising is that the characteristic most often cited in determining product quality is how well the name is known, outranking such considerations as workmanship, price, performance, durability and style.
The response to a Gallup survey for the American Society for Quality Control suggests how difficult it is to evaluate the mind of the American consumer in dealing with manufactured products.
But if it is difficult to measure attitudes toward the most tangible of products, it is even more so in dealing with services, which are produced in even greater abundance in the American economy.
How, for example, do you measure the quality of an insurance policy when you do not even understand its contents? You know when an automobile runs well; you might never know how well your policy performs until you have an accident.
Price for example, ranked sixth as a service quality determinant in the Gallup Poll, behind "courteous, polite treatment," the satisfaction of needs, past experience, recommendations and promptness.
High on the list were such determinants as attitude and helpfulness of personnel, friendliness and personal atttention. Far down the list was "company name," a factor that seemed to play a large role in rating product quality.
On a scale of 1 to 10, or worst to highest, banks received the highest evaluation, with a 54 percent majority ranking their service at 8 or better. It was the only one to exceed 50 percent.
Ranked second were hotels, at 44 percent, followed by hospitals, airlines and insurance companies (a tie), automobile repairs and local government.
Featured on the down list were airlines, which provoked the observation from the Gallup folks that "since 1985, the one service which experienced the greatest decrease in high-quality ratings is the airlines."