Additional Views of Quality
Technical Quality versus Functional Quality In service operations. as in manufacturing operations, it is important to note the distinction between technical quality. which relates to the core element of the good or service, and functional quality, which relates to the customers' perception of how the good functions or the service is delivered. For example, the appropriateness of the medical treatment ordered by a physician for a patient's ailment.
is a measure of the technical quality of the care. The physician's "bedside manner' chow empathetic he or she is, how well he or she listens and explains. how much care he or she takes to make the patient comfortable both physically and psychologically-is a measure of the functional quality of the care. Customers can readily assess functional quality because it relates primarily to the interaction between the firm providing the good or service and its customers. Technical quality, however. may not be something that customers are able to assess because they do not have the technical knowledge required to do so. For example, unless they know a great deal about automobiles, customers may be uncertain about what the technical specifications of a new car mean or whether a mechanic has appropriately identified and solved their car problems. Similarly, most of us who are not trained in dentistry are unable to tell whether our dentists know a cavity in a tooth from a hole in the wall! To compensate for not having the knowledge required to assess technical quality. customers often will use some measures that they hope are objective to help them make those assessments. For example, when we evaluate the quality of physicians, we may consider where they trained, how much experience they have. and whether they are certified by a specialty board. When we evaluate an MBA program, we may look to see if the should is accredited and at the percentage of faculty with doctoral degrees as measures of technical quality. The inability of most customers to properly assess technical quality makes functional quality all the more important. Good managers care about both aspects of quality.