The manager must always remember that the customer comes first. The starting point for the business firm is an understanding of the needs of the customer, and the firm’s foremost responsibility is towards the customer.
A firm’s responsibility towards its customer is in terms of ensuring that the desired quality of product at a reasonable price is made easily available to the customers. Product quality is of the utmost concern and covers dimensions of product design, materials used in production, safety, purity, hygiene and aesthetic appeal. The quality of spices is measured in terms of its purity, fragrance, freshness, cleanliness and colour. In case of a car the quality refers to its fuel-efficiency, maximum speed at. which it can run, reliability and trouble-free working of the engine, efficiency of its brakes, sturdiness of the body, comfortable sitting space, commodious boot for keeping luggage, fitted-in airconditioner, stereo system, foam seat covers, etc. The list is endless. This is because quality means different things to different people. For a professional racing driver the car’s ability to accelerate to the maximum speed in the shortest possible time is probably the most important indicator of quality. In contrast a man buying a car for his family would give more importance to factors such as spacious seating and luggage keeping facility, sturdiness of the body and the engine’s fuel-efficiency, availability of spares and servicing facility, etc. Connotations of quality vary not only from one individual to another but also from society-to
society because of different social; cultural and economic values. In most European, American and Japanese cars, features such as safety-belts, airconditioning, stereo systems, radio, clock, carpeted floors, upholstered seats are standard features. In India these are considered super-luxuries. Here were may think of Maruti which markets two models of its cars, ordinary and deluxe with all these additional features.
In India durability is a very important ingredient of quality. When we buy consumer durable products such as pressure cooker, sewing machine, bicycle, refrigerator, airconditioner, typewriter or even clothes, and furniture we expect them to last for 10 to 15 years if not more. The longer the product works or lasts, the better is its quality in our perception. In contrast, people in the developed countries discard even a perfectly functioning product in favour of a new one as soon as it is possible.
In attempting to provide the best quality product the manager must always remember that quality is perceived in relation to the price of the product. Your company may spend a fortune in producing the best quality product, but if it is priced significantly higher than the accepted price you will not be able to find any buyers for your product. Price is always determined in relation to your cost of production and what the customer thinks is good value for money.
It is the responsibility of the manager to provide the right match between quality and price. This relationship of quality and price is very important. Japan’s economic recovery and rise to the position of world’s number one position in electronics and automobiles is the result of its winning combination of best quality which competitors can’t match and at prices which competitors can’t beat.
Products manufactured by reputed companies carry stickers saying checked for quality control’, `tested’, ‘O.K.’. Over a period of tittle the customer starts associating certain level or connotation of quality with particular companies and their brand names. If, however, your products do not enjoy this kind of quality association, you can have the quality ascertained by government bodies such as the Indian Standards Institution which puts its ISI mark of approval on your product after testing for adherence to minimum quality standards. Getting such certifications will go a long way in building the customers’ confidence in your products.
Having ensured the desired quality of your product, and fixed a reasonable price for it, your next responsibility is to ensure that your product is easily and conveniently available to your customers. Unless you happen to be marketing a product in which your company enjoys a monopoly and no substitute is easily available, persistent non-availability of your product will lead your customers to switch over to the best available substitute. As a manager you are also responsible for ensuring that the dealers or retailers through whom you sell your product provide the correct information about the product to the customers, charge the correct. price, sell the correct weight or amount (if your product is sold loose) and provide the proper after sales support. A dealer who cheats on any one of these accounts is spoiling the image of your product and company and you should discard such dealers immediately.
Often firms, in their anxiety to make a success of a new product, make very tall claims about the potential benefits of their product. Such a promotional effort may create a short-term effect but can never provide a long-term stability. In India, there is a tendency on’ the part of many firms to bolster the image of their products by making claims far from the truth primarily because many customers are not in a position to challenge such claims either through a voluntary or legal framework. In the absence of pressure from consumers, it becomes the responsibility of the manager to promote the products only on the basis of real and not imaginary benefits.
Finally, there are always; some product or service concepts the consumption of which is viewed to be unethical. For instance a private medical clinic promoting the concept of determining the sex of a foetus, knowing fully well that there is a distinct’ preference for a male child in most families, is certainly promoting an unethical service.
Therefore, in terms of responsibility towards customer, the management of a firm should always, aim at marketing, the right product, at the right price and of the right quality.
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