What’s in the Box?

Question-Mark-out-of-Box-1024x1000How’s your OOBA these days?  “Good question…what is it?”  OOBA is an acronym for “out of box audit”.  It involves a final pass that checks for quality, all components required in the product are present, correct firmware is loaded (if this is part of the product in question), the product has been packaged correctly and everything is in place, accounted for, and ready to provide your customer the best possible experience upon receipt.  Generally, this FQA (Final Quality Audit) is owned by your Quality group, or by Operations, or perhaps even some combination of both teams.  The purpose of this exercise is to help insure that the product works correctly, looks great (not good–great), and everything necessary for a successful customer experience has been done.

People who work in Operations are familiar with this terminology, and probably more so for those who have worked in companies that produce consumer goods (products that ship to end users directly).  What is your customer going to receive?  That’s certainly one question you should be able to answer confidently.  An even better question might be–What will your customer think of your product?  What will they perceive about your company when they open the product?

Earlier in the year I wrote a small piece about quality, and more specifically, about ownership of quality.  The OOBA is one tool to measure quality internally, but more than that, it is one method to constantly keep your customer’s experience in view.   It’s not only about product quality, it’s one way in which the Operations team can contribute to the customer retention level of any organization.

We’ve all been there–we’ve been pleasantly surprised when we’ve ordered a product and it showed up, pristine in quality, ready to be used, delivered as expected.  We’ve also had those less than stellar experiences when a product arrives that isn’t up to our expectations, or the hype, or what was promised by the company.  Keep the OOBA in mind.  When was the last time you really looked at your product from your customer’s perspective?  This is something important that should be a part of every organization!

Who Owns Quality?

Let me ask you a question…who “owns quality” in your organization?  Depending on the size and type of organization you’re a part of, the answer may vary a bit, right?  Not so fast!  It’s a trick question…

Allow me to elaborate through personal experience.  I own a small bluetooth external speaker called a Jambox (made by Jawbone).  I’ve had this particular item for a couple of years now (I’m using it now as I write this post, listening to music on Pandora, a great service for streaming music).  My Jambox has been through the proverbial “war”…I’ve taken it on business trips, on camping expeditions, out in the backyard while working on the latest landscape project, even using it as my speaker of choice in my 1963 Ford F100 pickup at times.  It’s rugged, has a clean, simple design, and it works every time I need it.  In short, it’s a great product, made with quality in mind.

How does that happen?  I don’t know the structure of Jawbone’s corporation, I’m not familiar with their quality department (if there is one)….but they produced a reliable, consistent performing product.



Let me offer some insight from my experience within Operations as well as a consumer:

1.  Quality is owned by everyone within the organization.  From the board members to the CEO, the management team to the customer care representatives and sales team, through production and logistics, right down to the shipping and receiving team, the concept and the “character” (if you will) of quality needs to be present.  It’s not relegated to a designated quality control position (although there may be such a person who champions this element within your company)–it’s a commitment, an ongoing, evolutionary process, a mindset that must override everything involved in the product life cycle.

2.  Quality must be passionate in nature.  Please don’t assume that simply adhering to metrics will get you there.  There needs to be a passionate commitment to obtaining quality.  Metrics are a great way to measure performance in general, and to monitor your course with a given product’s life cycle, making certain that standards are adhered to, etc., but metrics alone will not insure true quality.  Quality is present when the product or service is not only consistent in delivering whatever it was designed for, but also when the recipient or user of the item in question places their confidence and trust in the product or service repeatedly, based on experience and performance.  Quality can actually have a “feel” to it, and real quality, when found, will move the consumer in a way that the lack of quality simply cannot.  You become a fan of the product (like I am with my Jambox).

3.  Quality occurs by design.  There’s no escaping this universal truth…we’ve all seen the bumper sticker that suggests that “s*&t happens”….pretty much true.  But quality, on the other hand, doesn’t “just happen”.  It is the byproduct of design, of passion, of experience, and resourcefulness.  True quality occurs because you want it to happen, not just by accident.

Think a moment about the experiences you’ve had, or the product you use, maybe the car you drive, or the clothing brand you gravitate towards.  Those items in our lives that we hold in high esteem, rely upon or just become our “go to” thing in our lives–they are there because of some element of quality.

Starbucks — Selling Comfort with your Coffee





imgres I don’t know all the details of the Starbucks story. I haven’t read too much about their successes and failures, business plans, or operational strategies. I do, however, remember a time when they simply did not exist.

How did so many people manage to survive without their Starbucks “fix” before every street corner included the familiar green umbrellas and small café tables and chairs? And if we really need coffee on every street corner, then how come Dunkin’ Donuts – which was selling coffee 21 years before the original Starbucks opened in Seattle – only yesterday got to the point of IPO? I hear they are trying to compete with Starbucks. But is it possible for them to repeat the phenomenon?A couple of years ago, it became clear to me that Starbucks’ popularity has something to do with this: they’re selling comfort as much as they’re selling coffee.

I was recently traveling with a colleague on a business trip to China. We had a brief stopover in Japan, and right there in the airport, with bleary eyes and the accompanying mental cloud that forms from several hours of overseas flight, I stumbled across a Starbucks. Suddenly the familiarity of the smell of their coffee, their green aprons, and a counter of treats to pair with my favorite drink (gotta love the caramel macchiato) provided me with a sense of comfort and belonging that had left me during my boarding back in San Francisco.

Like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts has spread to many other countries, is selling its branded coffee in grocery stores, and is trying to create a culture around its cappuccinos. But it remains to be seen whether Dunkin’ Donuts can make as many people feel the strong sensations and emotions that are experienced by so many Starbucks fans. In the meantime, I’ll still have my cup of coffee at home most mornings and I’ll even dare to drink the office “rocket fuel” from time to time.

Whatever your coffee preference, you’ve got to admit, the folks at Starbucks have a pretty amazing story, growing such a recognizable brand from such a basic commodity. Who would have ever dared to think we’d rush out in our cars, drive a couple of miles (or even just a couple of blocks), and throw down our hard earned dollars for coffee? Well, clearly someone believed in the concept. You can’t help but wonder what the next Starbucks-type of movement will be like, can you?