What is quality function deployment and why does it matter?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing products is one of the most important aspects of running a company, as customers differentiate between their options due to the strength of products available. This involves several steps, such as undergoing product analysis and learning more about what customers think about the product on offer. This is where quality function deployment is key. In this article, we discuss what quality function deployment is, why it matters and how companies can improve their products through a range of different practices.

What is quality function deployment?

Quality function deployment, also known as 'QFD', is a process companies use to improve their products, services and processes in line with customer feedback. This feedback, representing the voice of the average customer, encapsulates the perspective of people consuming your product on a regular basis. This develops a more accurate idea of how people outside the company perceive the business and its associated products, eliminating bias and providing actionable solutions to issues with products.

Companies then enter this data into a 'house of quality', ordering the feedback by importance to the specific product or service. For example, for a software company, resolving a bug that leads to constant crashing is one of the most important tasks, and issues with their work uniform are less significant than cases of faulty manufacturing of clothes for a retail shop. Organising in this manner means that businesses plan for more efficient solutions depending on the problem in question.

Why does QFD matter?

QFD matters as it's a key guide in the operations of many different companies. It presents the issues that customers see as significant issues with the product, reflecting the views of the market on the product development process. This means that product improvement reflects what customers desire rather than the specific biases within the company boardroom. Customers receive a product they desire, and company results improve to match the increase in customer service level.

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important parts of operating a modern business because customers are the main source of revenue for the vast majority of companies and because investors use customers as a key indicator of the strength of any given investment. Using QFD ensures that customers like the product they use, putting the company in the best possible position for maximising revenue and pleasing customers to an even greater extent in the long term. QFD matters because it becomes a foundation of the way a company works.

Related: Product owner responsibilities within a development project

Benefits of QFD

QFD has a range of different benefits for a company and its customers, each of which improves the company's standing in the market and improves the quality of life for the company's long term customers. Below are further details about some of the key benefits of QFD, offering an insight into why companies use this system:

Minimising research costs

One of the most significant expenses in product development is research. This entails researching how customers feel about a product, any methods of improving the product and ways that the company markets changed products to its audience. When using QFD, research costs are far smaller. This is because customers tell you their thoughts, limiting the need for in-depth research. Companies spend this money on improving their products practically instead, changing the company focus from finding out about issues to spending the budget on providing noticeable improvements to products.

Improving customer relationships

Depending on the nature of the company in question, organisations have an entire spectrum of relationships with their customers. Where some companies sell the product and retain no long term communication, others stay in contact with buyers and listen to feedback. This is the case with using QFD. In these instances, customers feel like they're a part of the company's processes, developing a higher level of personal investment in the company and its products. This is beneficial for the business, as customers return to products they play a part in improving.

Gain further insight

While completing market research provides a significant amount of important information for a company, there are many occasions in which research teams don't establish a full picture. Customer opinions are complex and vary from product to product, with no set rules dictating how customers feel about features. Asking customers for their opinions is an ideal step towards having more insight. Customers inform companies about their views on products and provide insight that market research alone doesn't discover without assistance.

Learn about your competition

Market research typically focuses on the performance and behaviour of a company's own products or services. If QFD is the development method of choice, the company has a greater insight into companies throughout the market. Customers compare products from one company to equivalent products from competitors. This means that the company finds weaknesses in rival products and improves their products in these regards, creating a unique identity. This insight benefits in establishing high-quality products that rival companies don't achieve without similar insight directly from customers with experience in the market.

Related: What are unique selling points and how to work them out

Avoid refunds

Refunds occur when your buyers don't enjoy the product they purchase. This is an issue for the company, as businesses pay manufacturing costs with no revenue at the end of the process. Using QFD in an effective manner prevents this. Customers enjoy products that are high quality and have no significant issues. Using the QFD process as a means of preventing issues with products makes sure that products are of the highest possible quality. Customers keep the product and buy more of the company's products, so the company and customers alike are all happier.

How to implement QFD

Implementing QFD is a series of steps, each a foundation of a successful product development process. Understanding them ensures that companies benefit from the best possible outcomes and develop products to the best of their abilities. Learn more about the different steps in implementing QFD and why each step is essential below:

1. Build the 'house of quality'

The first step in the process is building the 'house of quality' in the organisation. This means that the organisation gathers as much information as possible, using forms, interviews and surveys as a means of collecting perspectives on a range of different products. Distilling qualitative information into short messages that an analysis team understands makes the rest of the process simpler.

2. Organise the 'house of quality'

When the 'house of quality' has a wealth of information in place, organising all of its information is the next step. For example, placing the most important tasks towards the top of the 'house of quality' means that the company prevents issues with the products they have on offer. QFD relies on prioritisation as a means of getting the best possible outcomes. Using a 'house of quality' is the first step towards better prioritisation.

3. Develop the product or service

Developing your products and services is the next step in implementing QFD. This is the stage where the organisation enacts the changes in the house of quality, going through the list of priorities and gradually improving the standard of the range of products and services in the company. Development is one of the most important stages in the process, as maximising the improvements you make means that you have a better product and gain more customers at the end of the process.

4. Develop a series of processes

After making adjustments to your products and services, develop a range of different processes in the organisation. As the organisation develops a range of new processes, underlying qualities throughout the workforce improve. This means better customer relations and provides services such as ongoing repair and client care. Using such services means that customers enjoy using your products and keep buying from the company.

Related: Q&A: what is customer service and why is it important?

5. Plan production and quality control

Finally, developing a production plan and implementing quality control processes is a key part of QFD. Retaining the increase in the quality you see in the process is the best way of improving a company's reputation. Keeping a high level of consistency after the process means that the product quality, in addition to service quality, is as high as possible in the long term. Companies benefit from customer retention, and the bottom line reflects those improvements.

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