In most industries, quality has never mattered more. New technologies have empowered customers to seek out and compare an endless array of products from around the globe. Shoppers can click to find objective data compiled by experts at organizations such as Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and go online to read user-generated reviews at sites such as Amazon; together, these sources provide an early warning system that alerts the public to quality problems. And when customers are unhappy with a product or service, they can use social media to broadcast their displeasure. In surveys, 26% of consumers say they have used social media to air grievances about a company and its products. And this issue isn’t limited to the consumer space—75% of B2B customers say they rely on word of mouth, including social media, when making purchase decisions.
But just as companies’ margin for error has decreased, the likelihood of error has risen. In many industries, cycle times are compressing. During the recovery from the Great Recession, output gains have outpaced employment growth, and employees report straining to keep up with demands.