Garvin proposes eight critical dimensions or categories of quality that can serve as a framework for strategic analysis: Performance, features, reliability, conformance, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, and perceived quality.
Performance refers to a product's primary operating characteristics. For an automobile, performance would include traits like acceleration, handling, cruising speed, and comfort. Because this dimension of quality involves measurable attributes, brands can usually be ranked objectively on individual aspects of performance. Overall performance rankings, however, are more difficult to develop, especially when they involve benefits that not every customer needs.
Features are usually the secondary aspects of performance, the "bells and whistles" of products and services, those characteristics that supplement their basic functioning. The line separating primary performance characteristics from secondary features is often difficult to draw. What is crucial is that features involve objective and measurable attributes; objective individual needs, not prejudices, affect their translation into quality differences.
This dimension reflects the probability of a product malfunctioning or failing within a specified time period. Among the most common measures of reliability are the mean time to first failure, the mean time between failures, and the failure rate per unit time. Because these measures require a product to be in use for a specified period, they are more relevant to durable goods than to products or services that are consumed instantly.
Conformance is the degree to which a product's design and operating characteristics meet established standards. The two most common measures of failure in conformance are defect rates in the factory and, once a product is in the hands of the customer, the incidence of service calls. These measures neglect other deviations from standard, like misspelled labels or shoddy construction, that do not lead to service or repair.
A measure of product life, durability has both economic and technical dimensions. Technically, durability can be defined as the amount of use one gets from a product before it deteriorates. Alternatively, it may be defined as the amount of use one gets from a product before it breaks down and replacement is preferable to continued repair.
Serviceability is the speed, courtesy, competence, and ease of repair. Consumers are concerned not only about a product breaking down but also about the time before service is restored, the timeliness with which service appointments are kept, the nature of dealings with service personnel, and the frequency with which service calls or repairs fail to correct outstanding problems. In those cases where problems are not immediately resolved and complaints are filed, a company's complaints handling procedures are also likely to affect customers' ultimate evaluation of product and service quality.
Aesthetics is a subjective dimension of quality. How a product looks, feels, sounds, tastes, or smells is a matter of personal judgement and a reflection of individual preference. On this dimension of quality it may be difficult to please everyone.
8. Perceived Quality
Consumers do not always have complete information about a product's or service's attributes; indirect measures may be their only basis for comparing brands. A product's durability for example can seldom be observed directly; it must usually be inferred from various tangible and intangible aspects of the product. In such circumstances, images, advertising, and brand names - inferences about quality rather than the reality itself - can be critical.
- Garvin, David .A., "Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality", Harvard Business Review, November-December 1987