The Attitude of “Good Enough”

If you’ve been watching TV recently, you will have seen the new commercials for GM. GM is now touting their quality – something the average consumer is certainly not used to seeing GM do. It first surprised me a little that GM decided it was time to start marketing quality over price. This is not something I’m used to from GM. In fact, not too long ago, there were commercials on television selling GM cars at one dollar over invoice. Quality wasn’t an issue then. It was all about price.

But now, it’s all about quality. But is it? I mean, just months ago GM’s back was against the wall financially. It required a huge bailout from both the Canadian and American governments because GM was sinking and risking tens of thousands of jobs in the process. Why couldn’t they sell any cars? Because the cars were of questionable quality, GM had too many brands, they insisted on making gas guzzlers when the world wanted economy cars, because the average customer was treated like a mark upon entering a dealership and the marketplace was full of horror stories of people unsuccessful in their attempts to have GM stand behind their vehicles’ quality.

And now, almost overnight, we are supposed to believe that GM has the finest quality in the auto industry?

What happened? Would GM have gone the “quality” route had their backs not been against the wall financially? Would they have ever woken up if the market had not down turned? Would the now-deposed senior executives still be running the asylum had the economy not slid? And if it was just a matter of flipping a switch to improve quality (which is what it seems isn’t it?), why did no one flip the switch before? If GM knew how to make a quality product all along, then the simple question is: why didn’t they?

Why would GM knowingly put a substandard product on the market (based on the ratings of virtually every major automotive publication), spend millions of dollars convincing people to buy it, know full well that the quality of their own product paled in comparison to foreign automakers and yet, do nothing about it? Auto manufacturers that have spent a long time making and marketing their quality will have an easier time selling to a consumer who is looking for a quality product than an auto manufacturer who placed low price over quality.

The vast majority of the free world buys their vehicle based on brand name. For the most part, most people know the car they want to buy before they ever choose which car lot they will visit. Think about it. It is one of the few products in the world that the average consumer will purchase based on a brand-name. Most people don’t buy their coffee makers, their toasters or their DVD players based on a brand-name. Perhaps some do, but the vast majority buy these appliances and electronics based on price. So, the department stores are full of low quality products that can be sold easily at a sale price.

Have you ever researched what the best coffee maker in the world is? Have you ever researched what the best toaster in the world is? Let me give you an example of why you will not find the best quality coffee makers and toasters in the world on store shelves.

The best toaster in the world is made by a company called Dualit. They are based in England, each toaster is handmade and your purchase will last for decades. That’s why the purchase price is $300. Put that toaster on a store shelf next to a $19.95 no-name toaster and you will have customers doing contortions trying to figure out why there is a $280 price difference. They don’t look any different but the difference is what you can’t see: the quality.

Also, a store that sells a $300 toaster can expect to see a repeat customer about once every 20-30 years. In addition, since the average retail employee would not be able to afford a $300 toaster they would be likely unable to sell a $300 toaster with any sort of confidence or experiential authority. So we have low-paid workers selling us products and services that they are familiar with – and something they can afford. Therefore, the products they would sell would be the same products they would be able to afford. That’s why you would never see a $300 toaster on a store shelf being sold by people who earn $10 per hour. It would cost that worker a full week’s wages (net) to be able to buy one toaster. And it doesn’t do anything other than make toast just like the $19.95 model next to it.

So, a retail store will give shelf space to a low-quality, low-priced toaster that will need to be replaced this time next year because so very few consumers would pay $300 for a toaster.

The truth is, every company is capable of making a quality toaster, but very few do. We, as consumers, encourage companies to build substandard quality when we purchase their products.

Just in case you were wondering, I will tell you the best drip coffee maker in the world is a Juro-Capresso valued at around $200. The second best coffee maker is made by a Japanese company, Zojirushi. It retails for about $130. They both do one thing: make coffee. Most homes have an automatic coffee maker valued at half the price. Why? Because most people can’t see the difference. It’s not evident. It is in the way the product is built that differentiates the price.

I will also tell you that the Juro-Capresso and the Zojirushi coffee makers and Dualit toasters are only available in very few high-end stores and mostly online from specialty retailers. You will pay shipping and duty and you will love your purchase.

So here’s the question: if you are prepared to accept “good enough” in the quality of the appliances you purchase for yourself, are you prepared to accept “good enough” in the service you receive? How about in the effort of your own work? You could be doing good quality work but is the market prepared to pay for it? Do you dumb down your effort because your customers won’t notice the difference between quality and “good enough?” Are you prepared to work just hard enough to not get fired?

There is an unsettling attitude running rampant in Corporate America today: the attitude of good enough. That’s what happened with GM – they went to the market with an attitude of “good enough.” But when times got tough and people pulled in their spending, “good enough” wasn’t good enough. It’s a lesson every single consumer, employee, business owner, CEO and entrepreneur should take heed of. Are you going to choose to be one of those with a “good enough” attitude or are you prepared to offer something more substantial? Are you participating in the price game or the quality game?

Certainly much can be said for easily being able to sell price instead of having to justify quality. However, anyone knows that when they purchase something for themselves based on quality, they love it, keep it, take pride in it and most importantly, talk about it.