Church Service Quality – Are You Paying Attention

Churches are beginning to embrace service quality and church quality assurance  in how they manage their operations and resources.

Quality is one of those terms that can be very vague, depending on our own frame of reference, so let’s look at a couple of formal definitions.

Dictionary.com defines quality as “Character with respect to fineness; high grade, superiority, excellence; degree or standard of excellence”.  This definition focuses on doing things excellently.

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines the term as:  “The characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy stated, or implied needs, and a product or service free of deficiencies.”   This definition focuses more on creating products and services that are free of defects.

When we think about product quality, we think about products that we purchase, things like a car, a refrigerator, or maybe a lawnmower.  We all like to use products that perform in the way we expected it to when we bought it.  For example, when we buy a car, we expect that car to operate without problems for at least the warranty period and would hope that it operates without issues for years after that, assuming we do our part by maintaining it.

In the service sector, quality is viewed very differently because it is more experientially based.  In other words, people judge service quality based on their perception of the experience.  For example, when we go to the hospital, we judge the care we receive based on things like how we are communicated with, how efficient the registration process is or how polite and caring the staff are.

It is the experience that we judge more than the clinical care because (unless we have a clinical background) we don’t know if someone is taking our blood pressure correctly or our temperature the correct way, we just know how they treated us during the encounter.

For churches, our customers are our visitors, members, employees and volunteers and they judge us based on how we interact with them and how efficient and effective our operations are.

History of Quality

Quality practices can be traced as far back as the 13th century when craftsman began organizing in to unions called guilds to maintain standards of quality.  This practice continued, and by the mid 1750’s factory systems of product inspections started in Great Britain which expanded and grew into what we now know as the Industrial Revolution.  

Then early in the 20th century, manufacturers began incorporating quality practices  into their manufacturing processes.

During WWII, the US military inspected products made for the war to ensure safety of its troops and in an effort to save time and money they began using sampling techniques (inspecting a small sample size of product units rather than an entire batch,), specification standards (using agreed to work instructions based on best practices) and training on statistical process control techniques (using data to monitor and control product quality).

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After WWII the quality revolution began in Japan and with the help of two Americans, Joseph Juran and W. Edwards Deming  there was a slight shift in how quality was done.  Rather than focusing on inspection, there was an emphasis on improving organizational processes through the people who used them, instead of product inspections.

By the 1970s the US automobile and electronic industries were broadsided by Japan’s high quality competition and responded by emphasizing not only on statistical control methods but also on approaches that embraced the entire organization.  This ultimately birthed (TQM) or total quality management as a business practice.

Healthcare jumped on the bandwagon and began using quality approaches to the healthcare process in the early 1990’s.  And since the turn of the century, quality has moved beyond manufacturing and healthcare and into the service, education and government sectors.

Nonprofit and church organizations are the newest group  to embrace quality practices in how they manage their operations and resources.  This is because their customers (visitors, members, employees and volunteers) have become accustomed to high standards of excellence in other industries and are expecting the same of the church.  

Everyone likes organization, efficiency and excellence and who more than the church should be operating out of a passion for excellence?  It’s our calling!

How is the service quality in your church?

History of Quality source:  ASQ