IV.C.9 Qualitative Assessment

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Excerpt From The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook

Much of the information used by organizations to measure and track performance consists of quantitative data. Figures such as sales of a particular product, on-time delivery of suppliers, average length-of-stay in a hospital, or percentage of college entrants who graduate are easily measured or counted.

Qualitative information is also important for organizational decision making. Examples could be how satisfied customers are with a new product, employee opinion about the value of a new benefits package, or consistency of leadership practices with stated organizational principles. Qualitative data are expressed using words (opinions, beliefs, feelings, attitudes)—things that are not really measurable per se.

Qualitative data add complexity to the assessment process due to the subjectivity of what is being studied. What information can be gathered that will reflect the parameter(s) of interest? This is usually addressed by creating a series of questions to be answered, or by gathering information that is already available and grouping the findings into categories believed to be related to a question of interest.

Qualitative assessments are frequently conducted using one of the following techniques:
  • Written surveys or questionnaires that are mailed (or e-mailed) to target groups or are available as part of a business interaction (for example, the feedback card at a restaurant table)
  • One-on-one interviews (in person or by phone) or group interviews (focus groups)
  • Observation of actual behaviors (for example, mystery shoppers who study how they are treated during transactions)
  • Content analysis conducted by reviewing memos or other normal business processes to determine what events occur (or do not occur) 

In order for qualitative data to be analyzed, they are usually gathered as or converted to a numeric format either by using frequencies of occurrence or through the use of scales (for example, a Likert-format scale including the categories strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree). If the information is narrative, it can be analyzed by looking for particular words, phrases, or contexts that occur repeatedly. The information can also be organized into an affinity diagram to help indicate common areas.

Qualitative data, when transformed through analysis into information, are used to examine the depth of motivations, values, attitudes, perceptions, and emotions. Quantitative data, in contrast, are better used for developing information about the breadth of information—how many and how much. See Chapter 17, Section 2, for the use of qualitative assessments relative to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Quality Management BOK Reference

IV Quality Management Tools
IV.C Measurement: Assessment and Metrics
IV.C.9 Qualitative assessment - Identify subjective measures such as verbatim comments from customers, observation records, and focus group output. Describe how they differ from objective measures, and determine when measurements should be captured in categories rather than numeric value.

ASQ Service Quality Division
ASQ Customer Supplier Division

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Date Added: Sep 14, 2018
Date Last Modified: Jan 27, 2019
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