Product Quality Assurance (466 words)
By Donna Loyle
Sweater snags, off-spec measurements, unglued sock liners in sneakers, moldy wooden toys, and incorrect care, content or country-of-origin labels — poor-quality merchandise can make a cataloger reluctant to buy again from a particular manufacturer or vendor.
The quality issue has long plagued merchants, says Doug Easly, national sales and marketing director at Quality Corrections and Inspections (QCI; www.qualitycorrections.com), a Duncansville, PA-based firm that salvages and refurbishes goods for some of the largest catalog companies.
What can you do when your goods arrive in less-than-top-quality condition, and how can you ensure that the problem never surfaces again? Easly offers the following four solutions:
- Set up expected quality performance measurements with each vendor before agreeing to purchase goods. Ask prospective vendors to show you their quality-audit systems. Do the plans look sound and reasonable? If not, communicate exactly what you expect and by when. Put everything in writing.
Also, ask to see samples of the goods you're considering, and give the samples to your inspectors for comparison when the goods arrive at your site. "Quality should be part of the ordering process, not an after-the-fact procedure," says Easly.
- Set up a quality-audit process. Use this to match what vendors say you should receive against what actually gets delivered to your warehouse. When you encounter problems, have the vendor's auditors address and advise you — also in writing — of how the issue has been resolved, so it's unlikely to happen again. Set up chargeback or return-to-vendor policies, and use them before you agree to buy that vendor's products again.
"One of my mentors in the catalog business once told me, 'Don't believe everything your supplier tells you,'" says Easly, who once worked as a merchandising manager at a large business-to-business catalog. "Make vendors show you exactly how something was resolved, not just promise a resolution."