Can you measure quality, experience, satisfaction & loyalty?
By Harry van Vliet on 14 November 2011
To give away the happy ending: yes you can. Was there ever any doubt? Well, yes actually. Quite recently a book was published that discusses the ‘sense and nonsense’ of performance indicators for cultural institutions such as museums (Bunnik & Van Huis, 2011). The book is highly enjoyable as a solid overview of how performance indicators entered the discussion between museums and (municipal) government, and gives some highly welcome advice on how to structure the ‘conversation’. It is also a good starting point for our own investigation in ‘Museumkompas’ into performance indicators of new cross media services for museums. But there are two issues in the book that trigger me to comment on it.
The first issue is that of quality. The authors have the tendency to mystify this concept in the sense that the discussion of the concept is always in the context of a remark on how difficult quality is to pin down, something intangible and maybe only discoverable by way of qualitative investigation. In my opinion this argument does not take into account that there are at least three layers in talking about quality (or any other concept?). First there is the intention of wanting to make a statement about something related to the concept of quality, for instance the quality of a car. Quality is always about something. Second there is the decomposition of this concept into qualita that make up the quality of for instance the car, these can be more qualitative aspects such as the finish of the interior or the appreciation of the colour of the car, but these aspects can also be more quantitative such as the energy efficiency of the car is or its sensitivity to maintenance. A third layer is how these aspects can be ‘measured’ as a way to build evidence. This measurement can be based on qualitative methods as well as quantitative methods: one can interview people on the appreciation of colours as well as simple count the most popular colour of cars being sold (in each country). In the same sense one can measure how economical a car is (filling up the tank and see how far it goes) or conduct an experiment in which drivers are asked how they felt while driving a ‘green’ car, while they are actually not driving a ‘green’ car.
The second issue is that of measurement. The book is quite outspoken in this, and one of his authors (Edwin van Huis) repeated it last week on a conference, quality and experience cannot be measured. But it surely is not hard to find valid measurement instruments for quality and experience. If you don’t accept these you must also not accept the concept of IQ, which ‘existence’ is more or less bound to IQ-tests. But moreover, there are several theories on quality and on experience, which are based on research and explain and in some cases also make predictions. If you disregard these and stick to your statement that they cannot be measured you place yourself outside the scientific arena. It is an opinion, a bold opinion, nothing more.
In our research on festivals we tackled the issue of measurements of concepts such as quality, experiences, satisfaction and loyalty, by critically looking at theories and empirical data. In the end our conclusion is that it is possible to measure these concepts in a quite straightforward way. How? Maybe next time. (By the time I started my presentation at the conference Edwin van Huis had already left the building… so definitely next time…)