While waiting on hold the with my satellite service provider to complain about the quality of the service I received I had to laugh at the recorded message that was repeated over and over. A friendly computerized voice would interrupt my elevator hold music every couple minutes to say “To ensure quality, this call may be recorded”. Each time I heard it, I laughed.

If only it were that easy! If only a simple recording about my complaints could ensure that the quality I received was improved. If only my recorded call about my satellite no longer working and the terrible service I received as a result, complete with a $75.00 charge for something the company didn’t do correctly the first time could ensure greater quality. And perhaps the recording of my call could ensure quality for everyone else in any other situation as well! Wow, that’s pretty powerful.

This message got me thinking about Michael Bolton’s blog post called “Testers Get Out of the Quality Assurance Business”. A statement saying that a person, process, action, or thing can ‘ensure quality’ is a lofty statement to make. Those are some big shoes to fill! Ensuring quality isn’t something that should be taken on lightly. For starters quality is a difficult thing to define and it is probably different for every person. Quality for me, may not cut it for you and vice versa. Second, unless we have control over every aspect of the thing we are trying to ensure quality for, if we can manipulate it and change it where it needs to at any point in time we really cannot ensure anything.

So when my satellite provider says that are going to use my recorded call to “ensure quality” they really aren’t. What they really mean is, they are going to review the tape of the conversation I had with one of their employees . They may listen for ways they can improve, listen for mistakes that were made, and listen for ways to change what they do. They may listen because they care about improving their customer satisfaction. They may listen because they want to use my recorded call as a training example, good or bad, for new employees. They may listen because they want to find ways to make more (or spend less) money. They are listening to my recorded call for many of the same reasons we test software.

We test to find ways we can improve, look for mistakes we have made, find ways to change what we do, find ways to improve our customers satisfaction, use what we find as training examples, good or bad, and find ways to make more (or spend less) money. We test to gather information about our product, about what we are doing, about how we are doing it, etc. We don’t test to ensure quality.

So the next time I have trouble again and call for support, I will once again laugh when I hear the recorded message. Although ‘ensuring quality’ isn’t the real reason why they are recording my call, I do get the point. To repeat “To ensure we improve, get better at what we do, make more money, train our employees, and keep you happy when we care to, this call may be recorded” is certainly wordy.  However, I hope when they say they are “ensuring quality”, they also understand they really aren’t.