On The Fringe: The Cost Quality Debate

The explosion of free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe has prompted controversial comments from one of the Festival’s prominent producers. Nica Burns, the founder and director of Edinburgh’s Fosters Comedy Award, has claimed that many of the free shows on offer are simply “not good enough,” and render audiences a “terrible experience.”

Defenders of the Free Fringe insist that the quality of performances available under the Free Fringe banner can be just as high as some of the paid shows. Peter Buckley Hill, who runs the Free Fringe, has responded that :

“Clearly enough people approve of our model for it to remain viable.”

“The biggest barrier to success,” he continued, “is people equating the word ‘free’ with the word ‘worthless’.”

In business, the relationship between cost and quality is one we must consider carefully. We always aim to provide a quality service or product, without seeing reductions on our bottom line. While our customers are always on the look-out for a good bargain, we must also be able to guarantee them good value for their purchase.

So, how should businesses aim to cut costs, without negatively impacting the provision of quality?

Founder of the world’s largest truffle research company Mycorrhizal Systems, Dr. Paul Thomas, places emphasis on the importance of quality over that of cost-cutting. Truffles are a luxurious food product, associated with indulgence and expense. The Mycorrhizal brand is marketed as the leader in scientific research for truffle cultivation. It is important that they are not seen to be cutting costs, and always improving quality, and so their customers anticipate this might mean spending more.

The emphasis your company places on either cost or quality depends heavily on how your brand is marketed. For Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at the Republican Institute, “People’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company, and only 40% by their perceptions of their products.”

For most SMEs, the challenge is to reduce costs, without reducing quality. Rather than cutting costs in production, your company can seek to reduce its spending by eliminating waste. If your company is performing unnecessary tasks on a regular basis, you can actually reduce costs simply by eliminating some of these processes. This will also help increase profits.

Streamline, or optimise your business’s processes. Cut additional extras, rather than your product or services. For example, you can cut costs by reinvesting that money you had set aside to do up the office, back into your product. You will reap the rewards on your bottom line.

Edinburgh’s Free Fringe is marketed as an opportunity for performers to showcase their talents, without having to rent the space to do so. Audiences can choose to pay donations at the end, according to how much they think the show was worth. At the Free Fringe, the quality of the performance really is reflected in the price.

When considering the impact of reduced spending within your business, on the overall quality of your service, you must consider the value of your brand – how it is marketed – in the eyes of your customers. How much do they expect to pay? You can also seek to cut spending, without reducing quality, by streamlining your services, and eliminating waste where possible.

The balancing act between cost and quality can prove a challenge, no matter the size of your business. Whether your customers expect more from the quality, or the value of your service, it is possible to maintain high standards at lower costs.

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