What is a CTQ? (Critical to Quality)

Understanding customer requirements is essential to assure the output of your processes meets the customer’s needs. Understanding the customer needs (VOC) voice of the customer data will help us determine the value-added and non-value added in the process.

To identify whether your organization’s processes are meeting customer needs and expectations, these customer needs must be translated into customer requirements that are measurable and quantifiable. The term measurable and quantifiable customer requirement is CTQ (Critical to Quality) because these are the characteristics of a product or service that are “Critical to Quality” for the customer.

To understand the customer requirements, we need to perform an analytical process to determine the level of importance of the requirements. Kano analysis is a tool that is used to evaluate and prioritize customer needs. This analysis will help the firm focus on the three main priorities: Time, Money, and Resources. To perform the Kano analysis, we focus on four objectives of prioritization: 1. Service Dysfunctional, 2. Dissatisfaction, 3. Satisfaction, 4. Service Fully Functional. Based on these four objectives, we can determine the requirements’ priority on:

Must Be:

Requirements that can be dissatisfying but cannot increase satisfaction. These requirements can be hard to capture and expensive. The information is usually known but difficult to access and organize. Some techniques used to capture the must-be requirements are: 1. Customer complaints, 2. One-on-One interviews, 3. Focus groups.

Primary Satisfier:

The more requirements that are met, the more the customer is satisfied. The primary satisfiers are easy and expensive information, the information is known and can be easy and can be easily captured. Some techniques used for this requirement are: 1. Mail and phone surveys, 2. Market research, 3. Be a customer


If the requirement is absent, it does not cause dissatisfaction, but it will delight customers if present. These requirements are difficult and expensive, information is unknown and must be created or combined from many unrelated sources. Techniques to obtain the requirements focus on customer observation and focus groups.


The customer is indifferent to whether the feature is present or not


The feature actually causes dissatisfaction

Once we prioritize the requirements, we need to work with “must be” needs and translate them into CTQ’s. For this process, we will use what is called CTQ tree or Flowdown. The CTQ flowdown is a commonly used tool to translate strategic focal points into CTQs. High-level strategic focal points are related to project objectives. In their turn project objectives are linked to and decomposed into CTQs, which are made operational in the form of measurements. This is achieved by providing operational definitions, which helps make CTQs measurable by specifying a measurement procedure. (Does, 2008)

The two elements of LSS project definitions: CTQ flowdown and operational definitions

Once you have the CTQ metrics, based on your customer feedback and the status of your metrics, you can decide which metrics need improvements. Due to the overload of work at the firm, we tend to skip this type of analysis in our processes. However, there are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider skipping the critical to quality analysis next time:

  1. Be capable of understanding, prioritizing, and meeting your customer's needs.
    To keep your customer happy regularly, you need to know the specifications that make up your customer's services. Using the CTQ analysis will provide you with the information to understand value, eliminate non-value-added activities, and satisfy your customer.
  2. Reduce rework
    If you are not clear on the CTQ on your process or in your customer requirements, your process will require rework. Think about how many times a contract needs to be drafted and edited because we cannot make the requirements clear. Once you’ve determined the metrics using the CTQ trees, you can spot your quality errors before the process even start, decreasing the cost of rework.
  3. Saves time If we reduce the rework, it means that we will spend less time performing the rework and less time dealing with the client on what their needs are, because we will have it clear enough from the beginning.


One key element when you are using CTQ is to develop as much data as you can. When you are trying to understand your client’s requirements, make sure you ask many questions. Also, ask the same questions differently to find different responses that hides requirement specifications. Remember, this will help to find an error early in the process that will save you money, time and that most important, it will make your client happy by meeting their expectations.