By Michael Shabaka, Ph.D., Director of Sales & Innovation for Manex

I am a firm believer in the adage the customer is always right. In today’s increasingly competitive environment, it is more important than ever to be certain you are always meeting your customers’ needs AND that they have positive perceptions of your company. Why is ISO important?

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards. ISO was founded in 1947, and since then has published 23751 international standards covering most aspects of technology and business.

What is ISO? Why is ISO important?

ISO 9001 is one of the most common recognizable of the standards, and is an international standard dedicated to Quality Management Systems (QMS). ISO 9001 creates a step-by-step plan for continuous improvement and is considered an effective system for Lean methodologies and for deploying and measuring a holistic lean pedagogy. ISO 9001:2015 focuses on quality and how to manage and mitigate risks, while providing tools for organizations with goals to provide products and services that consistently meet the requirements and expectations of customers.

Although ISO 9001 is a quality and risk management system, the 9001:2015 ISO standard goes much, much further. The 9001:2015 ISO standard takes a holistic approach to a company’s operations and when deployed correctly, impacts all aspects of an organization. For example, there is an entire section and multiple clauses within the ISO 9001:2015 standard that address customer perceptions and satisfaction. Your customer is the center of your business and their experience and impression(s) are drivers for how they will make their buying decisions, and what products you will manufacturer.

How can ISO help track customer perceptions?

Your customers’ perception should not be a mystery. Customer perception provides a stream of valuable consumer insights that can lead to increased sales, new product development and most importantly, customer loyalty. ISO 9001:2015 clause 9.1.2, requires that any company that is ISO 9001:2015 certified must monitor customer perceptions of the degree to which their needs and expectations have been fulfilled; determine the methods for obtaining, monitoring, and using this information. And clause 9.3.2.c.1 requires that top management review customer satisfaction as part of the overall QMS review. The management review should include representation from top management, functional managers, facility managers, line managers, process owners, process users and action owners.

It is important to remember the customer feedback process has important links and interfaces between other management systems and processes such as customer communication, design and development validation, design and development changes and process validation.

There are other ways why ISO is important in determining customer satisfaction. If you look closely at ISO 9001:2015, there are several other clauses throughout the standard that address customer satisfaction and perception. For example, clause 5.1.2 requires that the focus on enhancing customer satisfaction is maintained. While clause 8.2.1.c requires an organization to have communication with customers to obtain feedback relating to products and services, including complaints.

How your customers perceive your organization is not only the responsibility of your marketing, sales, and business development teams, but also top management. As mentioned above, clause 9.3.2c.1, clearly states top management has a responsibility to address customer perception and it is also top management’s responsibility to review customer satisfaction because your customer is a part of the overall QMS review. This is important because the management review process requires top management to periodically review the QMS to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness while addressing the possible need for changes to quality policy, objectives, targets and other elements of the QMS.

ISO 9001 is no longer the “document what you do and do what you document system.”

ISO 9001:2015 is a holistic quality and risk-based management system that can provide a framework for your company to be successful.

Clearly, the customer is always right, and your customers’ perceptions matter. During an external ISO audit, you may be required to demonstrate this activity and the auditor could generate an ISO major or minor non-conformance if you fail to demonstrate how you track and address customer perceptions.

To learn more about ISO and how it can help your company, contact Michael Shabaka at mshabaka@manexconsulting.com.

About the Author

Michael Shabaka, Ph.D., is the Director of Sales and Innovation Excellence for Manex. He has over 20 years of business development, sales and marketing experience, spanning several industries including biotech, high tech, publishing, environmental lab services, and the non-profit sector. Dr. Shabaka holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior with a concentration in Transformative Learning and Change from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. He also holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Finance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs from Holy Names College, Oakland. He can be reached at mshabaka@manexconsulting.com.