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John Nolan

Customer Care

How ISO 9001:2015 Helps Improve Customer Relationships

The standard’s customer focus benefits everyone

Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 10:08

The ultimate aim of ISO 9001:2015 is to enable businesses to satisfy their customers effectively. You could say that all the standard’s clauses help to provide your customer with a consistent and rewarding experience from your goods or services, but ISO 9001:2015 actually deals with “customer satisfaction” directly. It states that the “organization shall monitor customers’ perceptions of the degree to which their needs and expectations have been fulfilled.”

The standard goes on to list examples of how this information can be obtained, citing customer feedback and surveys, warranties, and dealer reports as examples. These can be effective ways of establishing whether the customer is satisfied with the organization, but delivering satisfaction stems from more than sending out a survey to solicit feedback. So, what within ISO 9001:2015 can we use to help build a closer relationship with, and ultimately satisfy, our customers?

What the standard says to help us improve relationships

ISO 9001:2015 is more focused on customer satisfaction as well as improving and maintaining client relationships than any previous version. In order to understand the path to improving relationships with our customers, let’s look at the specific components that provide guidance in this field, either directly or in a more subtle way.

Leadership requirements. Ensuring that business leaders take extra responsibility can only be good news for your customers. Imagine the scenario where the organizational leader takes the time, perhaps once per quarter and in addition to formal quality management system (QMS) customer-feedback solicitations, to contact the organization’s main customers and ask them how the service delivery could be improved. Not only will that provide a real opportunity for improvement, but customers will feel values, and your relationships with them will improve. For more information on leadership requirements in the standard, see the article, “How to comply with new leadership requirements in ISO 9001:2015.”

Performance evaluation. A critical part of ISO 9001:2015 deals with performance evaluation in general, with customer satisfaction specifically mentioned in one section. Evaluating, taking action, and improving the QMS will always improve the delivery of your goods or services, but you should think carefully when it comes to measuring customer satisfaction. We looked at this issue before in the article, “Handling customer satisfaction with code of conduct and complaints procedures,” which explained the importance of demonstrating your effectiveness in dealing with problems and complaints via a corrective action system. Effectively dealing with a quality problem and displaying your ability to fix it and prevent reoccurrences can often bring your customer closer to you. Likewise, ensure you solicit customer feedback regularly and in a precise format. If your customer provides feedback, show evidence of action and closure to assure them that the feedback is read, valued, and most important, acted on.

Control of external providers. Controlling the performance of your external suppliers is another key aspect of ISO 9001:2015. Simply put, the better service your organization receives, the better positioned it is to deliver improved goods and services to your customers. You can read more about this in the article, “How to control outsourced processes using ISO 9001.”

Operational control. Operational planning and control always has been, and still is, key to satisfying customers. This includes the entire production process, from planning processes, controlling design and development, managing change, and tracking and managing external supplies. Needless to say, the more effective you are at this process, the more you will satisfy your customers with a consistently excellent product. Should your customers choose to audit your business, it’s important that you can gain  their confidence by showing an effective operational control and planning process. You can read more about measuring and monitoring operational processes in the article, “Analysis of measuring and monitoring requirements in ISO 9001:2015.”

Winning customers over and keeping them

We can see that almost everything we do to satisfy the clauses of the ISO 9001:2015 standard has an effect on customers, and therefore on the relationships that we have with them. The more open, honest, and inclusive you can be with your customers, the more your relationships can flourish. Use ISO 9001:2015’s requirements as a foundation to build relationships with your customers. Engage them through formal feedback, and demonstrate that you value that feedback by driving corrective action to address any concerns customers may have. Provide consistent product and improved services through excellent operational planning and control of suppliers. Don’t wait for your customers to ask if they can audit you—be proactive and invite them to do so. Be confident and open in displaying the process controls in your organization due to your adherence to ISO 9001:2015 principles. Your organization and your relationship with customers will both benefit.


About The Author

John Nolan’s picture

John Nolan

John Nolan is a 9001Academy writer and a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom. He is Prince 2-accredited with a background in engineering, electronics, and data storage and transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a mechanical and electronic engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering quality systems and projects across many sectors in the United Kingdom, including national and local government.


ISO 2015 for BETTER Value, Performance, & Customer Experiences

We completed our audit this month upgrading from 9001:2008 to 9001:2015 and are very happy with the new QMS structure. Your evaluation of the 2015 standard is spot on and we look forward to seeing the benifits from our improved QMS processes.

SABIA is a manufacturer of cross-belt PGNAA analyzers, essentially capex industrial equipment. It is critical that our products work consistently in rough industrial enviroments and our industries are close knit so customer relationships are very improtant. Our established ISO QMS processes are instrumental for quality control and customer satisfaction.