Customer Focus of ISO 9001:2015
Customer Focus of ISO 9001:2015 – Identifying requirements to establish and improve system, processes, products and services that ensure customer satisfaction!
One of the essential component in ISO 9001:2008 was to enhance customer satisfaction, to retain old customers and to attract more (Customer Focus, 5.2). In the current International Standard (9001:2015), Customer Focus (5.1.2) is the top most item in 7 Quality Management Principles (QMP) we will be using to create a core base for our business. Like, ISO 9001:2008, an organization is again responsible to make commitment for building a strong relationship and trust with customers.
Case of ISO 9001:2008
Clause 5 (5.1 Management Commitment) in ISO 9001:2008 prescribed requirements for the top management to demonstrate commitment to developing, implementing, and continually improving the effectiveness of the quality management system. One of the essential component was to enhance customer satisfaction, to retain old customers and to attract more (Customer Focus, 5.2). In order to develop further on this subject, the standard provided model requirements (Customer-related processes, 7.2), including: determination of requirements related to product (7.2.1), review of requirements related to product (7.2.2), and customer communication (7.2.3). In order to build the trust, requirements were laid out to identify, verify, protect, and safeguard customer property (7.5.4).
Although, requirements to continue improvement and for obtaining customer feedback were embedded as an input for the management review (5.6.2), the International Standard, 9001:2008, provided links to additional processes – to collect and analyse customer satisfaction data (Customer satisfaction, 8.2.1).
Case of ISO 9001:2015
In the current International Standard (9001:2015), Customer Focus (5.1.2) is the top most item in 7 Quality Management Principles (QMP) we will be using to create a core base for our business. Like, ISO 9001:2008, an organization is again responsible to make commitment for building a strong relationship and trust with customers. In this context, the Standard highlights the potential benefits (to an organization) of implementing a quality management system, including: the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements (0.1,a) and facilitating opportunities to enhance customer satisfaction (0.1,b).
International Standard refers to the “Process Approach Principle” and advocates its adoption when developing, implementing and improving the effectiveness of a quality management system. Obviously, this is to enhance customer satisfaction by meeting customer requirements. Guidance on establishing a ‘Customer Focused’ or ‘Customer Centered’ quality management system is available in the International Standard and some discussion is provided in this article.
How to bring ‘Customer Focus’ in the Focus?
The core activity for establishing a strong quality management system, as described in ISO 9001:2015, i.e. customer focus starts with the “PLAN” phase of the well-known PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle. The Standard requires an organization “to establish the objectives of the system and its processes, and the resources needed to deliver results in accordance with customers’ requirements and the organization’s policies, and to identify and address risks and opportunities.” The message is clear – work, work and more work.
Integrating ‘Process Approach’ with ‘Customer Focus’
I wrote in the beginning that the International Standard 9001:2015 promotes its objectives by selecting ‘Customer Focus’ as the number one principle and providing precise requirements to reap the benefits of a (well established) quality management system. The formula is:
- to create ability to enhance and maintain customer satisfaction through effective application of the quality management system throughout the organization, and
- to identify and address risks and opportunities
The “Process Approach Principle” of the International Standard serves many purposes including visibility of an organization’s functions. The most important is the identification of the key processes, their relationship (dependencies) and connections. This is not simply to determine: What’s happening? Where it’s happening? …This is to understand process layers and stages that should work cohesively, in an orderly fashion and in sync with the customer requirements. The mapped processes should be existing in reality (data integrity, honesty), understood well by their owners (responsibility identified), maintained in a state of control (risk identified, assessed, and managed), function well within the acceptable limits (meeting customer/regulatory/legislative/regional requirements) and consistently at all the times (robust).
Identifying ‘Risks’ and ‘Opportunities’
Identifying risks at the right time help an organization save time and resources. The team responsible to determine the level of risk and making decision for its acceptability or treatment should be of diverse composition and competent with sufficient knowledge, skills and ability (KSA) for making the best possible decisions to meet customer expectations and deliver satisfactory products and services.
Opportunities are best determined through an assessment of the customer satisfaction data and via past experience. Treating complaints as opportunities improves the overall quality management system. When customer’s concerns are identified correctly and shared throughout the organization it helps promote excellence in performance.
There are several stages to demonstrate awareness of customer needs in an organizational setting. These may include:
- Establishing clear objectives and a strong leadership base in the organization which can lead to “Quality in Practice”
- Establishing organization wide commitment for improvement in customer satisfaction and “Quest for Quality System”
- Establishing procedures to determine customer needs and translating into work instructions
- Establishing controls to consistently meet customer needs and for providing “state of art” service
- Identifying process owners, establishing roles and responsibilities and correct performance measures
- Communicating customer requirements throughout the organization and on time
- Validating the system, processes and controls – revalidating if necessary
- Establishing procedures to engage people, monitor team functions, performance and success
- Establishing procedures to meet customer expectations for products and service delivery including those for returns, replacement and compensation
- Establishing procedures to collect, analyse, and determine the level of customer satisfaction
- Establishing procedures to handle complaints, taking timely corrective, preventive actions and communicating back to customers if necessary
Where to start?
An organization should be able to answer a few key questions at each stage in design, manufacture, delivery and service of their products, for example:
- Do we really understand what the customer wants?
- Are we able to do the job on time and as required?
- Are we able to offer additional benefits to our existing customers?
- Are we able to introduce technical advancement and develop ability necessary to satisfy customers?
- Are we able to meet customer demand for new features or facilities of product and services?
- Are we able to identify correctly the risks and act on opportunities promptly?
- Are we committed to take corrective actions on time and plan for the preventive?
The first step to establish and improve system, processes, products and services that ensure customer satisfaction starts with the ‘leadership’ and ‘commitment’ – this is the message that has been explicitly delivered in the International Standard 9001:2015.Author: Anjum Shafi
Quality Auditor, Exemplar Global