Monday, March 8, 2010

ISO Stuff: Customer Focus

In this series I will talk about sections of the ISO 9001 standard that I have seen organizations struggle with.

This week's topic. Customer Focus.

Customer Focus is one of those "Mom & Apple Pie" requirements in the ISO 9001 standard. The requirement states "Top management shall ensure that customer requirements are determined and are met with the aim of enhancing customer satisfaction." It was added to the 2000 revision of the standard to increase the emphasis placed on meeting customer needs and improving customer satisfaction. While these have always been interpreted as requirements, they were not previously explicitly stated. There's little action mandated directly by this requirement, but Customer Focus is connected directly to two other clauses of the standard that do require specific action. Customer related processes, which describes our obligations around understanding customer product and service requirements, whether explicitly stated, implied, or assumed; and Monitoring & Measurement of Customer Satisfaction, which, as the title gives away, requires that we determine a method of measuring customer satisfaction with our products and/or services. Take these three requirements together and what we have is a system that says that we must figure out what customers want, whether they tell us directly or not, meet those needs, measure how satisfied they are with our efforts and that Top Management needs to care about all of that and use the information to spread the voice of the customer throughout the company.

Ok, so how do we show that we meet this requirement? This set of requirements mean that we need to get closer to our customers, ask the right questions, listen intently to what they tell us, and what they don't tell us. Bring back that information and spread it around. Communicate it often and widely. The Voice of the Customer (VOC) needs to inform how we produce products and deliver services, how we design new products and services. We need to establish measurements that tell us how we are doing and how satisfied our customers are with our efforts. Probably the easiest and most straightforward way to measure this is some measurement of customer complaints although extrapolating inferences from customer complaints to all customers is fraught with difficulty. First is the fact that most customers who experience an issue don't complain. Those that do complain fit a demographic group that you may not want to assume all customers are in. Measuring complaints is a good first step but a better way would be to measure customer satisfaction. There are a number of ways to do this from home made surveys to passive collection of supplier scorecards that customers may provide. The easiest way to show that we are addressing this requirement is to show improving satisfaction, and evidence of incorporation of information derived from customer feedback into products or services.


ISO 9001 certification said...

I agree with this but not for all companies, there are many companies proven "We are Best". Thanks for sharing. More information ISO 9001 standards

Joshua said...

I personally think that nowadays, there are a lot of way to do research about the "pulse" of the customers. Surveys, feedback forms, and the like could be utilized for gaining vital information to gauge for customer focus. Now with ISO certification 9001 standard emphasizing the customers' side, any business can now strive more to provide a higher level of quality on the products/services they serve. Meeting the markets' expectation is indeed one of the requirements for getting an ISO registration.