Henry Ford once said “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” On this World Quality Day, Henry Ford’s quote resonates more than ever. Increasingly we are seeing that customer expectations around quality are starting to include factors such as ethical sourcing, sustainability, and other Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations. Whether it be people who buy products free from palm oil, avoid fast fashion, or choose to supplement their power with renewable energy sources, their definition of a quality product or service is changing.
The ISO 9000 family of quality management standards help organisations ensure they meet customer and other stakeholder needs (both stated and unstated) within the statutory and regulatory framework related to a product or service. It focuses on seven quality management principles, one of which is Customer Focus where “organisations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, should meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations.”
Implementing a quality management system such as the one outlined in ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems – requirements lets an organisation assess the overall context of their business to define who is affected by their work and what these people’s expectations are. This allows a business to define its objectives and identify new business opportunities.
ISO 9001:2015 does not specify what an organisation’s objectives relating to quality or meeting customer expectations should be. It requires the organisation to define these objectives themselves and continually improve its processes to reach them.
Additionally, clause 9.1.2 Customer Satisfaction requires organisations to monitor its customers’ perceptions to determine whether needs and expectations have been met. This can be done by continually monitoring how an organisation meets the requirements and expectations of their customers. Whilst it doesn’t stipulate a specific methodology, this clause aims to ensure organisations develop a systematic approach to measuring customer perceptions via surveys, questionnaires, analysing past complaints, focus groups, or direct communication with customers.
We can see clause 9.1.2 in action with recent examples reflecting ESG considerations including movement from single-use plastics, renaming of products whose original names are culturally insensitive, increased diversity and inclusion in marketing, and improvements in responsible sourcing programs to gain better oversight into social and labour conditions involved in an organisation’s supply chain. Companies that choose not to respond to customer feedback around these issues may find their products and services are perceived as unethical or environmentally damaging and subsequently boycotted.
A quality management system puts customers first, making sure they are satisfied and that their needs are consistently met. This leads to repeat business, word-of-mouth recommendations, enhanced reputation, and increased market share for the organisation. Additionally, ISO 9001 certainly doesn’t replace the Environmental Management Systems standard, ISO 14001, however as customer needs and expectations are increasingly considering ESG credentials and performance, we are seeing more and more overlap between the two.
Finally, a quality management system allows an organisation to work more efficiently as all processes are aligned and understood, increasing productivity and bringing internal costs down. It can also help an organisation expand into new markets with some stakeholders requiring certification to an internationally-recognised standard. It can additionally help an organisation to meet statutory and regulatory requirements, and help to identify and address the risks associated with the organisation.
If you are interested in finding out more about ISO 9001, enrol in any of our Quality Management Systems courses today!