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    How does ISO 9001 help maintain service levels?


    ISO 9001 is the international standard that sets out the criteria for a QMS (Quality Management System) that allows organizations of any size to deliver a product that is of good quality, and consistent. It is widely accepted in the global business community that implementing ISO 9001 can bring an organization many benefits, and we examined some of them in the article Six key benefits of ISO 9001 implementation. But, long after your QMS is established, your customers will still be expecting your products and services to have the same quality and consistency as they did at the start. So, are there any parts of the ISO 9001 standard that will help an organization to ensure that this indeed can be delivered?

    ISO 9001:2015 – Can it help maintain service levels?

    ISO 9001 is based on a number of quality management principles, such as customer focus, management involvement, continual improvement, definition of organizational context, and the delivery of continual improvement. All of these components have important parts to play in a QMS, but when product quality over a longer period needs to be achieved, what parts of the standard should we pay particular attention to? Let’s consider them and analyze just how they can help:

    • Documented information: ISO 9001:2015 is less prescriptive regarding the documentation that an organization needs to keep, as we examined in the article New approach to document and record control in ISO 9001:2015; however, process maps and statements of work can help ensure that vital details of an organization’s processes are maintained, and can assist greatly with training of new and existing staff. This can be critical in maintaining levels of service.
    • Control of service provision and changes: This clause can ensure that your organization can keep its processes consistent and that any changes can be effectively implemented with the minimum of effect to the service or product quality.
    • Competence and awareness: This is another critical factor in maintaining service or product consistency. Ensuring your employees have the knowledge, awareness and information of all new and existing requirements can go a long way towards consistent service delivery. Competence and awareness can come in many forms, from ensuring your staff have knowledge of changing objectives or requirements to ensuring basic training is undertaken and refreshed, but managing this element correctly is critical for a positive outcome.
    • Internal audit: This is a vital part of any ISO 9001-certified QMS. Ensuring your internal audits are relevant and accurate, and that corrective action is decisive and effective can play a huge part in ensuring your internal processes remain effective. The article Five main steps in ISO 9001 internal audit can provide more guidance with this element.
    • Customer satisfaction: This is perhaps the most accurate reflection of the service your organization provides – the opinion of your customers. Ensure this opinion is sought regularly and impartially, review the output, and take action accordingly – ensuring you align your customers’ expectations to your service delivery is the true indicator of whether your organization fails or succeeds.

    So, we can see there are several parts of the ISO 9001:2015 standard that can help us align our service delivery with our customer expectations, and likewise there are several elements of the individual clauses that can help ensure that your organization can deliver a consistent quality of product. But, is there anything else we need to consider?

    Building quality into your product

    Using the tips above to help your service delivery is important, and this and other actions can help you build a culture of quality in your organization. This includes the regular involvement of your management and leadership team, and the cooperation and input of your team alike. Continual review of and focus on your objectives can help reinforce the importance of quality and consistency, and keep it foremost in the minds of those who do the most to deliver it – your employees. Your organization and quality team can have short- and long-term goals – to produce a quality product or service and, in the longer term, to build a culture of quality. When the outputs from these two goals merge into one in the future, ISO 9001 will have helped you to deliver the desired outcome for both your organization and its clients.

    Why not use our free  ISO 9001:2015 Foundations course to improve your knowledge of the standard?

    Advisera John Nolan
    Author
    John Nolan
    John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and 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 UK, including both national and local government.