ISO 9001 Customer Satisfaction and Feedback
ISO 9001 customer satisfaction is another core ISO 9001 principle and references to customer satisfaction can be found throughout the entire ISO 9001 standard. If we were to summarize the entire ISO 9001 standard into one fundamental element, it would have to be Customer Satisfaction.
And while satisfying customers means that we need to meet customer requirements with our products and services, we also need to go a step further to ensure that we satisfy customer expectations. This means that we may need to put forth some effort to determine and understand what those customer expectations are which is usually accomplished when determining requirements for products and services, or during product development activities.
Let’s take a closer look at ISO 9001 customer satisfaction, feedback, and complaints which encompass several parts of the ISO 9001 standard, including:
- 2.1c – Customer Communications (obtaining feedback)
- 1.2 – Customer Satisfaction
ISO 9001 requires the solicitation and receipt of feedback from customers concerning products and services. This means establishing processes for receipt and management of passive or unsolicited feedback along with proactive actions to solicit feedback from customers and other key stakeholders.
Customer feedback can be positive in nature indicating that customers are satisfied with products and services. Positive feedback should always be considered, but often doesn’t require any additional evaluation or customer communication. Feedback can also be negative indicating dissatisfaction with products or services, or other key aspects of the organization, and is usually received in the form of a customer complaint. We discuss complaint handling activities later in this article.
All feedback, whether positive or negative should be captured, analyzed, and evaluated to determine possible product or service issues, and where warranted, take action to resolve the issue. Customer complaints should be taken seriously and evaluated for needed formal investigations and corrective actions. Action taken should also include, where applicable, direct communication with the customer concerning any action taken to resolve the issue. Communication should come from appropriate personnel and in most cases should be documented.
Feedback can be obtained in numerous ways such as surveys (paper or electronic), after sale follow-up communication (phone, email, etc.), face-to-face meetings, service calls, comments posted in public forums or blogs, market analysis, etc. Determine the best opportunities for your organization to solicit and obtain feedback and adjust your tactics as needed to get the best results. Consider using new online survey tools or social media applications to simplify the process for customers.
You might consider capturing your feedback into various categories or buckets to better track and analysis feedback results. The first categories might simply split feedback into either positive and negative. You might also consider separating feedback into information about products and services, and those of a more administrative nature (orders, shipments, pricing, etc.). Whatever categories you choose, make sure that they make sense and provide value to your organization.
While all feedback should be reviewed and considered, customer complaints represent nonconformities and must be evaluated and addressed. When a decision is made to not investigate a customer complaint, the reason or justification for this decision should be documented. Most ISO 9001 organizations have an established process for receiving and evaluating the nature, severity, and risk associated with a customer complaint. When further investigation or corrective action are warranted, it is generally completed use your Nonconformity and Corrective Action process, which we will discuss in an upcoming article.
Your complaint process should include any necessary communication activities with the customer to gain additional information about the issue and/or provide a solution that satisfies the customer when possible. ISO 9001-8.2.1 defines the requirements for customer communication activities.
Using feedback and other sources of information, you are required to determine your customer’s perception of how well you are meeting their needs and expectations. The key word here is ‘perception’ as perceptions may not be easily derived from tangible information such as survey responses or market data. Perception can be defined as “A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something” and ISO 9001 requires you to best determine how customers are “regarding and interpreting” how well your products or services satisfy their needs (requirements). Another key word from this clause is “expectations”. You are also required to determine your customer’s expectations which can be different to and extend beyond the stated requirements or specifications. Expectations can be unstated or unwritten, and fully understanding them may require you to read between the lines and make assumptions.
As you receive information about your customer’s perceptions concerning products, services, and your organization, analyze and evaluate this information to determine how well you are actually meeting customer needs and expectations. Where you fail to meet these requirements, initiate improvement activities or corrective actions to address the issue. Note that ISO 9001-9.1.3 (Analysis and Evaluation) specifically requires assessment of “the degree of customer satisfaction”. One of the management review inputs (clause 9.3.2) is customer satisfaction and feedback, so be sure to provide appropriate data and information into these two processes.
Summary – ISO 9001 Customer Satisfaction
ISO 9001 customer satisfaction, feedback, and complaints are all interrelated elements of an effective management system which need to be give appropriate attention and resources. These actions all relate back to the core ISO 900l leadership and commitment clause of Customer Focus (ISO 9001:2015 – 5.1.2). Be sure to adequately assess each customer feedback and complaint and where needed, take appropriate action to address the issue (corrective action) and communicate your intentions back to the customer. Don’t forget to document your actions and results, and analyze customer and complaint data to identify trends and feed critical data into the management review process.