ISO 9001:2015 – Changes to Customer Feedback


We now know the changes that have been made to ISO 9001 in its latest 2015 version and, in particular, what the new standard says about customer feedback.

The focus of the old standard was on “meeting customer requirements”.  The new standard has, we believe, gone deeper, and references “customer perception of meeting the needs and expectations“.

The dictionary definitions of “needs” and “requirements” are interchangeable, and it is difficult to understand what the International Standards Organisation were wanting to achieve by changing the words.

The word “Expectations” has been added.

Occasionally I have been known to do something for a client that they weren’t expecting.  For example, I knew that the CEO of a software company had a lathe at home and loved carving and turning wood. When a friend of mine chopped down a large cherry tree, I grabbed a thick piece from the base of the trunk and dropped it off at the client’s offices.  And another client of mine hero-worships the marketing guru Professor Malcolm McDonald, so I arranged for the three of us to meet up have a fish and chips lunch at a pub near where Malcolm lives.

In neither of the above examples were my clients “expecting” what was delivered.  Would we have been penalised for ‘off-standard’ deliveries?  I don’t know, is the honest answer.  But I hope to hell not.

But the most significant change is the “customer perception” section.  Let me tell you a little story.

A few years ago I was delivering back a customer satisfaction survey report to an engineering company that supplied the petrochemical industry.  There were 15 people in the post-survey workshop, including the operations director.  Part way through the day this gentleman was in his small breakout team and he’d become quite upset.  Included in their survey was the statement “ Your deliveries arrive when promised” with which only a few respondents had fully agreed.

It turned out that OTIF, or ‘on time and in full’ deliveries were one of the company’s key performance indicators, to the point that the operations director was paid a significant monthly bonus based on that measure.  The company’s KPI’s reported an OTIF figure for the previous 6 months that had never been lower than 90%.  However, a quick investigation that morning had unearthed the rather nasty fact that the KPI was based on despatches from the factory rather than the date the product arrived with the customer.

My client’s perception that all was well as far as on time deliveries were concerned was blown out of the water.

Under the old terms of ISO 9001 the misperception would not have been identified.  My client had the monthly OTIF figures and could clearly demonstrate to an auditor a minimum 90% attainment level.  The hope is that the new standard, which is yet to be tested, will pick up flaws like this.

We have what we consider to be a fairly comprehensive list of customer satisfaction survey questions.  And we are always delighted to add to our library to help clients to drill down in their surveys.


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