In this article, I’m going to cover clause 5.1.2 Customer Focus. I’m going to break this clause down and turn it into something you can all understand. You’ll then be able to apply this to your own organization's system and understand what the requirements will look like for you. No more guessing!
The interesting point about Clause 5.1.2 Customer Focus is that it falls under Leadership and Commitment. This means that customer focus is the responsibility of top management. It’s not something that can be fobbed off at an operations level. Top management is required to demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to customer focus and then it can trickle down to an operations level.
Before I move forward too much further, I’d better remind you who top management is. The official definition for top management is "the person or group of people who directs and controls an organization at the highest level. I always say that top management are the decision makers". Depending on the structure and size of the business, top management could be the owners, shareholders, board of directors, general manager, or even a project manager if the scope of the system is down to a project level only.
Now, in this clause, the first section states that ...
Top Management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to customer focus by ensuring that
a) customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements are determined, understood and consistently met.
This shows that the process for identifying, or as they say in the standard ‘determining’ what statutory and regulatory requirements are applicable to the product or service you deliver is the responsibility of top management. They need to own the process of identifying what these requirements are, understanding what this means, and ensuring that these requirements are met or complied with by the business. Now, I understand that not all top management will have the knowledge to actually do this task. This is a task that could be outsourced to someone that is experienced in this area and if this is the case it still means that Top Management needs to be involved in the process. The buck stops with them.
Then we move on to the next point which states that ...
b) the risks and opportunities that can affect conformity of products and services and the ability to enhance customer satisfaction are determined and addressed.
This is risk management. And again, take note that this is the top management's responsibility to take leadership in this risk management process. It is a requirement for the business to identify what the risks and opportunities are to their customers when it comes to the products and services they deliver. It’s not just about identifying these risks and opportunities – it also states that they need to be addressed. So what actions are being implemented to manage the risks identified and what actions are being implemented to make the most of the opportunities identified?
Normally you would see some type of risk register for this or even a completed SWOT Analysis. Be sure to check the video out on ATOL.tv if you need a reminder on how a SWOT is a great tool to use for your quality management system. The tricky thing about this requirement is that the clause doesn’t actually state that documented information is required to be maintained. So, as auditors, we couldn’t write up a nonconformance for not having documented information on the risks and opportunities identified – well not against this clause anyway.
And the last point states ...
c) the on enhancing customer satisfaction is maintained.
I love that word – enhancing. See, it’s not just about plain old just meeting customer requirements, let’s enhance their satisfaction. Let’s ensure that our customers are more than happy. This may seem like a no-brainer but believe me, there are some top managers out there that are in it for themselves and not the customer. I’ve experienced this firsthand as a manager of a customer service team and having a boss (the owner) really not put his customers first. Of course, I was in the firing line as I had to deliver the message to our customers. I certainly learned how not to do business when I worked there.
In saying this I mostly see some great systems out there where the business is committed to ‘delighting’ their customers and they take great pride in this.
This is the key focus for ISO 9001, for quality. This standard is all about the customer and the product or service that you are delivering. This clause then is the key to achieving this especially as it sits under Leadership and Commitment in the Standard.
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