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The Importance of Existing Customers

I recently left the gym that I had been a member of for 7 ½ years.  The people that I had met over the years, other members and coaches had become like family to me. 

Stop Taking Them for Granted 

However, I think there was also an attitude of ‘being taken for granted’.  You know, "Jackie has been coming forever, we don’t need to work on keeping her happy, she’ll never leave now" type of attitude.  Well, that was wrong I’m afraid!

I have to say that it was a difficult decision and I had been thinking and processing it for several months before I made the decision to leave and move to another gym.  Well, as expected there was ‘shock and horror’ when I let people know I was leaving.  Totally unexpected from the owners and coaches.  But should it have been?

To top this off, there was an element of blame put on me as to the reason why I was leaving.  There was not an opportunity to provide feedback on why I was leaving.  I had tried to provide this feedback a couple of months before I left, however my comments were brushed aside as a fabric of my imagination.  Again, demonstrating that my long-standing membership (me as the customer) was never going to end and I didn’t need to be listened to.

Existing Customers

This whole process made me really think about how important our existing customers are and of course how this relates to a quality management system.  I really had to have a look at how we continue our relationship with our existing students to make sure we weren’t to become remiss either.  Unfortunately, it could be easy to do without realizing the importance of maintaining this connection.  After all, it is easier to keep providing solutions to your existing customers than to continually find new customers isn’t it? 

An equal amount of effort should be put in to obtaining new customers as well as maintaining our existing or past customers.  We should never assume that because they have bought from us before that they will automatically come back.

Where is this in ISO 9001?

It’s an important reminder when implementing, maintaining and improving a quality management system, to build into it processes for continuing relationships with existing customers.  I went on the hunt to see where this might fall within ISO 9001.  Of course, anywhere that the customer is mentioned it should be about the customer requirements for new or potential customers as well as existing customers.  We all might think that this is a ‘no-brainer’, however we need to ensure we consciously have this thought process in place and so do all our workers. 

The word ‘customer’ is mentioned 90 times through ISO 9001, so I thought I’d find where it all should start.  I landed on clause 4.2 Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties.  This clause states:

Due to their effect or potential effect on the organization’s ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, the organization shall determine:

  1. The interested parties that are relevant to the quality management system;
  2. The requirements of these interested parties that are relevant to the quality management system.

The organization shall monitor and review information about these interested parties and their relevant requirements.

The section that stood out to me was this – the organization shall determine the interested parties that are relevant to the quality management system.  I really like that word – relevant.  If, when we are building our quality management system, we identify our existing or past customers as a separate interested party from new customers or prospects, we can then put in place procedures to continue to engage and ensure that we are continually identifying, understanding and providing their specific requirements.  This would go a long way to assisting an organization in ensuring that existing or past customers are never forgotten.  This would ensure that they receive the special attention they deserve and are not taken for granted.

What now?

I’ll learn from this lesson for myself and my own business as well as the business’ I audit.  I’ll ‘build a bridge’ and get over my own personal experience and take-away the positives that I have learnt as well as share them with anyone that will listen.