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​How Standard Certification Can Drive New Customer Growth

04 April 2017
Many companies that are considering pursuing ISO certification debate the effectiveness of industry standards. However, years of studies have shown that ISO certification is worth it.

certification survey

In 2009, a survey of certified companies found that 98% of respondents rated their certification as either a “good investment” or an “excellent investment.” A later study in 2012 found that ISO certification delivered numerous concrete benefits to companies related to operational efficiency, employee engagement and customer satisfaction. In combination, these benefits operate to drive customer growth for businesses of all sizes and industries.

What Are the Benefits of Standardization?

Companies that benefit from ISO certification list a variety of improvements they've experienced since implementing ISO standards. These advantages include the following:

  • Promotion of Best Practices: ISO standards and associated systems lay down the framework for your company to adopt best practices recognized on an international level. Regardless of your business industry, ISO standards can help you redesign your processes and fully understand and describe them. With a better understanding and description of your systems, using business metrics to identify opportunities for employing new best practices can be easier than ever.

  • Increase Customer Satisfaction: ISO standards can help your company improve client satisfaction through a combination of complaint management, satisfaction monitoring and quality control. By managing and monitoring customer satisfaction and complaints, your business can quickly identify the expectations of your clients and the problem areas within your business processes.

Additionally, maintaining consistent product quality can help your company produce work that consistently meets your customers' expectations, both spoken and implied. In short, by employing ISO standards, you'll find your customers are making fewer complaints and your company is capable of resolving the remaining problems more quickly.

improved revenues from iso

  • Maximize Revenue: Any money you spend on getting certified, you’ll get back in significantly increased revenues. A 2015 study found that three out of five companies experienced improved revenues after achieving an ISO certification. Compared to increases in revenue among non-certified businesses, the increases experienced by certified companies were substantially higher.

Much of this increase in revenue was the result of improved customer retention due to increased satisfaction, minimized waste due to improved environmental management systems and a reduction in waste and inefficient or inconsistent processes.

  • Expand Business Horizons: Many international companies only work with certified business partners. Government organizations and their public collaborators, for example, often require one or more ISO standards as prerequisites to working with them. Additionally, international customers may not recognize some nation-specific certifications, but will usually accept ISO certifications, improving your credibility in foreign markets.

With certification in ISO standards, your company can have increased access to these new markets.

  • Engage Employees: Your internal business functions can also benefit from certification. ISO-certified companies experience better overall job satisfaction, improved motivation, reduced turnover, less absenteeism and improved communication between management and employees. ISO certification accomplishes this by bringing management and staff together to work toward a common objective of standardization. ISO certification also empowers employees by giving them clear expectations, instructions for completing their work and actionable feedback about their performance.

Regular internal and surveillance audits ensure companies and their staff continue to implement these improvements and processes throughout the year, providing a consistent work environment. In combination, these factors improve company culture and help cultivate a more productive workforce.

  • Improve Consistency: Removing or reducing variation from one product or process to the next is an essential part of maintaining customer satisfaction and reducing waste. Such consistency is a primary goal of ISO certification, as standardization helps stabilize the consistency of products and processes across an industry.

ISO certification also accomplishes this within a company by improving process control. ISO process controls include setting objectives, providing clear procedures and instructions on the process and collecting metrics to monitor successes.

Benefits affect organizations of all sizes and types, making ISO certification desirable for even small companies with few employees. However, it is important to select ISO standards that fit your business.

What Kinds of Standards Should Your Business Seek?

There is a variety of ISO certifications available, each of which can give your business a framework around which to implement improvements. Depending on the type of industry your business serves, you may seek one of the following standardizations:

ISO 9001 — Quality Management System

widely used qms

The ISO 9001 standard is an internationally recognized system for standardizing quality management systems (QMSs) across a variety of industries. With over one million certificates issued in over 170 countries, ISO 9001 is the most widely used QMS standard worldwide.

ISO 9001 provides a blueprint of principles and processes for companies to manage their organizations in a consistent manner. These practical approaches improve organizations’ supply and production standards to improve consistency and quality, thereby maximizing stakeholder satisfaction.

Almost any company in any industry can benefit from ISO 9001, and certification in ISO 9001 is a prerequisite for certification in a variety of other industry-specific standards. The value of ISO 9001 lies in its universal management principles:

  • Customer-focused organization

  • Effective leadership

  • Involvement of staff and management

  • Detailed process approaches

  • Systematic approaches to management

  • Factual approaches to decision-making

  • Symbiotic supplier relationships

  • Dedication to continuous improvement

This universally applicable focus is the reason why so many industry-specific certifications use ISO 9001 as their basis. For example, ISO 13485 includes specific requirements necessary for the medical devices industry. For all these industry-specific certifications, ISO 9001 is a logical and necessary starting point.

ISO 14001 — Environmental Management System

widely used ems

The ISO 14001:2004 standard is an internationally recognized framework for implementing environmental management systems (EMSs) within industries of all types. With over 250,000 certifications issued, ISO 14001 is the most commonly used EMS worldwide.

Organizational management of a company’s environmental impact is a matter of high priority in our increasingly environmentally-minded world. Therefore, regardless of your company's industry, creating a system of processes and procedures to address environmental concerns is crucial.

Environmental management systems set the framework for such processes, the best of which comes with ISO 14001. The standard addresses the establishment, implementation, maintenance and continuous improvement of an EMS, which can help environmentally-minded businesses accomplish the following:

  • Control your environmental aspects

  • Reduce impacts

  • Ensure legal compliance

  • Control material costs

While other EMS systems are available on the market, ISO 14001 is the most internationally recognized and respected of all EMS framework guidelines. Such credentials provide companies with a strong foundation upon which they can grow their business and market reach, while simultaneously declaring their dedication to environmental and economic sustainability.

This kind of certification is an appropriate choice for companies looking to reduce their environmental impact and show concrete evidence of doing so for the sake of their stakeholders.

OHSAS 18001/ISO 45001 — Health & Safety Management System

The OHSAS 18001 standard, soon to become ISO 45001, is also known as the International Occupational Health and Safety Management Standard. OHSAS 18001 provides guidelines for occupational health and safety (OHS), including managing risks and ensuring compliance with federal regulations. Instead of focusing on products or processes themselves, this standard primarily addresses employee interactions with the products and processes.

OHSAS 18001 certifications

Today, certifying agencies have issued over 90,000 OHSAS 18001 certifications to organizations across 127 countries. By following the guidelines set down by OHSAS 18001, businesses can achieve the following:

  • Identify and prevent workplace hazards through effective control implementation 

  • Prevent injury and disease among staff

  • Reduce downtime due to accidents

  • Ensure compliance with legislative requirements

  • Identify needs for training or proven competency

  • Improve productivity and morale

If you’re looking for a way to minimize workplace incidents and show that your company is implementing best-practice safety management, OHSAS 18001 may be the best certification for your organization.

ISO 27001 — Information Security Management System

The ISO 27001 standard provides a blueprint for companies to implement an Information Security Management System (ISMS). ISMSs enable companies to manage the accessibility, confidentiality and integrity of information by providing a systematic approach to managing sensitive company information. The management system is designed to involve people, processes and IT systems in management while also applying a practical process for managing risk.

Implementing the ISO 27001 standard is the best way for companies to respond to customer expectations and the legal requirements of the Data Protection Act and other legislation. ISMSs like those outlined by ISO 27001 are excellent ways to protect against potential security threats, including:

  • Cybercrime
  • Personal data breaches

  • Vandalism and terrorism

  • Fire and other physical damage

  • Data misuse

  • Data and physical theft

  • Viral attack

Companies can use the ISO 27001 standard by itself or in combination with other management system standards. The standard is also technology- and vendor-neutral, meaning any company can apply ISO 27001 standards to any IT platform. Therefore, any company, regardless of the IT platform they use, the size of their organisation or the industry in which they operate, can use ISO 27001 to help secure their business information.

If your organisation wants to implement best practices in your computer security, or if you want to provide evidence to your stakeholders that you are adequately protecting your business information, ISO 27001 may be the right certification for your needs.

ISO 50001 — Energy Management System

The ISO 50001 standard an international standard designed to help companies implement energy management systems. ISO 50001 provides a broad framework for enterprises to develop, deploy and improve their energy management systems so they can optimize their energy efficiency.

Certification in the ISO 50001 standard is perfect for companies that want to demonstrate their commitment to responsible energy management, especially in industries closely tied to the energy market. Energy management systems can help businesses:

  • Lead other companies by example

  • Meet legislative energy requirements

  • Cut costs associated with energy expenditures

  • Improve public and stakeholder opinion of business energy practices

ISO 50001 is an excellent choice for certification if your organization is looking to improve your energy management. By taking control of the way you use energy, your company can stand among the leaders in energy efficiency, cutting costs and showing other industry organizations that energy efficiency is an attainable and cost-effective goal for their businesses.

How Can Certification Ease the Tendering Process?

Many internationally active companies and customers turn to standardization as a way to find common ground with their partners and service providers. As an international standard, ISO serves as the best way for companies to satisfy this need for common ground. Instead of communicating why your systems meet the needs of a potential customer, your business can simply state that your company follows ISO standards, helping the bidding process go more smoothly.

Certification in ISO standards can help ease the tendering process because of the following factors:

  • Advanced Qualifications: ISO standards are extremely strict, requiring businesses to follow a variety of guidelines and practices before they can achieve certification. The more specific the certification, the more stringent the guidelines. By proving that your business follows ISO standards, you’ll tell your customer that your company meets the high-level qualifications they need to achieve quality results.

  • Signal of Trust: Businesses across the world recognize and trust ISO standards. ISO standards are used across hundreds of countries and act as a starting point for many business partnerships across international borders. By getting certified in an ISO standard, you join an elite group of trusted organisations and gain a base level of confidence from any business or customer familiar with ISO standards.

  • Systems Already in Place: Certification to ISO standards tells your clients you're already employing the best practices in the industry. When you get certified to an ISO standard, you're showing your customers that your systems are already set up to provide the best results. By employing best practices, you're guaranteeing your customer shorter turnaround times, since your business doesn't need to make any alterations to your current system before starting on a high-level project.

Because of these factors, you can start off on the right foot with your customers and get through the tendering process more quickly. With quicker tendering processes, you can take on more projects at a faster pace, improving your revenues substantially.

How Does Certification Affect Your Customers' View?

While ISO standardization can help you draw in new clients, it can also help improve your relationship with your existing base. As an international standard, most corporate customers equate ISO standardisation with quality performance, meaning ISO certification, or lack thereof, significantly affects your customers' view of your business.

When your business is not ISO/OHSAS certified, your customers may wonder why you haven't sought out certification. If you are in a highly technical field, where ISO is a standard certification, a lack of certification can severely damage your reputation and image within the field. A lack of certification may suggest your company isn't employing best practices, or that you may not even be financially stable.

Even if your customers have a good view of your business, lacking an ISO or OHSAS certification puts you at a disadvantage, especially compared to your certified competition.

When your company is ISO/OHSAS certified, you show that you’re willing to do what it takes to guarantee quality results. As globally recognized standards, ISO certifications increase your credibility with customers across the world and helps to solidify your relationships with them. If you achieve a new certification, your existing clients' faith in your business will only improve, as you've adequately demonstrated a dedication to implementing best practices in your business processes.

How Can You Achieve Certification?

If you're seeking ISO certification for your organization, NQA can help you get there.

NQA has issued over 33,000 certificates across over 70 countries, helping organizations of all sizes and industries develop better product and service quality, environmental and energy sustainability and health and safety management systems.

At NQA, our accredited certification, training and support services have helped our clients get results more quickly, regardless of the size or scope of their organization. More importantly, we make sure these results continue to improve with each passing year.

If you want to learn more about the services NQA offers or you’d like to consult with us about achieving your ISO certification, please contact us today.