Auditing Customer Feedback Processes

Customer feedback is a process. It needs to be audited as a process, not as a “clause of the standard”. An evaluation also needs to be performed on the way in which the process is managed (see ISO 9001:2008 clause 8.2.1), and its ability to provide meaningful information with which to judge the overall effectiveness of the QMS. The way in which the organization obtains this feedback (“the method”) is up to the organization to define. The standard states “Monitor information relating to customer perception.” Sources can include surveys, customer data, compliments…

The auditor needs to be aware of the specific characteristics of the organization’s products that are likely to impact customer satisfaction. Throughout the audit the auditor should be alert for indications that may suggest customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction which could serve as input into the audit of the customer feedback process.

Sources of information can include:

* Goods returned by the customer;
* Warranty claims;
* Revised invoices;
* Direct observation of, or communication with the customer (for example in a service organization).

These are some of the issues an auditor should address during an audit of the customer feedback process:

a) What is the desired output of this process? What information is actually available on customer perceptions? How is this information used by management to drive improvements to the product, processes and the QMS?

b) How is the data collected to feed the process? There are many ways for an organization to monitor its customers’ perceptions, and the auditor should avoid preconceived ideas about how this should be done. Some examples of techniques the organization can use include:

* face-to-face visits and evaluations;
* telephone calls or visits made periodically or after delivery of products and services;
* internal enquiries among the organization’s personnel who are in contact with customers;
* other contacts with customers, for example by service or installation personnel.

c) How is the data analyzed? Simply collecting data on customer perceptions is not sufficient – the auditor must follow the process through, to check how the data is analyzed and what conclusions are made with respect to the effectiveness of the QMS.

1) Are there any trends? 2) Is the situation stable, improving, or deteriorating? 3) Are customer needs and expectations changing? Asking the organization about industry comparisons, or benchmarking activities, in order to put customer feedback into perspective can be extremely valuable.

d) How does the information generated by this process feedback into the QMS as a whole? Organizations should be using the results of the customer feedback process to trigger corrective and/or preventive actions and as one of the overall measures of the QMS performance. Auditors should review the way in which these processes interact and subject it to the audit process.

The auditor should be able to recognize that the output from the customer feedback process forms an important input into other QMS process, such as data analysis, management review and continual improvement processes. An auditor who strives to add value will try to ensure that the organization recognizes the benefits a sound customer feedback process.

Share your thoughts / methods on how your company monitors and audits customer feedback.

One Response to “Auditing Customer Feedback Processes”

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