ISO 9001 - Full of Eastern Promise

Today begins a new series of articles in which I’m going to highlight some of the actions that organisations can take to meet the requirements of the ISO 9001:2015 international standard and its customer-related processes. Then I’ll provide the evidence of these being met from my own personal experiences. Importantly, though, for you as an SQMC Insight Column reader, I’ll be doing so with my “auditor’s hat” on (albeit slightly tipped back, since I was on holiday!).


"I do so like it when I approach a desk and the person looks up and gives me eye contact and smiles!"


Behind ISO 9001:2015 sits Management Principle No 1 – Customer Focus: the primary focus of quality management is to meet customer requirements and to strive to exceed customer expectations.

In Hungary’s capital, Budapest, you’ll find two excellent examples of organisations meeting this principle, conforming with the requirements of the specific clauses appropriate to customer-related processes. I experienced them myself, whilst taking a recent break from my duties as SQMC’s QA Manager, and international management systems consultancy, training and auditing.


The rationale behind the principle is…

...for an organisation to achieve sustained success by attracting and retaining the confidence of its customers and other interested parties. Every aspect of customer interaction provides an opportunity to create more value for the customer. Understanding current and future needs of customers and other interested parties contributes to sustained success of organisations.


Case study 1: the hotel

The first organisation to excel at achieving this is the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel in the centre of Budapest. From the moment my taxi drew up onto the forecourt of the hotel, the whole customer-focused Sofitel machine swung into action – with one concierge opening the taxi door and assisting me out of the car (as I walk with the aid of a walking stick), and another concierge removed my suitcase from the boot of the taxi and brought it into the foyer of the hotel.

I do so like it when I approach a desk and the person looks up and gives me eye contact and smiles! All I had to do was give me name and present my passport – I didn’t have to give all my details over again or complete forms – I was expected.


ISO 9001:2015 pointer: understand customers’ current and future needs and expectations

So how did Sofitel do this? I am a regular visitor to Budapest, and this was my third visit to the Sofitel Chain Bridge. After each visit I receive an email asking me how my stay was, and also many times throughout my stay I’m asked how things are and what can be done to improve my stay. In 2015 I replied to their email that it was “fine… not as good as 2014, but nothing to cause great concern.”

Well, I was wrong – it caused them great concern! Immediately on the case was Bálint Huszár who started a dialogue with me about my stay, and the differences (no matter how minute) between my last two visits. We exchanged a friendly and interesting series of emails where I described the differences and provided my evidence. This gentleman was interested in how the slight changes in staff behaviour made me feel.

I described being called “Miss MacKenzie” several times when in fact I am Mrs MacKenzie. That is not just an inaccuracy or carelessness; it’s my name – my title. Symbolic of who I am, and albeit I’m now a widow, I am still entitled to be called “Mrs”.

After we discussed all these little things I hadn’t experienced the year before, I was thanked and received apologies and regret that my latest stay had not excelled nor even equalled my previous visit. However…


Corrective ACTION

When I walked the few steps to the reception desk, I met a smiling receptionist who concentrated solely on me with the greatest courtesy and friendliness, treating me as if I was the only guest in the world at that moment and joyfully informed me that I had been upgraded to a deluxe room with a view of the Danube for my stay! A guest relations envoy met me and took me to my room discussing all that Sofitel had to offer for my convenience and showed me how everything worked in my room, drawing my attention to a floral tribute and note that had been brought along by a friend of mine.

After they left I stared out the window at one of the most fantastic views in Budapest and thought: “well done Sofitel!” But it didn’t end there. I soon found another note of welcome to me from Bálint Huszár.

Everything in the room was perfect, as it always is in the Sofitel. And what a week I had – I felt like Sofitel was my home: I only had to ask and it was done. The politeness and kindness of staff at all times, no matter the request, was second to none. Their overall friendliness and willingness to go the extra mile to help me was so appreciated. Needs and expectations identified, met and exceeded.


The appliance of the science

If you research the information written pertaining to the management principles you will find listed key benefits that ensue from engaging and complying with their ethos. For example:

  • Increased customer value
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved customer loyalty
  • Enhanced repeat business
  • Enhanced reputation of the organisation
  • Expanded customer base
  • Increased revenue and market share

I’m already planning to go back there next year, happy to spend time (and money) in their hotel as it is such a comfortable place to be. And since this article is appearing on the web to be read by many, Sofitel have certainly carried out all the actions to achieve these key benefits, above.

Of course, behind the experience lies good management, resourcing, training and all the other things we expect within a well-run quality management system.

Thank you Sofitel Chain Bridge, and thank you for reading. Please check out my second case study, next week, which carries on my Hungarian experience with a look at arguably one of Europe’s most innovative tour guide operators...