An understanding of customers’ needs and expectations is critical to the success of any organisation. Even charities and not-for-profit organisations need to satisfy their customers if they are to receive the funding that keeps them going. Given this, one might think that the clause in ISO 9001 on customer focus would be more than just one sentence. However, the need to meet customer requirements is either implied or explicitly stated in many clauses throughout the standard, not just this one.

5 Management Responsibility

5.2 Customer Focus

What Does ISO 9001 Say?

ISO 9001 has the following to say about customer focus.

Top management shall ensure that customer requirements are determined and are met with the aim of enhancing customer satisfaction.


Profitability comes from satisfying customers (as long as the costs do not exceed the revenue). If people where to ask themselves before making a decision “What does the customer need” or “How will this decision affect our customers” then the organisation will move its focus towards customer satisfaction.


In ISO 9001 customers are not just the people or the organisations paying your invoice, they are also those who will use your product or service.

ISO 9000, which covers the basic concepts and language of quality management systems, defines a requirement as a need or expectation that is stated, customarily implied or obligatory. Hence, when you see the term customer requirement you need to think in these terms.

The clause does not say that customer requirements are limited to those stated in an order or contract (reactive). Hence you need to be proactive and search for customer requirements before even designing your products and services. Additionally, your customer’s requirements may be broader than just the product or service you provide. Think about it in terms of products, price, delivery, communication, service, support, and more.

This clause also implies that you are aiming for customer satisfaction which may be difficult to achieve if your interpretation of customer requirements is off the mark. It does not mean, however, that you must satisfy customer requirements no matter what their demands. Let’s face it, some customers are difficult and you may choose not to supply them at all.

Top management always means senior management and this clause tells us that it is their responsibility to ensure that your organisation knows what its customers need, expect and what you are obliged to supply.

How is this Demonstrated?

Clause 5.2 does not require a ‘documented’ procedure. However, the external auditors may want to know how you identify current and future customer needs and expectations and how you identify obligatory requirements such as the need for a baby’s safety seat to comply with the Australian Standard. They may also want to know who is responsible for this and audit that part of the business accordingly. This is most likely a function of the marketing or sales people.

The types of information that would demonstrate that you have met the requirements of this clause includes, but is not limited to:

  • Marketing plans
  • Sales procedure
  • List of customer requirements
  • Results of market research
  • Surveys of end users
  • Customer profiling
  • Design briefs that translate research findings into the performance, physical and functional characteristics of a product or service
  • Trade press reports
  • Independent reviews.

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