The British Standards Institute (BSI) has just launched a standard addressing customer satisfaction, quoting research it commissioned to support the launch suggesting that the great British public is less than happy with much of the service they receive. 

But will a new standard help?

Research commissioned by the BSI suggests that:

  1. Two thirds (64%) of us believe that customer service in the UK is getting worse.
  2. 72% of customers moved to a competitor after receiving poor service. 

Nothing surprising there then.

And the BSI’s suggestion for addressing this malaise? Develop a customer satisfaction code of conduct setting out

… “promises and related provisions that address such issues as product delivery, product returns, handling of personal information of customers, advertising and stipulations concerning particular attributes of a product or its performance”. 

For the princely sum of £102 per copy, BS ISO 10001:2007 sets out the standards you should follow for setting up codes of conduct for customer care. 

The BSI obviously believes fervently in customer satisfaction – it has at least five different standards telling organisations how to build processes and management systems to ensure organisations deliver it. 

BSI 1001 is just another variant of a familiar theme for the BSI: in the 1960s, it introduced BS5750, the granddaddy of standards for quality management systems. That morphed into ISO9001, which itself is 20 years old. So my question is this: why, after 40 years of standards for quality management is the British public still less than impressed with the service they receive?

I suspect that if UK plc had put as much effort into understanding and meeting customer needs as it has into conforming to standards, we might all be happier with the service we receive. 

There is only one arbiter of service standards and it is not the BSI – it’s you and me – aka Joe Public. Marks and Spencer had all the requisite standards (they have featured in BSI case studies) but that didn’t stop short sighted and ‘we know best’ managers from losing touch with their customers. 

It took years and three CEO changes to get its reputation for quality and value back. Its salutary experience shows that the ticks in boxes an organisation really needs are the ones given by customers.  

So save your money and just follow this simple quality management system:

  • Hire talented people that like people (starting with your senior managers) then get them to talk to customers and staff as often as and in as many ways as possible.
  • Listen to the customer every day, using any and every route open to you.
  • Deliver what you promise to both customers and staff, even if it means breaking the rules from time to time.
  • Never stint in praising good service.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  • Recognise the difference between mistakes and failure and act accordingly.
  • And don’t forget to sell for more than you buy!

If you want to deliver standard satisfaction, follow the standards but if you want to deliver service that delivers results, follow the customer!

David Jackson is the Managing Director of


. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those held by the publisher.