Determining and Meeting Customer Requirements

A company that wants to be successful and profitable is nearly always focused on meeting customer requirements. Of course, in order to meet or exceed customer requirements, you must first determine what those requirements are.

Every industry and company is different, and methods of determining customer requirements can vary widely. Your ISO9001:2000 quality management system should include a method or methods to determine customer requirements.

It is easier to determine customer requirements for some kinds of products than for others. For example, if you are machining aircraft parts for a large aircraft manufacturer, chances are your customer has given you specifications and/or drawings, detailing exactly what they are looking for in the product. This is probably the easiest way to determine customer requirements, and it is perfectly reasonable to write in your quality manual that your customer requirements are determined by having your customer put those requirements into writing.

At the other end of the spectrum, when selling certain consumer items it may be very difficult to accurately know customer requirements. For example, let’s say you are making high performance exhaust systems for motorcycles. You know that, in general, your customers want to increase the horsepower and sound level of their bike, and want it to look good, at a reasonable price. But these are rather vague requirements. How much horsepower? A 10 percent improvement at a cost of $1000.00? Or a 5 percent improvement at a cost of $600.00? How loud do your customers want their exhaust systems to be? And “good looks” is a subjective evaluation.

In this example, some methods of determining customer requirements include doing market research, going to motorcycle events and talking to people, keeping up with current trends in magazines and other media, and keeping up with your competitor’s offerings. These are all good methods to include in your quality manual, assuming you sell high performace motorcycle exhaust systems.

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