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How to use ISO9001 to deliver exceptional quality of service to your customers

Posted by: Mark Brown

Maintaining and learning about how we can improve our quality standards and continue to deliver a great level of service is at the heart of the business at WRS. This short Q&A looks at the processes we have put in place and the impact of those processes on our customer relationships.


What is ISO9001?

ISO9001 is a quality management system (QMS) that embeds into your organisation, to drive continuous improvement in business management and process. It’s an international currency, allowing companies to demonstrate their ability to provide products and services that meet customer regulatory requirements.


Why was attaining the ISO9001 accreditation important for WRS?

Initially, the decision to embark on the ISO9001 accreditation journey was very much a commercial one, allowing us to be competitive and participate in conversations with big industry players and to help our business expand and diversify. We are a workforce solutions provider to the highly regulated mining, maritime, energy, commodities, construction and civil engineering industries. We needed to demonstrate a consistent approach to our operational processes that would meet even the most stringent industry requirements. 


How did you know that the time was right?

WRS was rapidly moving along its journey from being a small to medium-size business, from the perspective of both turnover and headcount, and to some extent we were always playing catch-up operationally.

Our business had diversified from pure recruitment to a global, specialist workforce solutions provider, able to offer our clients a choice of highly-skilled, permanent and contract personnel either on an ad hoc, a fully managed RPO, managed services, crew management and/or technical services management basis. It became business critical therefore, to create a consistency in our processes across our teams and services. Using the ISO9001 QMS model allowed us to identify best practice and deliver that consistency.


The ISO9001 journey

Our board, working in conjunction with the senior management team, went through an initial internal process of evaluation of what we needed ISO9001 to help us achieve. We appointed an independent, external consultant, who’s brief it was to engage with the senior management team and advise us on how to effectively integrate a QMS into our business. 

From these findings, our QMS was born, along with a newly appointed Quality Management Representative, who introduced the system into the day-to-day processes of our business. 

Initially we embarked on a three-month ‘road test’, where the QMS was carefully monitored to ensure that it was working for our company, giving us the chance to refine the system and document operational procedures.  

The next step was a three-month ‘go-live’ cycle, where all the learnings from the ‘road test’ were implemented. The QMS itself is simple to use, with documentation and process information easily accessible to any member of the WRS team, no matter what their role in the business. Fundamentally, it holds information allowing us to manage risk such as legislation, pertaining to the different industries and geographies in which we operate, in one central location.

There are 14-core processes which need to be adhered to and audited on an annual basis for ISO9001. We are a workforce solutions company and as such, we look at key qualitative indicators, for each of our divisions, three times per month, to ensure that the core elements of our business are being delivered. We [management team] look at these studies to ensure we can identify any business risk, as well as opportunities for growth, and to ensure we offer our customers simple to follow, compliant processes, to ensure we consistently deliver great service and a safe pair of hand in which to place their operational needs.


How easy was it to integrate the QMS into the business?

Initially it was challenging, it was a different way of working for the team. Crucially, the process and system had to be fully embraced and championed by the leadership team at WRS. This was key because it helped the team understand the benefits, not only to the business, but to them personally. I think that it’s safe to say that we were all pleasantly surprised about how quickly the QMS was adopted by the team and became routine.

The QMS is now so embedded into our business that any member of the team is quickly and efficiently able to identify and flag potential business risks, areas for operational improvement, and non-conformities, allowing the senior management team to constantly review and improve our processes.


What are the benefits to the business?

Gaining the ISO9001 quality standard accreditation has meant that we are included at the request for proposal (RFP) stage, by key industry players. To these companies, working with suppliers who can offer consistently high-level quality management is critical. Our QMS certainly played a part in helping us to win and retain business from Telford Offshore, Van Oord and Technip’s Oil & Gas and Maritime divisions.

We’ve been part of ISO9001 since 2015, transitioning to the 2015 accreditation in 2018, and while, at first glance, some of the business benefits seem intangible, our QMS is heavily linked to the career development and progression of our team. It interlinks with our training and HR environment and allows us to create a very transparent route to career ownership, empowerment, learning and development. This gives the WRS team the ability to offer clear and accurate advice to our clients from a position of knowledge. For our candidates, we can offer advice that creates a simple and transparent path to a career move, from applying for a job to placement, onboarding and mobilisation. There is a clear advantage for highly-skilled and expert candidates to work with us. 

The business benefit becomes tangible, by attracting great quality candidates, placing them with reputable employers, to build great long-term careers and deliver the needs of the business they join, we build and maintain great business relationships with our customers.


What advice would you give to anybody thinking about working towards the ISO9001 accreditation?

Be clear as a leadership team or business leader, why you wish to implement ISO9001. Enter the process with the mindset that your QMS is there to drive and enhance your business, provide quality of service, better business management, empower your people, drive business transparency and the opportunity to learn and improve.  

Avoid simply dropping the process into your business, by doing this it has the potential to become nothing but a box-ticking exercise and an administrative burden. Be clear on your business vision and objectives, use your QMS to reinforce your vision and reach your objectives. Develop the right system and apply it across your business and you will be perfectly placed to manage and encourage ongoing, long-term growth. 

WRS is a global workforce solutions provider, operating in the mining, maritime, energy, commodities and construction industries. Mark Brown is a founding partner and has been the CEO of WRS since its inception, 10-years ago.
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