Quality Management for Service industries

Published by admin on

After a frustrating experience with an online game recently I thought it would provide a great example of how ISO 9001 can relate to a service industry mostly outside of certification – online gaming.

Sniper Fury


I’ve been playing Sniper Fury by Gameloft for some time now. I have enjoyed the online gaming experience, but this morning I uninstalled the game and it got me thinking about quality management and how it applies to all industries.

So the whole premise of the game is about progressing through a range of levels, obtaining gear as you go through ‘purchases’ with rubies which you earn through game play or you can buy them with your hard earned cash.

The issue

So a couple of weeks ago I noticed my rubies total drop twice without making any purchases. This was annoying, but as I hadn’t actually parted with any cash, I persisted. About a week later I received a gift of 200 rubies from Gameloft as an apology for ‘technical issues’. On balance I probably broke even or maybe gained a couple of rubies as a result of that glitch.

This weekend I entered a small competition to win gear. I was placed in the top ten so I was expecting to receive the top prize. I had to wait until the competition had concluded to be sure of what I had won. This morning I logged in and no mention of the competition, the prize or how I had done. That was annoying – I’d invested significant time to get into the top 10.

Then I attempted to use an item of gear during game play. It got used, but I never received the boost that the gear was supposed to provide. I tried 5 or six times to use gear and saw my gear totals dropping away, but no boosts.

Final straw

The upshot of all of this was that I decided I’d wasted enough time on the game and uninstalled it ……..and then I started thinking about what made me uninstall it and software company’s quality management.

There is a way to report issues in the game, but it is anonymous and buried in menus. And although I received my apology gift for “technical issues” it gave no real explanation for the gift. I was guessing why I had received it and whether the gift made up for my losses.

Application of ISO 9001

So how do ISO 9001 principles apply here? Well the following should all be in place for it to meet ISO 9001 (or to achieve top customer satisfaction):

  1. Ensure that customer satisfaction is the focus of the organisation [ISO 9001 s 5.1.2]. As the game is successful we can assume that the company are already customer focused, but there’s always room for Improvement [ISO 9001 s 10]. If staff aren’t already measured on their ability to deliver customer satisfaction that would be an area where Quality objectives and planning to achieve them [ISO 9001 s 6.2] would be relevant to drive that customer focus throughout the organisation.
  2. The company will need a mechanism for customers to feedback [ISO 9001 s 8.2.1]. They had one of these so we’ll give it a tick even though it could have been more user friendly.
  3. If you deliver a non-conforming output [ISO 9001 s 8.7] to your customers (in this example the output is the proper functioning of the online game service) and you do decide to notify them of a fault the following approach is good practice. To the company’s credit they did notify me of the error. They did not provide anything to show they understood the error, its cause or advise whether it had been fixed. A refund is great to make people feel better about poor service, but will they keep using a poor service. A refund for the cost of a bad meal is unlikely to mean you will eat at the same place again. Customers are more likely to return if the provider shows they understand the issue, quantifies the error and assures you it won’t happen again. The message would have been so much better if it went something like this: “Due to an error with our software calculations your account recently lost 138 rubies. As such we apologise, have resolved the error and have credited your account 200 rubies”. This shows the service provider has understood, quantified and fixed the issue so it shouldn’t happen again. All vital messages to convey if you want customers to return. However don’t expect even this to help if the problem happens again and again. As the
  4. Determine the degree of customer satisfaction [ISO 9001 s 9.1.3]. The only feedback the company can take from my account is that I was playing one day and then the next day I uninstalled it. This is true of customers in many situations. The first time a service provider knows they have stuffed up is at the point the customer stops buying from them. And then it’s too late. Service Providers need to interact with their customers and understand satisfaction levels and how they are tracking against customer expectations. You can prevent customer loss if you fix the niggles and prevent their accumulation into something ‘deal-breaking’. If you only measure customer numbers (a lag indicator) it only shows what you have already done well or badly. How could the online gaming do this? They potentially have millions of customers and can’t continuously send out customer surveys? A user panel playing the game for hours and analysing the game’s performance and response is one way to obtain a representative sample of customer satisfaction. A simple glitch reporting mechanism available at all times is another. It would be unlikey for a single report to prompt a response, but if you receive hundreds of the same type it is time for action. With software it is possible to build automated fault identification systems which can notify you when things go wrong.
  5. Those software errors shouldn’t really have got past the testing phase so, there’s obviously something wrong with the Company’s design and development controls [ISO 9001 s 8.3.4]. I know this is a low risk activity. I know that getting it wrong isn’t going to get anyone killed. However design and development control is what ensures a service does what it’s supposed to. We’ve grown up accepting software which rarely really does all that it’s supposed to. We accept that software will be fixed on the fly. However, if the risks of it not working are sufficient to stop people buying it you have to address the issue. Imagine a spreadsheet whose calculations you couldn’t trust or a word processor which would occasionally jumble up words for you. Software whose basic function is unreliable is unlikely to be a success. The whole premise of this game is about progressing through the levels. Glitches were putting up unreasonable barriers to that progress, thereby undermining it’s purpose.


This is a quick look at the quality requirements which relate to the online gaming software service. ISO 9001 aims to help companies deliver products and services meeting customer expectations. The original standard was not written for the service industry. The updated standard now tries to accommodate it, and it can definitely add value to that sector.


A word from the Managing Director: “We aim to establish long term, mutually beneficial working relationships, helping organisations grow and avoid the pitfalls that many fall into. Too many organisations feel their certification is a burden. We want to help organisations realise the benefits of effective management systems and certification”