A hotel in Cardiff was the first hotel in the UK to be registered to ISO 9000.

I was working in Cardiff and stayed there a number of times. When I checked in on my second visit, I was given the usual registration card. I remarked that perhaps they could have completed the card for me as I had been there the week before and they knew I would be coming back again.

The receptionist told me that the working procedures dictated that all customers completed the registration card on arrival.

I acknowledged their need to register guests but pointed out that in the best hotels, if they knew the guest, these formalities would be prepared beforehand (saving the guest from repeating the process). After all, I pointed out, this was the way a quality company would work.

“You don’t understand”, came the reply. “We’ve just got ISO 9000, and what is important about quality is to treat all guests the same.”

Wrong. In service organisations the customer sets the ‘nominal value‘.

Managers, in the belief they had learned about quality, had drilled into their staff the importance of working to procedures and inspecting that people did. In the kitchen they now measured the temperature of the cooked food as it was sent through to guest tables. They had learned from ISO 9000 that quality meant inspection and recording. It did nothing for the guest except, perhaps, delay the food.