Achieving best practice is one way your business can improve its operations and service, ultimately increasing your business competitiveness and the morale of both customers and staff. Best practice can be attained by following standards, codes of practice or even benchmarking your business against others in your industry.
Businesses should already adhere to mandatory standards under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (formerly known as theTrade Practices Act 1974) that cover issues such as product and consumer safety. Failure to comply with mandatory standards can attract penalties such as fines, court enforceable undertakings, injunctions, orders for corrective advertising, refunds or repair of goods and legal costs.
The most well known voluntary standards are ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, international standards administered by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO). ISO 9000 addresses quality management practices including quality of products, services and customer satisfaction, while ISO 14000 addresses environmental management practices including management systems, labelling, performance evaluation, life cycle analysis, communication and auditing.
By adhering to voluntary standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, you can give your customers more confidence in the quality of your products, services or environmental management practices, and may make your business more competitive against others in your industry.
Mandatory industry codes of practice
Codes of practice can be mandatory or voluntary and provide a minimum standard of protection to consumers in particular industries. In looser terms, they let your customers know what you as a business agree to do when dealing with them. They are prescribed as regulations under Australian state and territory fair trading acts and have the force of law. You should already adhere to any mandatory codes relevant to your business.
Voluntary industry codes of practice
Voluntary codes are a form of industry self-regulation. They can be sponsored by a particular industry association, or they may be in partnership with a government agency. Voluntary industry codes are usually flexible and can be altered quickly in response to changing industry/consumer needs.
Adhering to voluntary codes of practice can not only ensure you provide a higher standard of protection to your customers, but can also ensure your business is competitive against others in your industry.
Benchmarking against other businesses
Benchmarking is the process of speaking to businesses in your industry and learning different or improved ways to run your business. Establishing a network with these businesses will also ensure you regularly share skills and keep up-to-date on industry and local information.