Raising awareness of the benefits of certification and assurance services


Accredited certification benefits

Does ISO 9000 certification affect the dimensions of quality used for competitive advantage?

The research in ‘Does ISO 9000 certification affect the dimensions of quality used for competitive advantage?’, (Withers, B., Ebrahimpour, M., 2000) seeks to understand if ‘ISO 9000 certification contributes to a firm’s competitiveness by enhancing the dimensions of quality it uses for competitive advantage’.

The eight dimensions of quality as defined by Garvin (1987) are performance, features, reliability, conformance, durability, serviceability, aesthetics and perceived quality

The data for this research was collated by in-depth interviews with 11 ISO 9000 certified European companies. The core information to be ascertained was: 1. The reasons for pursuing certification; 2. Obstacles encountered during registration; 3. Impacts of ISO 9000 registration on the dimensions of quality used for competitive advantage. Among the 11 companies, a variety of sectors and size of company (by turnover) were selected.

Looking specifically at issue 3, the impacts of certification, ‘None of the 11 firms reported any negative impacts in their respective quality dimensions as a result of implementing ISO 9000’. More fully for each of the eight dimensions of quality:

  1. Performance – 10 of 11 of the firms said they competed on product performance to gain competitive advantage: 2 said they’d had very positive impact as a result of their ISO 9000 certification effort ; 4 some impact; 4 no impact
  2. Features – 3 of 11: no impact
  3. Reliability – 8 of 11: 1 very positive, 6 somewhat positive, 1 no impact
  4. Conformance – 10 of 11: 4 very positive impact, 6 somewhat positive
  5. Durability – 8 of 11: 2 somewhat positive impact; 6 no impact
  6. Serviceability – 8 of 11: 4 very positive impact; 3 somewhat positive; 1 no impact
  7. Aesthetics – 3 of 11: No change
  8. Perceived quality – 8 of 11: 6 very positive impact; 1 somewhat positive; 1 no impact


The research’s conclusions strike a note of caution, ‘It could be argued that pursing certification because of external forces, such as competitive pressures, market entry, or customer requirements, reflects a somewhat superficial reason for certification’. This in turn could result in the maximum benefits not being achieved, particularly if customer satisfaction is not a key driver for the organisation.

Overall, the report concludes positively, ‘This study provides evidence that quality, as reflected by its eight dimensions, does improve as a result of ISO 9000 certification. The dimensions that appear to benefit the most from improvements in one’s quality system are reliability, conformance, serviceability and perceived quality’.

Paper available purchase


  • Withers, B. and Ebrahimpour, M. (2000), ‘Does ISO 9000 certification affect the dimensions of quality used for competitive advantage?’, European Management Journal, Vol. 18, No.4, pp 431-43.

University of San Diego, School of Business Administration (Withers), University of Rhode Island, College of Business Administration (Ebrahimpour)

  • Garvin, D., (1987), ‘Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality, Harvard Business Review, November 1987, pp 101-109. Paper available to purchase

Harvard Business School (Garvin)