A growing economic force

“International Standards can be great facilitators of trade if implemented in a large range of countries. They can create regulatory economies of scale and are particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized service providers.”
Markus Jelitto, Counsellor World Trade Organization

A service can be defined as an activity taking place between a supplier and a customer that is generally intangible (for example, tourism, finance, utilities, etc.). Services are a growing force in the world economy. According to US sources, the sector was responsible for 90 % of all jobs created in 2015 and is projected to account for about 79 % of total employment by 2018.

Services are becoming drivers of economic growth, but their rapid expansion carries many risks – lack of control, consumer exploitation, opacity, poor quality, inefficiency, questionable business practices and other obstacles to good service provision. This is why International Standards are needed. They ensure confidence while reducing heavy and costly regulation that could hamper growth.

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Standards and the service economy

With the service sector outstripping the industrial sector as the largest employer and GDP generator worldwide, never have standards for services been so necessary. ISO is at the heart of developments.

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Why service standards matter to the global economy

Markus Jelitto, Counsellor with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its Trade in Services Division, tells us more about the role of International Standards in the services sector.

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Ms Dianne Lalla Rodrigues, Director, Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards
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Development and services

The economy of Antigua and Barbuda, like that of many small islands and developing countries, depends on services, especially tourism. For Dianne Lalla Rodrigues, Director, Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards, the service economy is key to sustainable economic development. Here she reflects on the main challenges for development and how standards can help.

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Infographic with data on services for customer satisfaction and education
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Service industry: stats and standards

A series of infographics on various service sectors

Entertainment and tourism

Over the past six decades, tourism has become one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, and today represents on average 1 out of 11 jobs.

International tourist arrivals are expected to increase by 3.3% a year by 2030. Yet nowhere do people feel more vulnerable than when they are strangers in an unfamiliar land. Tourism service standards are a globetrotter’s ally, increasing safety and confidence wherever they go. Their guidance and best practice will be appreciated by service providers as a means to gain customer satisfaction and a competitive edge.

In addition, ISO standards for sustainable events and beach management offer a streamlined and powerful way to reduce the environmental and societal impact of the entertainment sector


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Beachfront in Valencia
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Spanish beach pleases customers with standards

When visiting abroad, the quality of the service provided and the information given can be key in shaping a holiday experience. A step ahead of the tourism game, Gandía, in the province of Valencia, Spain, makes certain you are always served with a smile.

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Infographic picturing COP 21's impact as an arrow hitting a target
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COP 21 used ISO 20121 for sustainable events

To control their environmental, social and economic impact, the Paris 2015 COP21 turned to ISO 20121 for guidance on organizing a sustainable event.

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The new trend – Industrial tourism

ISO 13810 on industrial tourism helps people visiting chocolate factories, wineries, arts and crafts shops, power plants and mines have an unforgettable and enjoyable experience

Public services

Standards are great tools for the public sector. They contain international best practice to improve services, become more sustainable and support regulation.

A closer look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals highlights the crucial role of public services. With standards, the public sector can work on improving utilities, transportation, IT services, and much more.

Standards take the needs of consumers into account, making sure they get efficient and reliable services. This is even more important for the public sector where insufficient services can affect the welfare of citizens, as is the case when for example, drinking and wastewater services fail.


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Birmingham's skyline
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Transforming public services in Birmingham

Service Birmingham reduced costs and improved efficiency, agility and customer satisfaction, all in the effort to respond to public-sector pressures to “do more with less” while maintaining excellent service quality. This was made possible thanks to ISO/IEC 20000 for service management

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Restoring confidence in water services
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Restoring confidence in water services

Why did Argentinian water company Aguas de Santiago turn to drinking water utilities and services management standard ISO 24512 to restore user confidence?

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Attention customers! No more bill shocks

Anyone who has received an inaccurate or late bill for their gas, electric, water, or telephone services will understand why billing is one of the main sources of customer complaints against utilities. A new ISO standard provides solutions by giving recommendations for billing practices that actually “make sense” to customers.

Business benefits

“Even industry is being transformed by the concept of ‘servitization’, with many manufacturing organizations building the service component into their product offerings to create added value and remain competitive.”
ISOfocus, The Service Economy

For industries following a business-to-consumer (B2C) type business model, standards focus on improving quality and efficiency, while opening up access to new markets. For business-to-business industries, standards make it easier to share costs and collaborate.

A standard for management consultancy services, for example, can encourage businesses to make the most of the resources they invest, while a standard on asset management helps them use their assets wisely. From customer satisfaction to IT services, standards cover nearly every business need you can think of.


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Taking management consultancy services to another level

Consultancies can change your business and make a big contribution to the economy... or they can be a financial black hole. How can you ensure the money you spend on consultancy fees doesnʼt end up being spent on endless hours of nothing?

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Waiter lighting up candles
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How Sodexo made benefits with asset management

Asset management can be the single most powerful weapon in a companyʼs arsenal for saving time, money and lots of executive headaches. Using ISO 55001, Sodexo, a world leader in quality-of-life services, rolled out a best-practice model for asset management across numerous countries and industries – and it did it “The Sodexo Way ”.

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Making happy customers

Happy customers are happy to pay more, recommend a service and return to the same service provider. So how can you make sure that your customer experience is outstanding? With customer satisfaction standards, of course!”.

Financial services

As the financial sector worldwide becomes more and more automated and complex, standardizing messages across institutions and companies has never been more important.

How could the financial sector ever operate without standards! Financial operations require institutions to be able to communicate seamlessly with each other, usually across national borders. How can a client use their French-issued card to withdraw money from a cash machine in Japan? How can we make transfers or payments from A to B successfully? All these transactions are possible because of standards that operate at every level of the financial industry.

ISO has a committee dedicated to financial services, which has published over 50 standards for the industry. You surely recognize the international currency codes, IBANs and BICs, and might even know of the highly successful ISO 20022-based universal financial messaging used by Europe, Japan and the Swift network, to name a few.


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Person holding a credit card and entering data in a mobile phone
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Mobile payments take-off

Mobile payments and banking are one of the fastest-growing areas of mobile use, but in order for their functions to work across the many platforms involved, harmonized processes and transparency are key. A new series of standards in development aims to offer just that.

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Why ISO 20022 matters to the financial industry

The ISO 20022 series on financial services is used by the industry to create consistent financial message standards.

Case studies

Service standards are helping to improve service quality and customer satisfaction.

The world of service standards is as diverse as the industry itself. Here, a number of very different organizations share their experience using different service standards, how to put them in place and the benefits they reaped.


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ISO strategy for services

ISO adopted a strategy for service standardization in 2016 to meet the needs of a rapidly growing industry. Its objective is to make sure that we can develop the tools the world needs to support global trade in services.

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Conference room at COP 21
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Telehealth services you can rely on

International SOS provides remote medical assistance to millions of clients around the world. It uses the ISO/TS 13131 guidelines for the delivery of telehealth services to ensure consistent, quality remote medical assistance while safeguarding a clientʼs private data. The skyʼs the limit in this new medical niche.

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Improving drinking water facilities in Argentina

Argentinian water utility Aguas de Santiago was an early adopter of the ISO 24510, ISO 24511 and ISO 24512 for drinking water facilities. Encouraged by ISO’s Argentinian member, IRAM, Aguas de Santiago used these standards to improve service delivery and customer satisfaction.

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Thalasso therapy in Tunisia

As soon as ISO 17680 on thalassotherapy was published, it became the focus of a country-wide project to improve Tunisia’s thalassotherapy centres. On the initiative of INNORPI, the national standards body and ISO member for Tunisia, the country had been at the forefront of the implementation’s efforts.

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Conference room at COP 21
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COP21 used ISO 20121 for sustainable events

The Paris 2015 COP21 turned to ISO 20121 for guidance on organizing a sustainable event – a first for a United Nations climate change conference of that magnitude. The standard helped reduce its environmental footprint while guaranteeing the quality of facilities, promoting responsible innovation, reaching carbon neutrality and building a legacy for local communities.

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Conference room at COP 21
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Credit Suisse and ISO 20022 for financial messages

The idea of universal messaging for the financial services industry can appear a little odd until you start thinking about how to get different financial institutions – each with its own payment system – to communicate together. A financial messaging scheme guarantees that different financial institutions can work together in the best interests of their customers.