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Your customers are not happy.

Customers are grumpy. Expect better. Are frustrated. Want freebies. Sound familiar?

Consumer satisfaction down 1.75% - Chicago Sun-Times Research is showing a consumer trend of dissatisfaction with pricing and customer service. Everyone has a different theory on why this is...but the reality is, customers are cranky. At least some of them.

Your strategy is to determine if this is true with a significant number of your patrons, a few of your influential patrons...or none of your patrons. Different strategies are appropriate depending on how widespread the attitude of dissatisfaction is. Very widespread indicates a societal problem -- possibly in addition to your internal operations. Key patrons who express dissatisfaction can lead a revolt...or be your "canaries" who alert you to a festering problem.

Marketing strategy can help deal with perceptions. How you handle customer service is a marketing opportunity.

  • With messages delivered in person, on signs, in program materials, and on forms, you can establish procedures and expectations.
  • With customer service training, your team members can be given people skills to help improve satisfying experiences. A smile. A helpful question. Good product knowledge.
  • Displays and merchandising can gather solutions together for common customer challenges.
Compared to 5, 10, and 25 years ago, everything is more crowded: cities, roads, planes, shopping centers, etc. Consumers are stressed as they are crowded together, forced to deal with more and more automated "solutions," and exposed to more and more advertising, promotion, and media choices.

Nature organizations are in a unique position to help relieve this urbanization stress in our communities. For the first time in history, the world has more people living in cities than in rural areas! Crowding is a reality. And with new urban policies of "infill" and density vs. sprawl, the human stress level is here to stay.

Once again, this change can present you with marketing opportunities. By providing nooks and crannies of solace, peace, quiet, and pause, a nature organization can lower the "human temperature" for a community. And providing this opportunity is as much a messaging challenge as facilities design.

Researchers note that there appears to be a direct correlation between consumers' unhappiness with the service they are receiving and the cost of goods and services.

The metric for consumers has been "value" for some time now. When consumers feel they are getting a great price on merchandise (a la clubs) they require less service. When they feel they are paying more, they expect more service. Most retailers are having to increase prices at the same time they reduce service. It's not surprising then that there is a feeling of dissatisfaction amongst consumers - the price/value ratio has

Cost can be handled in various ways -- production planning, marketing, and human services.

  • efficient sourcing
  • easy return policy
  • employee training
  • perception of customer service
Pier One, Nordstrom and Trader Joe's have found ways to cope with the service/price challenge through creative approaches. Publix in Orlando is another example mentioned as worthy of review.

One of the study authors said, "In the battle for customer satisfaction, quality usually trumps price. But when price gets low enough, people buy."

Hence, the fallback reason many nature organizations accept that results in free access vs. quality programing.

But the reality still exists that attention to the actual work of the company: providing customers with good products or services, a fair value, and a satisfying experience is the heart of customer satisfaction. It's a balancing act and a teamwork exercise that is continual, vital, and can be very satisfying to employees and volunteers, as well as your patrons.