October 2004

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A is for Apple Cider

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Board Report
Mining the Customer Survey

by Buck Rhyme, WSGC Board Member

Surveys can be an important tool for learning about member needs, member preferences, and gathering their candid assessment of how well we performing as a cooperative. They also can be boring, hard to interpret, filled with too much information and offer conflicting perceptions on how things are going. Since I had all of those thoughts as I reviewed the results from the latest Customer Survey, I decided to dig a little deeper and see what I could learn. Here is what I found out.

Looking at the responses to question #1 (Overall ratings of the Co-op), one perspective suggests that we are doing a good job regarding store operations. (See Graph A)

Now let’s look at the same eleven categories from a different perspective: (See Graph B)

While I have not done a formal poll, I am confident that most members would agree that top box rankings in the 30% - 40% range are okay, but they would much prefer to see scores in the in the 70% or even 80% range. My point is that while it easy to conclude we are doing a good job, we can do better. Simply put, good is the enemy of great. Willy Street Co-op is a good co-op, in fact a very good co-op, but we all must work harder if it is going to become a great cooperative.

Board focus
Question #12 dealt directly with Board focus. Chart A shows where you think the Board should focus their time and energy. Chart B represents my assessment of how the Board currently focuses its time and energy.

Clearly the two are not in alignment. Great cooperatives have boards that are well informed and act in ways that are consistent with member feedback. Your feedback about where to focus Board attention is important information and will help us in setting Board agendas in the coming year.

The seven key principles
I was a bit surprised that only 58.2% said you have seen the cooperative principles and just 24.2% said that they know them (Question #13). The seven key principles that govern our business are posted on the wall in large letters near the cash registers. Part of my definition of a great cooperative is that 100% of the members say they have seen the principles and 80% say that they know them. Hopefully, you will have a chance to review them next time you are in the store.

Member participation
Finally, I want to remind everyone that Willy Street Co-op currently has over 11,000 members, yet only 551 members (5%) found the time to respond to the customer survey. In contrast, 1492 members exercised their member privileges by voting on the recent special ballot regarding expansion. Consistent high levels of member participation in elections and surveys are another way to measure if we have a great cooperative. The current low response rate leaves the Board and staff in a difficult spot. How seriously should we take these results with such a small response rate? What will it take to increase the participation level of members?

While these questions have no easy answer, I am sure about thing. If we want to move from good to great, every Board member, staff member and Co-op member must do their part.

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