Customer Satisfaction with Apparel Improves – Is it a Sign that Better Days are Ahead?

sales off the chartThe American Customer Service Index third quarter results for 2009 show a 2.5% improvement for apparel from 2008. Each quarter the ACSI measures customer satisfaction for a segment of the economy. The third quarter focuses on manufacturing/nondurables.

Overall, the index remained the same as last year, but there were some significant changes when you look at specific companies. Levi Strauss moved from being the worst in the group to a tie for first with Jones Apparel. Professor Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI, speculates that the jump may be due to Levi’s retail network expansion and green initiatives program.

What? Didn’t anyone tell the management at Levi’s that there is a recession? Apparently not, because they added 74 new outlet stores.

When the economy is challenging, it is tempting to hunker down and wait for better days.

The problem with that approach is that your competition may move ahead while you are waiting. While consumer spending is down and all indicators show it will stay that way through the holidays, individual companies will experience growth and profitability. Shouldn’t your company be one of them?

This isn’t a call for a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach that jeopardizes your company’s existence. It is a call to realistically calculate the risks, and aggressively pursue new objectives.

Companies don’t fail because they take calculated risks. They fail because they don’t know they are taking risks.

Here’s a quick quiz:

  • What are your customer retention, acquisition, and attrition rates?
  • Which are more valuable, your customers acquired this year or two years ago? By how much?
  • What are your order fulfillment costs? Acquisition costs? Retention costs?
  • Is your customer satisfaction increasing or decreasing? How about your service levels?
  • Why do your customers buy from you?

If you can’t answer these questions, you are taking risks with your company’s health. By the time the problems (and there are always problems) show up on your financial reports, irreparable damage has been done. Knowing the information that drives your business provides an early warning system that allows you to correct issues before they become catastrophes.

Take time to research the key indicators for your business and create an internal reporting system. It is the best thing you can do for your company, customers, and employees. You’ll find hidden issues and opportunities. When your competition peeks out from their safe haven, they’ll find you in front of them. Knowing where you’re going, how to get there, and what you need to do it is a good place to be.

So now, how do you see your next quarter? Are you growing or holding?

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