Customers are important stakeholders in any business, but, as a cooperative owned by the businesses that buy and sell our products — and an online retailer ourselves — we place special value on our customer interactions. The vast majority of our wholesale customers are member/owners, and we give them the service and attention they deserve as owners. And, of course, retail customers are the most important of all — they are the people who use our products and ultimately determine with their purchase decisions the success or failure of our members and Frontier itself. Whether these retail customers buy through our wholesale members or directly from our website, we make every effort to see that they are satisfied — and more.
Wholesale. Our products go through several channels to reach the end user. About half of our own products reach retail stores and businesses via full-line distributors with their own delivery system. We distribute the other half (plus a variety of products from other manufacturers) directly to our wholesale customers through Frontier Direct (the distribution part of our business) using Federal Express or other similar carriers. Of our thousands of Frontier Direct customers, most are members of Frontier; members account for 90% of our wholesale sales. These members include natural food stores, restaurants and bakeries, health food and herb stores, co-ops, buying clubs, and schools and training centers, all of which use our products.
Retail. We value our non-member, direct-to-consumer business. It is only three percent of our Frontier Direct sales, but the opportunity to interact with the people who use our products is invaluable. We can engage directly to discuss products, quality, ingredients, packaging, and other issues of importance to these individuals who are committed to a natural and organic lifestyle. It also gives us the opportunity for feedback regarding Frontier’s sustainability commitment and actions.
Publishing this sustainability report is a strong statement of our commitment to communicating with our member/owners and customers, employees, suppliers, community, and other stakeholders. In these reports, we strive to give a balanced and accurate portrayal of our efforts to move towards a sustainable, triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) business. One important reason for publishing these reports is that we really want to hear from you and find out what you think of our goals, actions, and sustainability reporting. Just click here or on the EMAIL US button at the bottom of this or any other page to give us your feedback.
Good communication with the people who buy and use our products is a strength that has contributed to our success since we began our business in 1976. Our 25 years of experience provides us with knowledge and perspective about our products and related issues; we use this experience to educate and to answer your questions. Our knowledge starts at the source with our sustainable sourcing program, Well Earth, includes expert Quality Assurance and Product Development teams, and extends to hands-on usage information and recipes featuring herbs and spices.
Our customer communication today, of course, extensively utilizes the web and social media. Direct interaction with customers, whether on the phone, through e-mails, or via Facebook, provides us with valuable info about what you think— please don't hesitate to give us your feedback.
Here are some of our valuable online communication tools:
|WEIGH IN: What can we do to better communicate with you? Click to let us know.|
Satisfying our members and customers is critical to us. Key components to achieving high satisfaction are service, product quality and product information and communication.
Our customer service metric is a weighted average of the components of a 100% perfect order fulfillment: in-stock rates, order accuracy, and orders arriving undamaged, on time, and complete.
Out-of-stocks are the largest contributor to not meeting our goals. While there are financial and warehouse space reasons why we don’t expect to be 100% in-stock on every item all the time, our goal is 97%. Over the last several years, the impacts of extreme weather, disasters, and economic and political instability around the world have impacted the availability of all types of crops. At the same time, regulatory changes and increased inspection times increase lead times for important spices and herbs. We are addressing these with:
Product quality also affects our in-stock rates. Crop quality varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions, and, with less stable conditions, we are experiencing increasing difficulty in consistently meeting our quality standards. Our Well Earth sustainable sourcing program creates long-term partnerships that help us insure a stable, quality supply. (See sustainable sourcing section of this report for more information.)
Accuracy in shipping orders is another important component of our customer satisfaction metric. We are always on the lookout for improvements in our order fulfillment process. Using a starch-based biodegradable peanut for packing gives us a sustainable method of packing and protecting products. In 2012, we are testing a new paper packing material that could replace the bubble wrap we use to give extra protection to fragile items. If it works well, it would be a sustainable alternative to bubble wrap.
Making product information easily available to customers is another customer satisfaction priority. Our customer service representatives are able to answer most of the questions they receive. They are backed up by a customer service information specialist and by other experts in the company who can help answer questions. For 2012, we have contracted with experts to help us better organize and present information on our websites and better utilize social media tools to reach more of our members and customers.
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