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 less than 1 percent of our total company 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. In addition, in support of our retail partners we are working to improve our store locator on the retail site to drive consumers to purchase our products at member’s stores.
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:
|What can we do to communicate better with you? Click here and 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 customer service goals. In 2012 we added the North Liberty facility to handle additional growth requirements and to reduce off-site storage rental space. All of our herb and spice processing now occurs in North Liberty. Coupled with improvements in production efficiencies and higher finished good inventory, we have been able to improve in-stock rates at both the Norway and North Liberty facilities. Our main challenges, and what keeps us from hitting 100% is a combination of extreme weather, disasters and economic and political stability around the world that can impact the availability of all types of crops. These factors, coupled with larger than anticipated demand, caused the slight decline for 2014 in the Urbana facility performance. In addition, regulatory changes and increased inspection times increase lead times for important spices and herbs. We are addressing these challenges with:
Product rejected because it doesn’t meet our quality standards also affects our in-stock rates. Crop quality can vary from year to year and depends on weather conditions. 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.) Finally, we are now in our second year of having dedicated resources toward forecasting, and we're beginning to see improvement that will hopefully continue in 2015.
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, making significant improvement in 2014 in receiving other manufacturers' products. This led to a reduction in overall out of stocks. In addition, we continue to use a starch-based biodegradable peanut for packing to give ourselves a sustainable method of packing and protecting products.
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. We receive over 7,000 calls per month and answer over 85% of all questions within 48 hours. We intend to maintain this high level of service going forward.Additionally, Frontier conducts a Member Relationship Survey every two years, the last one being done in early 2014. One of the key measures in this survey is the Net Promoter Score (a technique that quantifies overall performance by exploring how likely the respondent would be to recommend Frontier to a friend). Our Net Promoter Score was 87.7% in the 2014 survey. This was up slightly from the 2012 survey where the score was 84.8%. These scores are at the very top of the range — even scores in the 60% range are considered extremely high. We will strive to hold and maintain these scores and conduct the next Member Relationship Survey in calendar 2016.
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