Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Because Quality is a Human Right: Community Change and the Customer Satisfaction Network

At CSSP, we believe that the authentic involvement of constituents – residents, families, community leaders, parents and youth- is the key ingredient helping to drive and sustain community change. With over 10 years of experience working to achieve positive results for children and families living in tough neighborhoods, we have found that the authentic involvement of constituents is evident when residents:  believe results are possible and are committed to pursuing those results; have a sense of personal power to improve the conditions and circumstances for their own families and others; use that power to exert pressure on systems and agencies in their communities; have the skills and knowledge to lead and engage issues that matter to them; and hold themselves and others accountable for those results.

The Consumer Advocacy Group  (CAG) and the broader Customer Satisfaction Network (CSN) in Atlanta is a powerful example of resident-led community change. For more than a year, residents from Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) V, X, Y in the southeast Atlanta have been meeting to develop and implement a customer satisfaction strategy to improve access to, delivery, and availability of quality goods and services in their community.  By partnering with the Department of Community Health at Morehouse School of Medicine, the CAG have already conducted neighborhood saturation surveys and of all the goods, supports and services in their neighborhoods.  For example, the data shows that residents travel more than four miles outside of their neighborhood to buy groceries. The CAG has also partnered with The Center for Working Families to develop a customer/consumer bill of rights
As empowered, informed, and engaged consumers, CAG members are conducting both consumer research activities and consumer education forums in two initial target areas-grocery stores and child care providers. A number of the CAG members are trained as Customer Satisfaction Investigators (CSIs), who research the service quality of neighborhood grocery stores via secret/mystery shopping trips, surveys, living room chats and focus groups. Members also engage in consumer education forums where CSIs report on the findings of their investigations to community residents and service providers. By establishing a continuous consumer feedback loop between service providers and community members, the CAG aim to enhance the quality of life for residents in their community. As one CAG member said recently, “We believe that quality is a human right and together we hope to make a difference in our community.”

In the future, the growing Customer Satisfaction Network and the CAG will be thinking strategically about ways to financially sustain their work over time and on a greater scale. 


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