We humans are curious creatures, with a variety of opinions, which make up our personalities, our buying habits, and how we live our lives. These opinions are a result of years of learning and observing. We get our opinions from the media, friends, family and many other sources. In turn we use what we learn from these sources to make decisions about life and more importantly what we buy. Customer opinions are invaluable to institutions and businesses alike. They allow those in charge to make the appropriate decisions in product development and management. Strategic planning and forecasting are all benefits of harvesting the opinions of your consumers and clients. There has been a lot of negative economic new lately. The housing slump, mortgage issues, gas prices, and a weak dollar have all added to the financial woes of this country. A large majority of the economic pundits are forecasting a recession, or at least an economic downturn in the foreseeable future. It looks dark and gloomy, but what you may not know is that consumer donít necessarily share in this pessimism. Consumers and businesses alike are watching the economy with a strained eye. Knowing that what happens over the coming weeks and months could have a huge impact on the American lifestyle. All this is what makes a recent USA Today/Ballup poll so interesting. When measuring the publics opinion on the economic situation, Gallup found that only 4 out of 10 Americans felt that an economic recession is likely within the next 12 months. This is a relatively small number of less pessimists consumers when compared to the numbers gallup received during a similar poll in the 1990ís. American attitudes are actually quite robust when compared to past economic hard times. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, roughly 45% of Americans thought there would be a recession during the next year. Only a couple months later, it inched up to 53%, and then declined shortly after to 49%, in march of 200
1. Even a stronger showing of economic disbelievers existed in 1990. When during that economic slowdown, somewhere between 65% and 78% or Americans said that the economy was headed toward a recession. And as it turned out there was a recession from mid-1990 to early 1991. When respondents were asked if they thought the economy was currently in a recession, 36% of those respondents said that it was, while 58% said that it was not. Once again the numbers paint a far different picture than what you would expect. A person gets the feeling when watching the news or reading the paper that the current economic forecast does not look favorable. Fortunately, American opinion shows a more optimistic outlook. However, you would never know that Americans had a far sunny view than the pundits if no one took the time to ask Americans what their opinions were. What matters most about this optimism is that it reflects on the future of holiday spending. Investors are worried, and watch with sweaty palms, the spending habits of consumers. They should take some comfort in the fact that consumers arenít as nervous as perhaps they are. Knowledge really is power, no matter how tired that cliche is, it still rings true. Those who can see into the minds their consumers, can make the decisions necessary to navigate the complicated world of business. One way of obtaining the opinion of your customers is through online surveys, telephone surveys and email surveys. These surveys can be a non intrusive way of gathering information that can make your company get through when times are hard, and flourish when they are good. Getting into the heads of those people who mean the most to your business can be a lot easier than you think. Youíd be surprised what you could learn and how you could use that knowledge to grow and improve. Knowing the opinions of your customers is key in todays financial environment.