thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Inspire Your Customers

By on October 29, 2008

It is much better to have inspired customers than simply satisfied ones.

Metroparks of the Toledo (OH) Area understands this relationship with its customers extremely well. It has a Board of Directors' mandate to preserve land, so if the organization has $1 left to spend, that's where it is invested. Yet customers may not always be thinking about the long-term benefits to them of preserving land. So how does Metroparks Toledo balance the customers' wishes with its mandate? They do this by inspiring preservation in their customers.

The organization's mission statement reads: To enhance the quality of life and inspire preservation efforts in this and future generations by providing a regional system of premier natural, historical, and cultural parklands maintained and operated to the highest professional standards. Attention to detail is evident down to every manicured nature trail and the efforts at using a variety of wildflowers for the enjoyment of its customers. Its vision is to preserve and protect the natural heritage of northwest Ohio and its people do that by building the commitment of its customers. It starts with a strong educational outreach to its constituency, but transcends to inspiration through the consistent, passionate efforts of its staff members and their commitment to quality. As a result, Metroparks is a 3-time winner of the Gold Level Achievement of Excellence quality award from the Ohio Partnership for Excellence.

The Metroparks offers a series of nature photography seminars at their National Center for Nature Photography at Secor Metropark. This facility is "the only one of its kind - a national center celebrating the wonders of nature and those who treasure it through photography and videography. It is a crossroads where the work and wisdom of the best photographers and videographers can be enjoyed by everyone.

One great example of success and inspiration is the story of Jon Cross. Almost three years ago, after the purchase of a new digital camera he attended a nature photography seminar presented by Metroparks. The seminars were conducted by two Metroparks employees. "Art Weber's love of the craft and his patience as a teacher was instrumental in my desire to become a better photographer. He is unselfish with his years of knowledge," Jon observed.

Jon refers to the other instructor, Bob Jacksy, as "the Crocodile Hunter of Northwest Ohio. His enthusiasm for nature and land management is contagious and second to no one else I have met in this area. Bob is passionate about the significance of the unique habitat we have here and the different types of plant and animal species in conjunction with how to photograph them."

"Bob and Art made a comment at one of the photography sessions that has stuck with me ever since." They said, "By sharing the images we create with nature photography we are in a way helping to save our natural habitats. It is through these images that we influence others to help protect the beauty many often take for granted.

Jon credits the inspiration from Metroparks and its employees as the primary reason he created his web site, Northwest Ohio Nature (www.ohio-nature.com) featuring beautiful images of nature in the Toledo area. He commented, "The photography seminars I attended (and still attend) have left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to do everything I could to help protect the unique habitat we have here in Northwest Ohio and the Oak Openings Region. My site is a place for others to see the different plant and animal species here and hopefully better understand that this fragile habitat needs the efforts of humans to survive."

Jon and his wife, in fact, live in the Oak Openings Region, a rural area formed by the remnants of a glacier and endowed with a number of rare plants. They are in the process of an ambitious project to restore their eight acres of property to its native state. "I have followed examples of Metroparks restoration practices during my own project" he elaborated. Last year, Jon was honored by The Nature Conservancy for his land stewardship efforts to return his property to native oak savanna habitat. Using controlled fires and a keen attention to detail, he has "weeded" his land to allow native plants - some of them rare - to thrive. In the process, he has helped restore one of the most unusual habitats in Ohio.

Jon acknowledges the extent to which "a simple photography seminar put on by the Metroparks influenced and enhanced my photography skills. My photography led to a web site that is now averaging nearly 500 visitors per day." The inspiration that Metroparks employees passed along to one customer is now enhancing the lives of many others and demonstrating the value of conservation efforts to everyone.

Inspiring your customers has long-term benefits. It is like compound interest in financial matters, which builds on its own growth. Inspired customers are enthusiastic, interactive and are open to innovation. However, you can't inspire unless you are thinking like a customer, in terms of what they want and will value. Metroparks Toledo serves as a "crossroads" for ideas and is great model to follow. Show your customers the value of what you offer and share with them the passion to pursue the vision on their own.

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