Category 3 – Who is the Customer in a Community?

Normally I leave the blogging up to our Kruse Scholars, whose posts this past year continue to impress and inspire me.  However I figured that it should be my turn at some point. Thankfully, I have something fun to write about.  Yesterday COE 2026 organized a training for our San Diego Pilot Community team that would focus on the Community Profile and Categories 1 and 2.  We are very close to finishing the first draft of the Community Profile, and a lot of our conversation has turned to Categories 1 and 2 of the COE Framework.  In fact, we have a timeline that shows some very exciting progress for our first real test of the COE Framework.  But I found some of the most interesting conversation yesterday to involve Category 3:  Residents and Other Customers.

One of my roles in these meetings is to clarify terms and phrases in the COE Framework for the team and help find a way through roadblocks in implementation.  One of our earlier challenges was how to focus a Community Profile on a region of 350,000 people without becoming overwhelmed with information.  Rick Norling, COE2026 Co-Founder and Vice-Chair in his presentation yesterday gave us some very simple but wise words: "When you see a road block, go around it".  And that is what we did.  Given that our backbone organization is San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency, why not start there, with their customers, and more importantly, those that should be customers, but for whatever reason are not.  Call them "potential customers".  It's important to note however, that this is just a starting point.  Customers is a bit different in a community.  Broadly speaking, we envision them as "those who depend on us". They can be residents, non-residents who work in the pilot community region, or anyone who is affected by the actions of that community.  The Live Well San Diego metrics don't just focus on HHSA Customers, they represent the entire County.  But you have to start somewhere.  

Another challenge we identifed was how to define "KEY Resident and Other Customer Groups" as asked in the Community Profile. It is crucial to understand who your customers are, as they are the people who use or receive the offerings, programs, and services you describe in P.1a(0) and P.1a(1) (earlier in the profile).  Off-hand, I can think of many ways to define resident and other customer groups.  The important part of this is the phrase "KEY".  Resident groups might be defined by their gender, age, ethnicity, language, geographic origin, religion, political persuasion, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics.  This requires asking ourselves what the key drivers are for this community and focusing there.

As we continue on San Diego County's South Region's Journey from Great to Excellent I will do my best to highlight some of these questions, and how we address them.  I hope that you will continue to follow our weekly (and occasionally more often) blogs.

Stephanie Norling, Managing Director



2 thoughts on “Category 3 – Who is the Customer in a Community?

  1. Denise Shields

    Interesting observations. So fun to watch how COE2026 is growing and progressing. We enjoyed having the team from Health and Human Services attend the Charter School of San Duego’s sharing day. Best wishes for your continued success.

    1. Stephanie Norling Post author

      Thank you Denise!  We should catch up soon.  There’s lot of activity going on right now.


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