It’s a difficult time for Americans. First, taxpayers were rattled by the news that they’ll have to shoulder the bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while these companies’ chief executive officers will escape with golden parachutes that total more than $20 million. Just weeks later, taxpayers were stunned to learn of a second, much larger burden—the $700 billion bailout of the lending industry, which, according to published reports, will cost at least $6,000 per taxpayer. In addition, the country continues to find itself in an unpopular war at the behest of an unpopular president, whose approval rating is languishing below 30 percent. Naturally, Americans have good reason to be distrustful of big business and government.
These record-setting bailouts are being forced on a cash-strapped middle class, Americans who are grappling with debt and the overwhelming costs of healthcare, college tuition, real estate, and retirement.
Complicating matters even further, more Americans are losing jobs. In August, the United States unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 percent, its highest level in five years. In September, employers discarded roughly 159,000 more jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Department—and while the unemployment rate may have held steady, many economists suggest that it will rise in 2009.
The Conference Board Employment Trends Index, which is based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is already sending warning signals. “The deterioration [in the Index] has become very pronounced, suggesting that the unemployment rate may very well exceed 7 percent as early as the second quarter of 2009,” said Gad Levanon, senior economist at The Conference Board, in a prepared statement.
And even those who are still employed will likely see tough times ahead, according to Levanon. “The persistent slackening in labor-market conditions, worsened by the financial crisis, has reached a level that in the past led to significantly slower wage growth across most industries,” he said. This, coupled with an inflation rate that has hovered above 5 percent since August, will sting like salt to a wound.
There’s no doubt that Americans’ financial concerns will heavily influence their votes in November’s presidential election. Smart organizations will pay attention to what’s most important to voters—those voters are also customers, and customers vote with their wallets. So consider the poll results and insight surrounding the presidential election as free market analysis of consumer attitudes.
If you want more in-depth consumer information by generation, read our 21-page feature package, “Generational Spending: A Special Report,” by the CRM editorial staff. In it, we provide insight into the buying behaviors and attitudes of each of the four major consumer generations—Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Matures. Also, check out our Insight section -- you can find some of those articles here ("Working with the Years"), here ("Virtual Spenders"), here ("Contact Centers Chatting to Success"), and here ("Required Reading: In Demography, Size Does Matter") -- for additional generational coverage.
In today’s challenging economic climate, organizations will find it increasingly difficult to acquire and retain cash-strapped consumers. To stay competitive, organizations must cater to these customers’ changing needs and attitudes. This month’s issue will help you identify those needs.
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