Peter Shankman believes that Nice Companies Finish First. In the next decade our economy will be driven by customer service. I agree. No one will get away with bad customer service. Even average customer service won’t be enough. The pendulum is swing away from corporate indifference to those who treat us well.
What about associations? The stakes are higher for us than they are for most companies for a few reasons:
- Members have a relationship with us. Bad member service violates trust and every good relationship is built on trust.
- Membership, conferences, products, research reports, webinars all take a chunk out of our members’ budget. Joining an association and being involved can be expensive. We get pretty great customer service at Chipotle for a $8 burrito. When we pay the worth of 100 or 500 burritos we expect awesomely great member service.
- For-profits are upping the ante. Just like we talked about in the Amazoning of expectations in relation to association websites, consumer companies, especially newer companies, are developing systems, hiring the right people, establishing processes and even adopting a culture that drives excellent customer service. When members get great customer service from all their retailers they expect it from their association too.
Having great customer service members give you tremendous benefit of the doubt. Websites go down. New products break. Conferences have hiccups. Staff make errors. Members don’t care as much about a problem here or there but they do care about how we respond and how they are served.
This is how members define member service in interviews:
Poor member service
No one picks up the phone (if I’m calling it means I have a pressing problem). If I’m assigned to a staff contact, even my contact doesn’t pick up the phone or respond in a decent time frame but often I don’t get a response at all. I don’t feel like I’m heard. Someone on the staff says they are going to solve my problem but they never do. I don’t get an explanation as to why the problem is happening. There is no resolution. I don’t know how to escalate my issue within the association.
Average member service
The staff is responsive when I initiate contact. They answer my questions and they solve my problems. The resolution is usually adequate. The staff is pleasant.
Great member service
The staff is proactive. They spot problems before I do. They offer solutions. They communicate often and that communication is transparent. I have one point of contact and I know who that person is; I may even develop a friendly relationship with them. My contact is a subject matter expert for the association but also understands my business, industry or job.
As member service becomes more vital to associations it is worth it for us to find out how members think our member service really is and ask them what great member service means to them.
- Weekly Cartoon: How do you welcome members?
- Member service is much larger than the member service team
- Worried about discontinuing a member benefit?