By conducting experiments, an economist for Uber found that the company was losing millions of dollars needlessly. Professor John List says that Uber customers who had a bad ride tended to spend far less in the future than customers that have good rides. It is perhaps not all that surprising that unhappy customers might use the service less or switch to Lyft, but Uber now has quantitative proof.
Uber is an interesting analogy for associations because drivers, the face of the company, are independent contractors like member volunteers and members who represent the association but are not beholden to the organization. There are elements of a rider’s journey that Uber can’t mandate, just like associations can’t script all the behaviors of volunteers and members.
Likely the terrible ride phenomenon is at work in associations. Most members who have a bad experience are less likely to engage and will often spend less attention, time, money, and energy within the association.
Uber tries to correct the damage of a bad ride by apologizing and offering a $5 coupon toward another trip. The apology coupled with money works a third of the time. But how does Uber even know when to apologize? There is an immediate feedback loop in Uber’s app, but associations do not have this mechanism. So how do we know when a member has experienced the equivalent of a bad ride?
- Test out the association version of a feedback mechanism – could airport bathroom smiley faces work for quick voting? How about a digital suggestion box? Or quick polls? A feedback mechanism might help you know when to say you are sorry. And perhaps we can stop lousy member experiences before they start;
- Review your existing data – can you look back over complaint calls and emails to determine what interactions lead to the most complaints and fix them before they start?
- Talk with or train volunteers to think more about the member experience they are shaping. Encourage warm welcomes, openness, and generosity.
Even though association leaders don’t control every aspect of our member’s journey, we still have many options to improve our member’s experiences.