The famed author Thomas Merton said we value people, not for who they are but for their usefulness. This is the same mistake associations make when they value the members for their usefulness—for what they spend—rather than for themselves.
Members see it differently—quite differently. Researchers point out, “They are spending money, but they’re more inclined to spend it only on associations they feel good about.” Not associations they may like or where they’re treated nicely. In other words, their money is going where they feel valued.
Most associations do a fairly good job “pleasing” members, but that bar isn’t nearly high enough. Here are 23 ways that both chapters and the national office can meet today’s major challenge of making members feel valued:
- Never ask a member to call back. It’s rude and demeaning. Take their number and call them back or let them know who will be in touch with them.
- Never leave members hanging. Always close the loop by letting them know what to expect or what’s going to happen next. It relieves frustration, uncertainty, and unnecessary unhappiness.
- Always follow up right now. Fast action is impressive; it says you care.
- Ask members if they would like help in filling out forms. This takes away the drudgery. Just the offer alone sends the message that you’re willing to take the time to be helpful.
- Make all messages—written and spoken—member centric. Start by never using “I” or “We.” They’re a turn off. Work at keeping the focus on the member.
- Give members a contact person. There’s nothing worse than feeling abandoned and that’s what happens to members when they can’t penetrate a corporate firewall. Having a personal connection relieves stress.
- Never let the size of the sale influence the way you treat members. When making a large purchase, members expect the “red carpet” to be rolled out. But when members get the same attention when making a small purchase, it creates a lasting positive impression, one that keeps them coming back.
- Never fail to acknowledge a member even when you’re busy. Failing to do so may be the unforgivable association sin. It diminishes the member, is never forgotten, and damages the relationship.
- Never make excuses. They’re always a failed attempt a make yourself look good. They send a message to others that you’re weak and deceitful, someone who can’t be trusted.
- Always ask questions. There is no substitute for getting another person to talk. Members will be surprised and impressed because they’re always afraid no one will listen.
- Give believable answers when you’re asked questions. Short answers satisfy members, but always ask if what you said is clear.
- Never leave a member wondering. The test comes after the member leaves or you get back to the office. That’s when they get to thinking about what you said—and when the questions come to mind. Always encourage them to call, email, or text you.
- Be precise when you tell a member you’ll get back to them. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you, and, if there’s a change, keep them informed. It’s a matter of trust.
- When there’s a problem, take ownership. Now the member can relax and not worry about what might go wrong. They know someone will follow through for them.
- Surprise them with something unexpected. It may be free shipping, upgraded delivery, a discount on their next purchase, a gift card, a discount, or an enhanced warranty.
- Acknowledge membership anniversaries. This shows your appreciation and keeps you top of mind. You might send a letter with a gift certificate or some other indication of your appreciation.
- Help people feel good about their membership. Reinforce its value: “This will be an enjoyable addition to your career,” “You’re going to have a lot of fun being a member,” or “You’ve made a terrific choice.”
- Check-in with members a week after they join. Make it a time to ask if they have questions and what they like best—and least—about their membership. They’ll appreciate your continued interest; that you haven’t forgotten them.
- Use the one word that reassures members. When members ask you to do something, say, “Sure.” Then figure out what to do—and do it.
- Help members avoid “buyer’s remorse.” Members always want to feel good about joining. Yet, feelings of uncertainty often set in and they doubt their decision. To help them avoid getting “cold feet,” remind them why they joined, what they liked about it and share third party testimonials to validate their decision.
- Always say “Thank you.” Every conversation is an opportunity to express appreciation, whether it’s responding to a problem, greeting a new member, hearing about a mistake, or getting an order.
- Stay in touch. Getting members is hard work; keeping them is even more demanding. Send periodic emails, but don’t make them ads! “Buy, buy, buy” drives them away. Offer helpful information and be sure to ask their opinion of a product, service, or member experience.
Most associations want to do the right thing by their members. Yet, far too many fall short, believing that giving them a good deal or schmoozing them is all it takes. It isn’t.
Actor and director Adam Arkin says it’s hard to believe that the factor affecting the final outcome of a film is still news: “When people are treated well,” he says, “and they’re made to feel valued, they give 110 percent.” That goes for members, too.