Like many for-profit companies, associations are in the business of people. When people pay for membership, you’re a part of the package their purchasing. That said, customer service is KEY.
Now, you’re probably really good at providing exceptional customer service in person. You likely greet members with a big smile, ask them how their day is going, assist them with their needs, etc. But providing that same level of customer service online...well, that’s tricky. People can’t see you, and there’s often a small period of time in between when a person says or thinks something and when you can actually respond.
So how can you make sure you’re meeting (and exceeding) people’s customer service expectations online? Here are a few tips:
1. Encourage people to contact you (and make it easy)
As a staff member (or volunteer), you know the best way for people to contact your organization, but do other people - your members and prospects? Think about all the ways someone could come across your organization, and then ask yourself, would they be able to easily contact us from there? Check your website and social media sites, in particular. And with your website, don’t just list your contact information exclusively on a “Contact Us” page. Put it at the bottom - as a footer - on every page. That way, people don’t have to search or leave the page they’re currently on to find that information. The name of the game here is convenience.
2. Respond to comments and questions (both positive and negative)
When it comes to online customer service, one of the worst things you can do is be completely MIA. If people comment on your Facebook page or ask a question on your blog, how quickly do you respond (if at all)?
Whether we’re talking about a member or a prospect, not responding is a big mistake. To a prospect, that says, “We’re busy and don’t really have time for you.” To a member, that says, “We appreciate your dues, but this isn’t really a priority for us.”
Regardless of what the comment or question is - whether it’s positive or negative - respond! If someone says they’re looking forward to your conference, let them know you can’t wait to see them. If someone asks where they can find a certain white paper, send them a link (even if you have to direct message them). Leave no outreach unresponded to.
3. Be transparent (and stay ahead of your members/prospects)
Mistakes happen. Period. At some point, a member or prospect will likely be less than thrilled with you. Don’t point fingers. Don’t act like nothing’s wrong. Address it. Be very transparent about what’s going on/what happened - whether you were in the right or the wrong.
If you’re open and transparent, people WILL forgive you. And better yet, they’ll respect you. (And tip: Don’t wait for people to point out a mistake. If you realize it on your own, let it be known. And let people know what you’re doing or have done to fix it. Now THAT’S good customer service.)
4. Ask for feedback (and use the feedback you receive)
The best customer service comes when you go above and beyond, and one of the best ways to go above and beyond is to consistently ask for feedback (and then implement that feedback). This lets people know you care about their wants, needs, thoughts, and opinions, and you’re serious about incorporating them into your organization.
To ask for feedback, rather than periodically sending out member surveys (which you should still do), have a standard, ongoing form on your website for members (and possibly even prospects) to fill out. You should check those as frequently as possible, but once a month or even once a quarter, make it a point to sit down with your team and discuss which feedback you can and should implement.
And tip: When you do incorporate that feedback, let people know! Let people know that someone (or multiple people) asked, and YOU responded! Talk about top-notch customer service!
5. Follow up with people
This depends a little bit on the circumstance/situation, but if a member OR prospect reached out about something, whether it be a question or a complaint, sometime after your initial response, follow up with them to see how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can help them with.
People know you’re busy, so for you to take the time to remember them AND reach back out - that’s impressive (and respectable). This is how you separate yourself from other companies and organizations.
At the end of the day, good customer service is all about making people happy - so they’ll want to join your organization and remain a member of your organization. Want more tips for ensuring your members stick around? Check out our free Membership Retention Kit below!