Like many for-profit companies, associations and chambers are in the business of people. When people pay for a membership with your organization, you’re a part of the package they're 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 — the works! But providing that same level of customer service online...well, that’s a bit more 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 your prospects? Think about all the ways someone could come across your organization, and then ask yourself, would that person 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 absent. If people comment on your Facebook page or ask a question on your blog, how quickly do you respond (if at all)?
Whether it’s a member or a prospect, not responding to someone’s question or comment 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 an upcoming webinar, let them know you're thrilled they’ll be joining. If someone asks where they can find a certain report or 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 and prospects
Mistakes happen. Period. At some point, a member or prospect will likely be less than thrilled with your organization. Don’t point fingers. Don’t act like nothing’s wrong. Address it. Be very transparent about what’s going on and what happened — whether you were in the wrong or not.
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 is exemplified when people and organizations 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, always-live form on your website where members (and possibly even prospects) can submit thoughts and recommendations. Think of it almost like a virtual suggestion box! You should check those submissions as frequently as possible, but at the very least, 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 YOUR ORGANIZATION responded! Talk about top-notch customer service!
6. 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 and your team can help them with.
People know you’re busy, so for you to not only remember, but actually take the time to reach back out, that’s impressive...and respectable! Actions like that are what’ll make your organization stand apart (in the best way possible).
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!
This post was originally published on 3/26/18, but updated on 5/11/20 for added value.