As an association professional, you work in the people business. It can be rewarding, of course, but also, occasionally difficult. People get upset - it’s just a way of life. But it’s how you handle those unhappy members that can truly make all the difference.
Not sure how to handle member criticisms or complaints? Take a look at these five tips:
1. Adjust your mindset
When a member comes to you expressing their unhappiness, your first course of action should be to put yourself in their shoes. Don’t immediately get defensive or brush them off as ‘wrong.’ Instead, focus 100 percent of your energy on the fact that you have an unhappy member and it’s up to you to make it right. Once your mind is in the right place, you’ll be better equipped to handle the situation.
2. Listen carefully
This is perhaps the most important step of them all. Your members want to be heard, so let them air their grievances without any interruptions. Consider starting the conversation off with, “So tell me what’s going on,” or “Please let me know why you’re upset.” Don’t try to solve the problem right away - just let them tell their story. Your turn to talk will come soon enough.
Whether you did anything wrong or not - be empathetic. Let the member know that you’re genuinely sorry for how the situation has made them feel and that you’re willing to help in any way that you can. (Empathy goes a long way with people.)
4. Present a solution
When a member comes to you with a problem, they likely want two things: 1) to vent, and 2) a solution. If you listen carefully and apologize, you’ll likely take care of #1. That leaves #2 to handle.
If you know what will make your member happy, go ahead and tell them how you’d like to correct the situation. That said, if you’re not sure what your member wants, ask! Together, I’m sure you can come up with a solution.
5. Follow up
Let’s say you’ve presented a solution and taken care of the situation. If so, good for you. The hard part is officially behind you. But before you call it a day, there’s one more step to complete: the follow-up phase.
A few days to a week after the problem has been resolved, reach out to your member to make sure they’re ok/things are still running smoothly. This may be extra work for you, but it will be extra special (and memorable) for your member. (And that’s the key to satisfaction and retention.)
Complaints are a natural part of membership management. They come with the territory. But trust us, you’re more than equipped to handle unhappy members. Just follow these five steps and you should be good to go.
Want more tips for managing your organization’s membership? Check out our free Guide to Membership Management below!