Its sometimes easy to focus on the negatives of being in charge of a small staff association. You seem to always have less money and fewer helping hands, and sometimes even seemingly simple requests like ordering flyers or catering an event seem absolutely monumental tasks.
But there is one thing a small staff association can absolutely excel at. Customer service for its members.
What? Didn’t you just say we were under-funded and under-staffed? That may be the case, but use it to your advantage! Could you go to a humongous association and speak directly to the president? No way. Could you have an invoicing or dues question answered by the treasurer him or herself? Nope. What if you have an idea for a great event or activity that would make it to an event planners desk in a timely fashion? Probably not.
In the case of a small staff association, this stuff not only gets done quickly, but it might even get done by the same person. What you can offer members is a personal touch. A meaningful connection. A feeling like they’re active and involved and doing something to better their careers, the association, and themselves.
So how can you showcase great customer service?
Be sure that your members know how to use basic tools that they’d interact with on a regular basis with your association. This includes your AMS, payment processor, separate event registration software and any other technology you utilize. Often members not knowing these tools can be a stumbling block. This might not be something you handle one on one, but a new member class might be a good idea to go over the essentials, or make sure it’s something you include in a welcome packet.
Handle complaints with grace. That’s a big one. We’ve all called customer service for a company and had our concerns met with snark and it’s just infuriating. Granted, your association isn’t a company and members may not expect the same type or level of customer service they’d expect from a company providing goods and services, but it’s still important to listen attentively, acknowledge discontent, and make promises you can keep for your members who have complaints.
This goes without saying, but politeness too is a huge one. Names, please and thank yous, and attention are the kind of thing that are getting scarce in this digital world. The personal touch is big!
And if you take nothing away, remember this: respond to feedback. Whether you ask for it or not, whether you issue surveys and make phone calls or just let the moment pass: feedback is all around you. Follow up! Ask questions! And then change your association to suit the needs and wishes of your members! That sometimes means changing and that’s tough, but really the heart of your association is the membership. Keep them around! Make them happy!
Customer service is just one way association leaders can engage their members, but there are many more! Download our free guide to member engagement and find out how you can best engage your members to have a happy, healthy association.