Customer service for member organizations is not just about sending renewal notices but about ensuring members remain engaged, aware and happy with the value your organization brings.

In her recent Membership article, “Growing your member community in a changing world”, which opened this series, my colleague Jennifer highlighted a statistic from the latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated:

“When associations establish an active program to engage members and increase their usage of benefits, membership retention increases. This year, 78% of associations that have seen an improvement in renewals state that they have a tactical plan to increase engagement.”

Marketing General Incorporated

Although member engagement is the responsibility of every employee or volunteer, if I was to focus on the service team and how they can positively impact member satisfaction tactically, I would look at addressing the following elements within a program:

  1. Member claims and requests
  2. Community forums and self-service
  3. Customer satisfaction / feedback collection and analysis
  4. Omni-channel communication

All four areas have a key thing in common, the ease of having a lasting relationship with you.

1. Seamlessly manage member claims and requests

When members contact your service team, they expect a seamless contact, no repeating of previous conversations or delays in resolving their queries.
With the right processes and technology in place, your service team AND your members can keep track of requests. By this I mean case management, routing, queues and self-service portals.

When your service agent is working within our Membership solution (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service app), if a member contacts you with a question or problem, they can quickly check if there is an existing case or open a new case and start tracking the issue.

For example, if a member contacts you about a query with a renewal invoice, the service team can easily see their plan and their billing history plus any previous contact history. Your agent can also escalate, reassign, or put a case back into the service queue if they don’t have enough information or time to work on it.

Before you provide support, you can also check the customer’s entitlements, based on their membership plan. Entitlements are like contracts that tell you what kind of support a member is eligible for.

2. Build a member community with a forum

Community Portals are a great way to bring organizations and their members closer together, particularly in a modern and virtual world to remain connected. Members can start conversations through posted messages, seek out information via threads plus comment on blogs. This flat structure of collaboration and ideas exchange really speaks to the modern customer to give a sense of inclusion and impact on the organization they belong to.

To work with (and in Covid times perhaps replace), member meetings and AGMs, these can be run within the community portal where members can vote on Ideas, with votes polled within your organization’s back end.

Within the same technology you can also manage a customer self-service area (or just opt for the Self-service portal on its own); which can provide a Knowledge Base area with articles to help members search and resolve queries themselves, plus a support area with the member’s open support queries can be seen and edited, new ones created and details of their membership plan and member profile be seen and updated etc.

3. Ensure member satisfaction and understanding by providing a feedback loop

Relationships are built on understanding and member organizations perhaps need it more than most. On the part of the member organization, you need to ensure you offer a valuable and relevant service to your members by listening to their views, and for members they appreciate a way of providing feedback on the service they receive and the direction the organization is taking.

Deeper insights, deeper experiences = stronger relationships.

Gone are the days of admin-heavy paper-based surveys that perhaps were sent once a year. Feedback management solutions allow you to easily create personalized member surveys. You can customize interactions with your members by quickly collecting feedback based on personalized surveys created from easy-to-use templates served either online in personalized forms (like Dynamics 365 Customer Voice) or via SMS in bite-size chat-like conversations. These can be done at key points of the member lifecycle and be less onerous to complete, analyze and act on. The feedback loop is there for both operational and strategic concerns in order for you to keep the channels of communication open.

I particularly like the SMS chat option because it feels more intuitive to today’s customer, and technology exists (Howazit) that work using triggers based on the member behavior, i.e. if they have contacted the service team, if they have (or not) renewed, registered/attended a VIP event. The SMS chat asks pre-set questions and based on the reply the responses are routed to the appropriate team to follow up asap. It sounds so simple yet it’s this natural feeling of a two-way relationship that works to drive engagement, proactively.

Don’t leave your request for feedback until it’s renewal time, it can be too late and reactive and might be seen as cynical in the eyes of your membership. The reason you want feedback is to affect change as soon as possible to give a better value in the relationship now, it is not a box-ticking exercise. Remember, your members are your best advocates.

4. Put omni-channel service in the mix

As a growing customer segment, the majority of Generation Z and Millennials want organizations to allow them to interact with the organization using private social messaging apps (72% and 69%, respectively).
If we focus on membership scenarios, the same trend is reflected. In the same Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated, statistics showed that, like many other customer types, organizations and associations reported an increased in engagement with members through mobile apps (65%) and social media (62%). Along with webinars and private networks these were the top increased channels of engagement. It is clear that these channels are a must-have in the communication mix, not just for marketing campaigns but ongoing relationships including service provision.

But having multiple channels used to be a headache to juggle, service agents would have to switch between apps depending on the preference of the member, and the biggest problem was that the information and conversation history within these apps were not shared. That’s no longer the case, with omni-channel technology directly within service apps such as Simple Chat, giving both members and service teams the experience they want. All information in one place, plus all the channels you expect including SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and social media.

Winning members for life must be viewed with as much priority (or perhaps more so) than member recruitment, after all member retention is more cost effective; but also happy members are your biggest advocate within a thriving community. Service provision is a key part of that activity and by following my four key service areas for the modern membership program, you will have a good foundation for growth.

Everything I have discussed in this article is available here and now, within the Membership solution our customers are using, if you would like me to help your association, please reach out.

Article initially published on LinkedIn