5 Basic Rules for Member Service

Written by Cecilia Sepp on October 23, 2018

There are a few basic rules of member service that all associations should keep in mind. No matter the size of your budget or staff, what counts is how your members feel at the end of an interaction with the organization.

All member interactions must focus on a positive experience that shows active listening (or active reading if it’s an email), attention to detail, and a demonstration that you (as staff) are making an effort. Don’t phone it in – people know if you are not providing a unique and focused service.

If you are a member of an association and you are seeking assistance, you do not want a “non-answer” from some script that suggests you are too uninformed to know the basics. Then, if a member contacts staff again pointing out they did not get what they needed because staff did not answer the question the member asked, staff should not be annoyed or frustrated. Or even worse—repeat the same non-answer.

If a member is contacting staff, it’s because they can’t find a piece of information themselves or they are looking for confirmation. This means they need something beyond the basic information available on the website. That’s where your service as staff is not just expected, but very valuable.

As a refresher for all of us in the profession of 501c organization management, here are what I consider the basics for member service, whether you are a professional society, trade association, charity, or foundation:

  1. Don’t give a scripted response to a specific question. It creates annoyance and bad feeling. Really read the email or understand the phone conversation before replying. Scripted answers do not always cut it and suggest you are not paying attention.
  2. Don’t talk to your members like they are stupid. They’re not! I have found often that long-time members know more than staff about certain programs or policies, so respect that when dealing with people.
  3. Don’t act annoyed when members ask for help or information. Association management is a service industry. If you don’t want to help people, you need a new calling.
  4. Especially don’t act annoyed when a member must contact staff multiple times. This means they are not getting the specific answer they need. Make it a goal to resolve every member inquiry on the first try.
  5. Do leave the member feeling that they were listened to and helped. Even if you can’t find the answer immediately, let them know you will get it for them.

Cecilia spoke in “The Future of Work is Here” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on November 7th-9th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.