29 November 2011

She Tells Two Friends...And They Tell Two Friends...

Remember that old Faberge shampoo commercial, where the hook was that the shampoo was SO amazing that a woman told two friends about it, and then they each told two friends, etc., until the screen was covered with little boxes containing pictures of female heads with awesomely feathered hair?

Witness word of mouth at work.

The exact number offered differs, but we've all heard the old trope that someone who has a good experience tells a small number of other people, while someone who has a bad experience tells a MUCH LARGER number of other people.

For associations, the customer service we offer our members is a huge source of word of mouth, positive and negative.

So how can you make sure your customer service is in tip-top shape?

First of all, even if you're "senior," don't take yourself out of the loop. It's easy to say: "Let the call center/junior staff handle it. I'm too busy/important/expensive." Wrong. The day-to-day treatment your members receive IS your organization to them. No matter what super-important, high-level project you're working on, if your members have a lousy experience every time they call, email, or otherwise ask for help, they aren't going to care.

Second, empower your staff. Tell all your front-line staff that they have the authority to do whatever seems fair to them to resolve a member's problem without fear of punishment. And back that up. Yeah, they're going to make mistakes. And you'll want to make sure that post-game analysis is part of your process, so you can talk through what your staff chose and whether there might be an even better way to respond the next time. But seriously, your word on "no punishment" has to be IRON CLAD. If it is, I guarantee that beautiful things will happen between your staff and members.

Third, secret shop, or better yet, ask trusted members to do so for you and report back.

Fourth, ask your members. We all survey, actually probably over-survey, our members about EVERYTHING. And we love those Likert scales, because we can make all sorts of pretty charts and graphs from them. But ranking your conference location or the quality of a webinar speaker or the ease of your renewal process on a 1-5 scale is way less important than this one question, that should be on every survey you ever send:

"If there was ONE THING we could do to make your experience with better, what would it be?"

Yep, that's an open-ended comment box type question, which means you won't be able to make a nice graph out of it that you can show to your boss or your board and compare across time. And 90+% of the time, it will be empty when your survey is submitted. But 10% of the time, you are going to get fantastic intel about what your association could be doing that would make a real difference for your members and other audiences. And isn't that why you exist in the first place?



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