How Customer Experience Trends Can Improve the Member Experience

Lots of companies realized that customer service wasn’t cutting it anymore, so the focus shifted to customer experience to respond to changes in customer demands. Lessons from the shift can pave the way for associations to improve the member experience.

There has been an evolution from customer service to customer experience in recent years. It makes sense because, if you think about it, service is a pretty one-sided proposition. You are providing something to someone based on what you think they want. But what if you had a really good idea of what members want because you actually figured it out—and applied it?

“Everybody thinks about the member experience,” said Kurt Heikkinen, CEO of Forj, a member experience and virtual events platform. “And there are parallels to customer experience with member experience.”

A More Personal Experience

By adapting lessons from customer experience to member experience, association professionals have an opportunity to improve the member experience by establishing relationships that are more meaningful and less transactional. Doing that will help boost member growth, retention, and engagement, Heikkinen said.

Understanding what members want and realizing that it probably goes beyond just a resource, course, or certification means looking at other customer-focused businesses that are responding to consumers on a more personal level and meeting their needs in the moment, without glitches, complications, or delays.

For example, during the pandemic, consumers became accustomed to easily accessing streaming services and products from online vendors. And those expectations carried over into their experience with associations. If consumers can have straightforward interactions daily with their service providers, they are going to expect the same convenience from associations. Notably, 73 percent of customers said that one extraordinary experience raised their expectations of other companies, according to customer engagement research done by Salesforce.

Measurable Outcomes

Added to the mix, association CEOs are contending with multiple challenges, including competing priorities, a lack of resources, and reduced budgets. “Some of that comes from a lack of strategic alignment,” Heikkinen said.

To help address that gap, Forj recently launched its MX Maturity Model [registration required], a framework to help leaders identify where their association is on the continuum of excellence in member experience. Providing members with a better experience starts with understanding why they join an association. It is usually for many reasons, including to learn, grow, contribute, and be part of a community. They want to connect and have an experience that meets their needs in a proactive and personalized way, which will reinforce their connection to the community.

Having a positive experience increases members’ desire to not only sign up once, but also to come back to the community, renew their membership, and make an investment to advance their career, body of knowledge, and impact in their field of work and industry.

It’s clear that consumers’ expectations have changed dramatically. “It’s moved from reactionary to predictive and personalized,” said Heikkinen. “We expect our service providers to know us. We expect them to understand who we are already and to tailor, personalize, and predict what our needs are before we have to ask for them,” he said.

Taking a page from customer experience trends and applying it to the member experience will be a useful roadmap for associations to follow as they proactively seek to meet members’ evolving needs and expectations. “It’s what today’s members—and tomorrow’s members—will expect,” Heikkinen said.

(NicoElNino/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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