Simple Steps for Better Delivering on Member Expectations

Your members expect to receive the same level of personalization and service that they do from Amazon, Netflix, and other subscription services. Here are four ways associations can replicate that—even on a small scale.

Subscription-based companies like Netflix and Amazon use a lot of the same strategies to build and sustain relationships with members that associations have been using for decades. But they’ve taken it to a whole new level by providing seamless service and effectively using technology to predict customer behavior and make it seem like they know people and what they really want.

Because of those efforts, members want that same kind of customization from the associations they belong to. They don’t understand why they can’t instantly retrieve a password or why an association is sending them a newsletter about paying off student loans when they are ready for retirement.

“They know Netflix doesn’t send them recommendations about science fiction movies when all they watch are documentaries and love stories,” said Robbie Kellman Baxter, strategy consultant at Peninsula Strategies. “One of the things is to hold yourself to that standard and say: This is what people expect.”

So, what are some ways to meet those expectations? A good place to start is figuring out what is going to entice members to sign up and make your offerings a habit for them. For example, with a professional association, members might want to improve their skills, have a better connection to their profession, network with their peers, or give back to the future of the profession.

It’s all about investing in the member experience and knowing who you’re serving—and why. Here are some ideas.

Start small. When you’re changing what you offer, Kellman Baxter recommends making small changes, getting feedback, then getting it to market and testing if members are willing to pay for it. Find out which things they are using and not using. “Once you start to know the answers to those questions, it gives you a lot of insight about where you should invest,” she said.

However, she cautions against making a big change and springing it on members. “I would encourage organizations not to go away for months and then come back with jazz hands and offer something new and improved. It’s taking a big risk,” Kellman Baxter said. “When you’re making a change, bring members along every step of the way.”

Embrace “low tech” in early stages. Part of what’s made Amazon and Netflix successful is that they focused on doing things for their customers really well. And sometimes they used human intervention when they didn’t have the technology to support it.

“If you have to do something by hand while you’re figuring out what experiences people will use, that’s OK,” Baxter said. Start with low-tech, then experiment, test, and only move to a digitized version when you know the process works.

Offer real-time education. While a lot of associations have been investing in on-demand education options that can be accessed at any time of the day, Kellman Baxter also suggests offering cohort-based learning where people sign up for a program that starts on a specific date. Students go to live classes, either in person or virtually. Showing up, having other people to talk with, and being held accountable helps them stay engaged and adds value.

Sunset other benefits. As you continue to add new benefits, also ask what you are cutting. That’s not always easy, since sometimes there are members and staff who like things the way they’ve always been. However, “the need to prune is really important,” she said.

Right now, people are in flux and their lives are different. They need connection, and they are looking for new ways to get it. “We have a moment to reconnect with our members and to attract and engage new groups who are looking for solutions,” Kellman Baxter said.

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Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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