What Your Members’ Say When They Walk Away.

By: John Ricco, CAE

I recently read a thought provoking Harvard Business Review article titled, “Tell Your Team What Customers Should Say About Them.” The customer service model outlined was basic, yet compelling. In addition, a recent personal experience confirmed the philosophy, but more on that later. What do you want your members to say when they walk away?

You can spend countless hours attempting to conceive all possible scenarios your team may encounter and develop policies or strategies to address them or set basic expectations and trust your staff to do the right thing. I believe it was the great management guru Jack Welch that said good managers and leaders need to ‘set a target and get out of the way,’ meaning set the vision/destination and let your team determine the best way to get there.

JR Blog 11-14 photo(Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 How do we accomplish this in the association world? Two simple steps:

One: Set basic, understandable expectations for your team to accomplish. For example, if you have a cumbersome event registration process and you want your team to revise it, the goal is to achieve a process your members say is “simple and efficient.” Then let your team do their job. If afterward, you get numerous phone calls for clarifications, or are making numerous refunds because people accidentally overpaid for event tickets that were included in their basic registration fee, then you are not meeting your goal. Your member feedback will be telling you the process is not “simple and efficient.”

Two: Measure your progress. Ask your members about your goals: in person, in surveys, in phone conversations after the event, wherever, ask “was the registration process simple and efficient?”

Another goal may be that you want all attendees to say “I received a good return on my investment” from any educational event they may have participated in. Set the goal, let your team figure out how accomplish it, and then measure your success.

A recent experience reinforced this approach. I had the good fortune of writing this post while at an event at the Greenbrier Resort in the mountains of West Virginia (for those unfamiliar with the resort, it is definitely a “bucket list” caliber destination). One of my fellow attendees arrived in the very late evening (11:00 p.m.) and the airline lost her luggage.

Most likely, the resort did not have a policy or procedure on how to help guests whose luggage was lost by the airlines. The staff could have easily said, “the only store open at this hour is Walmart, we’ll call you a cab.” However, that would be inconsistent with the resort’s primary goal, “providing the finest resort experience.” The Greenbrier staff drove her to the store, went inside with her, guided her to the clothing section, asked her what kind of toothpaste and toothbrush she preferred, and went and grabbed those items while the guest shopped for clothes for the next day. That extra effort, saving the guest time and anxiety, late at night paid dividends beyond belief. The next day dozens of hotel guests shared that story with other guests. Goal met – the finest resort experience provided.

What do your members say after they walk away?

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