The Strauss Blog

Adding Value to Association Membership: Creating Two-Way Communication Opportunities

As stated in one of our previous articles, “Members are the lifeblood of associations. Without members, an association would cease to exist. An association’s members are its most valuable asset and bring the life, the drive, and the mission to associations.”

An association should be using a variety of techniques to find out what the members really value from being a member of the association and what the association should be offering to them. Member satisfaction surveys are one way to do this. The data retrieved from surveys should be implemented as soon as is feasible in order to continue evolving the association to meet members’ needs.

Membership Satisfaction Surveys

A membership satisfaction survey can answer many questions and help to create two-way communication channels with association members. To association staff, members are paramount, and should be the first priority when managing association services.

In some circumstances, association members are business owners who have daily responsibilities such as managing daily logistics, employees, customer relations and product delivery. Association staff must take into account that, from the member’s perspective, the association may only play a small role in their day-to-day operations. Associations can lose sight of this though, and forget to appreciate their members’ busy schedules. As such, members may not have time to respond to member surveys, so surveys may not be the best and only tool for member communication. It is important for association leaders to find other ways to have open communication channels at all times, and be ready to work with members to find solutions.

The Role of Associations

Associations should be the place members can turn to when they need a hand or additional information. This will add value to both the association and the individual member. Creating an environment of two-way communication creates rapport that instils value in a person’s association membership, ultimately creating mutual benefits that can last for years. An association’s role is to try to help members in their daily business operations and to be a body of knowledge that members can rely on.

As human beings, we are predisposed to wanting to belong, to be part of a group, and to make connections. This rings true regardless of personality type and demographics such as age, gender, ethnicity, and so on. But that predisposition doesn’t negate the necessity to deliver services of value to members. It is important to consider not only these factors, but also what members value. For more on the topic of how value systems affect association membership, you can read our article Valuegraphics: How can it Help Your Association?

What if You Can’t Satisfy a Member’s Request?

On occasion, an association member may have a request that is difficult to deal with or unobtainable. As association management is a customer service industry, association leaders cannot simply reply with a “no”. Instead, each request should be considered and a suitable solution found. If you communicate effectively and work with the member to respond to the request, members will usually be appreciative of the association staff’s level of service.

For example, in my position, if a member makes a request that I cannot respond to immediately or accordingly, I will take the time to come up with alternative answers. I find that people appreciate when you can go the extra mile to ensure that their needs are met in some way, even if it’s not the way they had envisioned at first.

How can you determine if the request is one that can be accommodated? Consider the following:

  • Does the member’s request contravene any current rules or by-laws of the association?
  • Can the association’s staff accomplish the task?
  • What are the implications on other members? (What if I must fulfil this very request for everyone? How likely is that?)
  • Are there alternative options that can be recommended?
  • Should this request be added as a new service to members?

Two-Way Communication is Invaluable

Being able to provide a service to your members of simply being a body of knowledge means that members do not need to take time from their work days to find solutions. This is an invaluable service. An association needs to be an asset to a member, not a hindrance. We as association leaders need to recognize the busy lives of our members and do our best to help them while continuing to prove the value in having membership with the association.

Member communication can be the busiest part of your day. Developing relationships and trust from the members takes a lot of effort. However, in the long run, this can provide the most value to your membership base. Creating two-way communication channels and communicating with members by providing great customer service will increase retention and provide a reason to belong for association members.