Members have come to expect a lot out of their associations these days. Many see membership in any organization as a give-and-take situation: they pay a monthly or annual fee, they receive the benefit of membership in return. The bottom line is that members always have expectations when they belong to an association. For an overview on this topic, see my colleague’s blog post Be OPEN with Association Members – Four Ways to Meet their Expectations.
In this blog article I focus on one of these areas: Online Usability. In this day of instant service, association members expect association staff to respond instantly to their concerns, or at the very least, use online platforms that will operate similarly to others that they use regularly. Organizations are being compared more and more to companies like Amazon, who offer an instant return—you find the item you want, and with a few clicks of a mouse and a wait of only a day or two, the item has been shipped to your home.
Setting Realistic Expectations
In my role as Membership Specialist, I hear from association members every day when they have questions, comments and frustrations about their online member profile. And when there is a problem, it can usually be traced back to the usability of the online database. In these instances, I find that the focus may involve educating members on how our member database platform functions, troubleshooting technical issues, or, in most cases, managing member expectations to be more realistic in terms of the service offered.
In my experience, there are several things you can do to meet—and even exceed—the increasing member expectations in 2019:
- Maintain a level of professionalism, not just in the way you speak to your member but the way you operate your online membership service program. Consistent formatting and minimal typos in your communications are key.
- Make sure all content on your site is up to date and applies to the association you are representing. Update all web content including videos or webinars.
- Be available for troubleshooting, whether it is through a phone call or email request. Make sure you respond to members within 24 hours, even if it is just to say you will follow up.
- As technology evolves, member expectations rise. Make sure your association or organization is keeping apace with the technology out there. I go into more detail on this below.
Member Information Online – Is your Site a Safe Host?
One key area when it comes to online usability is online information storage. Nowadays, having everything online is the way to go. Your members most likely want to be able to update their business information, pay for their membership, and register for events, all online. Making sure that this process is easy and secure is your number one priority.
This is particularly important because there are so many phishing services out there. Inputting personal information and credit card information online is necessary, but also nerve-wracking for some. Make sure you ease your members’ minds by giving them detailed instructions and assuring them that your site is a safe host for their information.
You may be wondering, How much information is considered too much? Do you require more than one member email address on file, a second or third phone number, a physical address and a mailing address? What is all this information being used for? Having a host site capable of highlighting the necessary information will help ease the “too much” information problem. Also, make sure that your site does not have the ability to house the credit card information. This will put your members’ minds at ease.
Does your Website Offer Auto-Populated Form Fields?
Most organizations use an association management database that does just this. In these databases, members can log into their account, find an invoice, order educational materials related to their field, make a payment, find events that relate to their profession, and the list goes on. If your member database does not offer these features, you may need to look at switching. For more on this topic, read the article Association Membership Management Systems: Is it Time for a Change?
Using a platform with auto-fill fields reduces time for your members who want to easily navigate your site. They will find it extremely helpful when entering information into an online form field and it automates information based on what they have previously entered. If your site offers this to your members then they only need to enter a credit card and they are done.
When working with association members, it may be challenging to respond to all concerns, but ensuring that online platforms are user-friendly and have features that will save members time is an important area to address first and foremost.
For more reading on this topic, see our other articles:
When to Introduce a New Product or Service to your Association
Communicating Information to New Association Members – What and How